Johnny Manziel's recent decision to enter the NFL draft has fans of the sport speculating over his future in the league. Manziel is without a doubt an exciting player capable of the occasional jaw-dropping highlight. However, if he is still available when the New York Jets' No. 18 pick rolls around, the team should pass on the dynamic young player.
Here are four reasons why:
The Jets' Mediocre Offensive Line
The Jets offensive line had an up-and-down 2013 season. On one hand, it cleared lanes for the sixth-best rushing attack in the NFL as the Jets returned to their ground-and-pound roots. Yet, it also allowed the sixth-most sacks. Some of those can be attributed to Geno Smith's indecisive play in the pocket, but there were still apparent weaknesses in New York's line.
Guard Brian Winters had a subpar season, although as a rookie some of his poor performance is probably on account of his inexperience. Center Nick Mangold and tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, stalwarts of the Jets' fabulous lines in 2009-10, have seen drop-offs in their play. And while guard Willie Colon and tackle Austin Howard both had solid seasons, they are entering free agency and might not be wearing Jet green next season.
Putting a rookie quarterback behind an offensive line with so many question marks is a disastrous combination (just ask David Carr). The Jets need to shore up their protection before drafting another quarterback and tasking him with avoiding a pass-rush onslaught.
On Sunday, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton will go head-to-head in a battle of successful young running quarterbacks. Watching the game on TV somewhere, perhaps with a bag of ice on his knee, will be Robert Griffin III.
The difference between the two guys competing for a spot in the NFC Championship Game and the one whose career hangs in the balance after a major knee injury and a rocky sophomore season? Size. Kaepernick and Newton average around 6'5" and 240 pounds each, while Griffin stands 6'2" and weighs in at 215 pounds.
Manziel has great speed and an uncanny ability to extend plays, which make him a maddening quarterback to defend against for opponents. But once defenders do get their paws on the elusive Manziel, simple Newtonian physics are not in the young man's favor.
At only 6'0" and around 200 pounds, the young man will feel the crunch of a beefy defensive tackle or a bulky linebacker more than his larger cohorts.
Manziel managed to complete two college seasons unscathed for the most part, but the front sevens in the NFL are larger than those of the SEC. The Jets should avoid Manziel for the simple reason of his diminutive size, which makes him much more likely to suffer serious injuries at the hands of the league's defensive gladiators.
The Jets' Lack of Offensive Weapons
New York's quarterback carousel will rotate indefinitely if the Jets continue to draft quarterbacks and ask them to perform without legitimate targets to throw to. It's impossible to evaluate a young quarterback if his only weapons are journeymen or second-tier receivers.
The Jets have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2007, a mind-boggling statistic in this pass-happy era of the NFL. Yet for some reason, they refuse to embrace a prolific air attack—an essential component of a modern playoff team—and ask their quarterbacks to nevertheless spearhead a competent offense.
If they draft Manziel, it's likely that the same fate will await him that did Mark Sanchez and Smith: Manziel will be asked to create a powerful attack with his limited weapons, the football equivalent of alchemy. When he fails, he will be highly criticized and his starting job will be called into question, despite the unrealistic expectations.
So instead of drafting Manziel, the Jets should pick up his teammate at Texas A&M, big wideout Mike Evans, in an effort to revamp their offense.
The Upside of Geno Smith
Who says the Jets need a quarterback anyway? Yes, Smith had a dreadful four-game stretch in the middle of the season that essentially ended New York's playoff chances. But his play in the first half of the season and in the final four games should give Jets fans hope that he is indeed the team's next franchise quarterback.
He led a squad that many predicted would be the worst in the league to eight wins, and he did so with, as mentioned, a dearth of offensive targets. He has better size and arm strength than Manziel, and he will continue to mature as a passer as he gains more NFL experience.
His final statistics were pretty ugly—21 interceptions and a 66.5 rating—and at times he telegraphed passes, forced balls into double coverage or failed to throw the ball away, but many rookies struggle in the same areas.
Drafting Manziel would be equivalent to a vote of disapproval for Smith, and it would also be a lost opportunity to provide him with high-end receiver.
There's no guarantee that Manziel will even be around by the time the Jets' first-round pick is on the board, perhaps making this argument a moot point. Some mock drafts have him going in the top 10 to other teams in need of a quarterback, and his stock will rise and fall in the upcoming months.
However, the Jets should avoid Manziel if given the opportunity to draft him, as he is a poor fit on a team with an uncertain line, a young quarterback with potential and a lack of weapons on offense.
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