The reviews on Johnny Manziel continue to pour in as the march to the 2014 NFL draft continues, but despite scores on both ends of the spectrum, he remains the best bet for the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 overall.
As if fans were unaware, there is a lot to like and dislike about him as a pro prospect.
Some, such as ESPN's Ron Jaworski, via Adam Schefter, would not take the Texas A&M product in the first three rounds of the draft:
ESPN's Ron Jaworski said that, based on his studies, he wouldn't pick Johnny Manziel in any of the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 26, 2014
Others, such as Jon Gruden, via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, are not concerned with Manziel—on or off the field: "I don't have a lot of concerns with him after being with him the last couple of days. The past is in the past. He's had a good time as a lot of college students have had. He's had access to things that you and I have never had access to. I think he's learned how to say, 'No.'"
While there is plenty of conversation to be had about Manziel off the field, the focus must first remain on his skills on the turf. One scout says his arm is already better than Russell Wilson's, via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Hit or miss? What the hell are they talking about? He's a better passer than the guy (Russell Wilson) who won the Super Bowl, and he's got a better arm. Here comes the pressure, a guy breaks open and he finds the receiver. Does he have a gun? No. But he doesn't have a bad arm at all.
For those with concerns about Manziel and his over-analyzed collegiate life, Tampa Bay Buccaneers insider Jenna Laine says teams were impressed with his interviews at the combine:
Hearing Johnny Manziel absolutely knocked it out of the park in his team interviews. One scout told me, "He's a stud. Extremely bright."— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) February 23, 2014
So let's circle back to those quarterback-hungry Browns. Conventional wisdom, such as that from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, has Manziel falling to No. 4 overall with teams above them unwilling to take the risk on him or simply wanting to go in a different direction based on needs.
If Manziel is there, the Browns must pull the trigger.
While it is true that he will not get by on his elite athleticism alone as he did in college—every talent at the pro level is elite—his ability to get out of harm's way and extend plays is still coveted at the NFL level—especially for the Browns, who are stuck in the defense-heavy AFC North.
Manziel has work to do in the decision-making department—especially when things do break down—but the presence of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is yet another reason for Cleveland to take the risk.
Shanahan got the most out of Robert Griffin III in Washington, who has a similar athletic mold but needed the right guidance to adapt to the speed of the pro level before posting eye-popping numbers en route to the postseason.
If one pairs Shanahan's skill with quarterbacks with the talents in Cleveland such as Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron—not to mention the fact the Browns have three selections within the top 35 picks—the addition of Manziel looks tantalizing.
Even better, he sounds at home with the idea of playing in Cleveland, as he revealed in an interview with John McClain of the Houston Chronicle: "If something happens, and it's the Cleveland Browns, I'm going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland. I don't care if they've had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I'm going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl."
Should the Browns draft Manziel?
The unexpected typically takes precedence over the proceedings of any draft, but a Cleveland marriage makes too much sense despite how obvious it is.
The Browns need something to right the ship and take the next step. Manziel, despite the drastically varying opinions about his pro stock, is the best bet for a franchise that has been stuck in neutral and bogged down with inconsistent quarterback play.
Opinions will continue to fly until draft day, but the Browns already have their pick at the podium if Manziel makes it that far.