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Making the Case for Johnny Manziel as 2014 NFL Draft's Top-Overall Pick

Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) reacts to a fourth-quarter interception against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 17, 2016

Johnny Manziel, Heisman Winner and...first-overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft?

Hey, it could happen.

No, seriously—it could. 

In the draft, anything goes. 

During his annual conference call with an abundance of draftniks, evaluators and other forms of draft-centric media, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. rattled off some eye-opening statements about the Texas A&M golden boy, via Mocking The Draft's Dan Kadar

"For Cleveland, to see Manziel there would be a surprise to me. When you talk to people in the league, he's the consensus No. 1 QB."

— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 6, 2014

Kiper thinks that by the time the draft happens, Teddy Bridgewater will be underrated. Says Bortles has momentum and Manziel is NFL's No. 1

— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 6, 2014

Kiper thinks Clowney, like Manziel, could go No. 1 or No. 3 to get pressure on Andrew Luck in the AFC South.

— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 6, 2014

On February 4, Russ Lande of Sports On Earth wrote the following in a column titled "GM For A Day: Houston Texans":

According to trusted sources, the Texans are initially leaning towards taking either Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel with the top pick. Although Manziel would obviously be the choice of owner Bob McNair, O'Brien is not sold that Manziel possesses the work ethic and intangibles necessary to be the face of a franchise. 

Oh, draft season, how confusing you always are.

While it's difficult to argue that Manziel is a more NFL-ready quarterback from a pocket-passing perspective than Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, the Texans very well may envision a higher ceiling for the former Aggies signal-caller and, like many, they might be mesmerized by his improvisational flair.

And, boy, Manziel's improvisational flair sure is mesmerizing. 

In his 26-game collegiate career, he made an abundance of incredible escapes from defenders' grasps and either scurried down the field at deceptively fast speeds or found open receivers in the most backyard football way imaginable. 

That ad-libbing expertise when protection breaks down is tremendously difficult to teach, and in most cases, is solely an inherent skill. 

But, passing accurately from the pocket will always be the fundamental component to thriving at the quarterback position in the NFL. 

Fortunately for Manziel, he fine-tuned that vital facet of his game in his redshirt sophomore season at Texas A&M, which was an absolute must if he was to be even considered as a top quarterback in his class. 

Although many advise against "stat book scouting," the improvement Manziel showed across the board as a passer in 2013 can be seen on film and quantified by the numbers: 

While the wild, pressure-eluding scrambles and play-extending dancing behind the line of scrimmage continued, Manziel demonstrated, on many occasions, a strong arm, sound decision-making and desired accuracy, especially on throws to the boundary. 

He didn't abandon his flashy running style, but he definitely made many more "traditional," on-target NFL throws from within the tackle box this past season. 

The development Manziel exhibited on the field, coupled with the "uncoachable" play-making abilities just might be enticing enough for the Texans to select him No. 1 overall. 

Oh, yeah, then there's the publicity aspect of drafting Manziel with the top pick.  The fan and media pilgrimage to all things Johnny Football could be an unprecedented boon for the Houston organization. A Tyler, Tex. native—only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Reliant Stadium—Manziel emerged as a folk hero in, arguably, the most football-crazed state in the country for his transcendent play at Texas A&M.

Remember, this billboard resides in the Houston-area:

Texas has spoken... #johnnyfootball pic.twitter.com/642rby8owl

— Mike McCoy (@McCoyKRHDSports) January 25, 2014 

Ticket sales would almost assuredly skyrocket, but, in the long-run, winning would have to be the primary selling point. 

Could Manziel win in Houston with the Texans? 

Johnny Manziel's Collegiate Statistics
CompletionsAttemptsCompletion %YardsYards Per AttemptTDsINTsRating
201229543468.037068.5269155.3
201330042969.941149.63713172.9
Sports Reference

Absolutely. 

Bill O'Brien was likely hired by owner Bob McNair mainly due to his experience with the New England Patriots and Tom Brady as well as the job he did with Penn State quarterbacks Matt McGloin and true freshman Christian Hackenberg.

The elder Andre Johnson is fresh off a 109-catch, 1,407-yard season and is signed through the 2016 campaign. DeAndre Hopkins made 52 receptions for 802 yards as a rookie in 2013. The defense is highlighted by former Defensive Player of the Year winner J.J. Watt and needs some restructuring, but it's not an abomination. 

Teddy Bridgewater is probably further along as a passer and Blake Bortles has a more prototypical-quarterback physique than Manziel.

That's fine.

But if the Houston Texans have fallen in love with Johnny Football's creative mobility and the refinement he displayed during his time with the Aggies, it won't be crazy if the Texas-born Heisman winner hears his name called before anyone else in the 2014 draft. 

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