Johnny Manziel Would Flourish If Houston Texans Take Him in NFL Draft

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies warms up before taking on the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel has warned the Houston Texans of what will happen if they pass him up with the NFL Draft's opening pick, but the young quarterback has more to gain through that pairing than the Texans have to lose by looking elsewhere.

The outspoken Texas A&M quarterback welcomes the possibility of staying in Texas, but he told the Houston Chronicle's John McClain that the Texans would live to regret passing him up at No. 1, especially if the Jacksonville Jaguars then grab him with the third pick.

"It would be the worst decision they've ever made," Manziel said. "I'd be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito."

First and foremost: Is he insulting Fritos, or simply noting the difference in size? Some might prefer the salty corn chips to the cheesy snacks, just like the Texans might prefer Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles to Johnny Football.

Once the Frito-Lay debate is digested, the more pertinent question becomes whether Manziel can honor those threats and make Houston pay. Also, why would he be so mad if he had to wait another 30 minutes before receiving millions of dollars?

Perhaps it's just a kid with too much pride, or maybe Manziel knows Houston is the perfect landing spot for him to succeed immediately. Whereas most teams that pick No. 1 have barren rosters, the Texans boast a great supporting cast that visited the postseason in both 2011 and 2012 before last year's mishap.

Sure, things can change quickly in the NFL, but at the moment the Texans are the best-equipped team in the draft's top five to make some noise with the help of competent quarterback play. Last year's dreadful 14-game losing streak gives them a chance to fix that hole under center.


Houston, We Don't Have That Big of a Problem

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 29:  Jonathan Grimes #41 of the Houston Texans is tackled by Zach Brown #55 of the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 29, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Despite last finding the win column on Sept. 15, the Texans are not far from discovering their winning form.

Looking at 26.8 points allowed per game, one could assume the defense took a nosedive. But not so fast: They ranked seventh, with 317.6 yards allowed per game, and were one of three teams to allow less than 200 passing yards per contest.

It really came down to an unbelievable number of interceptions returned for touchdowns. Matt Schaub stamped his way out of town by throwing pick-sixes in four consecutive games, and T.J. Yates promptly gave one up after replacing Schaub.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 29:  Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans walks off the field during a game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 29, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans defeated the Texans 16-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Their schedule was also brutal. A team that lost to the Jaguars twice can't complain about the level of opposition, but Houston suffered losses of three points or less to the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.

They were also demolished by the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, so I guess the scheduling gods had a score to settle in 2013.

This isn't to excuse the Texans' horrific season or argue that they deserved to win 10 games, but they should not panic and blow everything up. A strong draft, a prudent free-agent signing here and there and some serendipity on the health front could sweep them back into playoff contention.

How Can Manziel Help?

Not throwing pick-sixes is a start.

The athletic Manziel is a far cry from the stagnant, game-managing Schaub. Manziel's mobility also gives Houston a dynamic it never had, even when Schaub was playing at a high level.

His knack for extending plays often feels reminiscent of another Texas quarterback in Tony Romo, who has succumbed to the "choker" narrative because of his porous supporting cast. 

That's precisely what Manziel can avoid in Houston, whereas Jacksonville would still need a completely new defense before it could be taken seriously.

The threat of him escaping the pocket could also clear some running lanes for Arian Foster, who only played eight games last season. Along with the 4,114 passing yards he compiled for the Aggies last year, Manziel accumulated 759 rushing yards. He ran for 1,410 yards and scored 21 touchdowns on the ground in 2012.

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies scrambles as defensive lineman Harold Brantley #90 of the Missouri Tigers chases during the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty I
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

His arm strength is a potential issue at the pro level, but Houston would provide with a sturdy safety blanket in veteran wideout Andre Johnson and a young vertical threat in De'Andre Hopkins.

The Sporting News' Eric Galko offered an assessment on Manziel's throwing arm, which is still a work in progress.

Manziel has an adequate arm to make throws across the field, especially when he’s set. While he does labor at times when he throws fastballs past 15-20 yards, he’s able to generate ample velocity on a large majority of his throws. He has resorted this year to more and more jump balls for his Anquan Boldin-type receiver, Mike Evans, but his placement on in-breaking routes, vertical throws and throws off his initial read have all been on target.

While it’s not necessarily a “box” on the scouting report, his craftiness as a quarterback is an innate skill that many undersized and less-talented quarterbacks were able to use to defy the odds and have NFL success.

Manziel is not ready to single-handedly carry a team to glory, nor will he compare to the league's elite passers. But a supremely talented guy who can consistently make something out of nothing has a fighting chance with a decent squad surrounding him.

To be fair, Manziel's career success isn't solely dependent on going to the Texans. While Jacksonville or the Cleveland Browns aren't the ideal landing spots, each club at least puts a star wide receiver at his disposal.

All things considered, Houston gives him the best chance to succeed early in his career. If the team looks elsewhere on draft day, Manziel might be the one who regrets it.


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