After announcing that he will forgo his junior and senior seasons at Texas A&M, redshirt sophomore quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel deserves to be selected in the top 10 of the 2014 NFL draft.
There are questions about whether Manziel’s size and experience will translate to the NFL, but his raw talent and unique abilities in and out of the pocket make him a prospect worth the risk.
If Christian Ponder can be selected at No. 12, Manziel is easily a top-10 pick.
Critics will immediately point to his lack of experience, off-field issues and the limited body of work teams have to judge him on, but there is no denying the level of competition Manziel faced in the SEC.
Against what is widely regarded as the toughest defensive conference in the nation, he managed to put up 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdowns in addition to 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground in his two seasons at College Station.
With the success of a dual-threat quarterback like Russell Wilson in Seattle—a player that has a very similar size and skill set—there will be at least one franchise that sees past the obvious flaws and takes an educated risk.
As Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller points out, there are clear positives and negatives to Manziel’s attributes:
Mechanically, there is good and bad to his game. Manziel still tends to throw off his back foot far too often, but fix that and you also improve his velocity on underneath passes. What you like is that he's athletic enough to throw on the run and shows the strength to make tight throws from various angles and body positions. He has also shown impressive touch on passes up the seam and over the middle.
There is no denying the raw talent that the elusive QB possesses, but his value to a franchise goes beyond the field. The sports world has become enamored with Johnny Football, and if he lands with the right franchise that can help his marketability, he could become one of the faces of the NFL.
ESPN’s Colin Cowherd sees the potential boom in popularity:
Johhny Manziel in the NFL Draft just guaranteed a healthy ratings boost. Kid is automatic viewership by himself. Add the NFL and stir.— Colin Cowherd (@ESPN_Colin) January 8, 2014
The main factor that determines whether Manziel goes in the top 10 or not is which teams need quarterbacks.
With franchises like the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings all desperate to find a viable starting quarterback to build around, it’s hard to imagine Manziel lasting past No. 5—let alone No. 10.
Right now, ESPN’s Todd McShay has Manziel going No. 4 overall to the Browns:
Johnny Manziel is currently projected by Todd McShay to go 4th overall in the 1st round of the NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 8, 2014
If Manziel does somehow make it past the fifth overall pick, there is always a chance that an organization would make the appropriate trade to move up and select him.
Is Johnny Manziel worthy of a top-10 pick?
With unbridled success at the college level, the recent precedent for players of Manziel’s size set by Wilson and the need for franchise quarterbacks across the NFL, there is no doubt that the Texas A&M star will be selected in the first 10 picks.
Depending on how the NFL Scouting Combine unfolds and Houston’s willingness to trade the No. 1 overall pick, Manziel could be the top selection in the 2014 draft.
All stats via CFBStats.com.