Johnny Manziel didn't throw in Indianapolis. Teams can wait until his pro day for that. But with the white-hot spotlight focused on the former Heisman winner, Manziel took the field Sunday in Indianapolis with the opportunity to fundamentally alter his draft stock.
He didn't disappoint.
With eyes perched on every measurable, Manziel performed well in his 40-yard dash and showed off strong athleticism for a quarterback. While the most important part of his workouts—the passing—didn't happen, teams got a good glimpse at what to expect from him athletically.
Here is a look at Manziel's numbers from Indy:
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Bench press||Broad jump||Vertical Jump||Shuttle||3-Cone|
|5'11 3/4"||207 lbs||31 3/8"||9 7/8"||4.68||113"||31.5"||4.03||6.75|
Manziel came into the combine competing technically by himself, but realistically against Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and UCF's Blake Bortles. At the moment, few can reach a consensus on the three top quarterbacks. Three of CBS' NFL draft analysts have Bortles atop their mocks, while ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) had Manziel at No. 1, and ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) has Bridgewater going first among quarterbacks.
In other words: A whole lot of people know a whole lot of nothing at this point in proceedings.
The focus has narrowed a bit after Sunday. While Bortles was a full participant and Bridgewater a nonparticipant in the physical drills, Manziel struck a solid middle ground. He started his day off with a very promising run in the 40-yard dash. He recorded an unofficial 4.63-second time on his first attempt and wowed with a 4.56-second time in his second 40. Officially, his best time clocked in at 4.68 seconds.
For comparative purposes, the NFL's Twitter feed spliced Manziel's time against that of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick:
Manziel's 40 time arguably mattered more than any of his counterparts'. Bortles and Bridgewater are good athletes, and the days of stoic, pocket quarterbacks are likely in the past, but Manziel's effectiveness is built more on speed and elusiveness than either player. Manziel without that extra burst of speed isn't nearly the same player.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter noted, Manziel did quite well when juxtaposed against his counterparts:
UNOFFICIAL 40 times: Johnny Manziel: 4.56 Derek Carr: 4.65 Jordan Lynch: 4.72 Tajh Boyd: 4.75 Blake Bortles: 4.81 AJ McCarron: 4.91— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 23, 2014
The official time added more than a tenth of a second, but Manziel was still one of the best quarterbacks in nearly every athletic drill. NFL.com deemed him a "top performer" in the 40, broad jump and vertical jump. The NFL's Twitter feed also had a Vine of Manziel's cone drill:
These drills ultimately have little to do with the most important facet of Manziel's game—throwing a football—but are an important boon after a slight disappointment early in Indy.
After blusterously claiming he would measure at exactly six feet—no more and, more importantly, no less—Manziel turned out to be slightly shorter than he was letting on. At 5'11.75", the former Texas A&M quarterback rests outside the relative norms teams expect from quarterbacks.
As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, assuming Manziel is drafted in the first round, he will be just the second quarterback since 1970 listed at 6'0" or under to go that early:
From @EliasSports: Since 1970, only 1 QB 6' tall or shorter was drafted in 1st rd (Michael Vick: 1st overall in 2001). Manziel is 5'11 3/4"— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 21, 2014
While the height measurement didn't quite go Manziel's way, he shouldn't have much trouble with holding on to the ball at the next level. Manziel's hands measured 9.875 inches, bigger than both Bridgewater's and Bortles'. The differences are minimal, relatively speaking. All three quarterbacks are somewhere within the nine-inch strata, but even the slightest difference can help Manziel when it comes to measureables.
And perhaps the most intriguing portion of Manziel's week—his meeting with the media—went off without a hitch. Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman and plenty of others noticed something different about Manziel in Indianapolis. Whether it was newfound maturity or merely well-coached fakeness is unclear. But Manziel seemingly went out of his way to dispel any notion he's a malcontent or bad guy, writing off some of his missteps as being lesser than they were or a result of competitive fire.
"I'm probably one of the most competitive people on the face of this earth whether it's playing tic-tack-toe or rock-paper-scissors or whatever it may be, I want to win," Manziel told reporters. "I don't like the taste of losing. I'm an extremely competitive person. But at the same time, I want to be a great leader as well."
If his answers felt something like a job interview, that's probably by design. Manziel may come off as robotic to some, but his "job" at this point is to attract as many first-round teams as possible. There's no guarantee he goes first overall, or even ahead of Bridgewater or Bortles. If he were playing to a niche, maybe that one team would be perfectly OK if he showed up to interviews dressed as Scooby-Doo.
In the distraction-obsessed NFL, boring still sells. A majority of coaches would rather their quarterback be far more Tom Brady than Richard Sherman, no matter how outdated or nonsensical that feeling is. For Manziel to come in and keep a low profile is perfectly understandable. We should have expected it.
As a Raiders executive told Adam Caplan of ESPN:
High ranking #Raiders exec on meeting with Johnny Manziel: "Clear he's taking everything serious. Surprised us a bit."— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 23, 2014
The next few months will be about Manziel proving he deserves to go No. 1 for his athletic ability, not his personality. Whether that goal is successful remains to be seen. But following his performance in Indianapolis, Manziel made it clear he's willing to do anything and everything to make it happen.
Even if that means toning down the Johnny Football persona.
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