Johnny Manziel's Flawless Approach to 2014 NFL Draft Won't Be Enough to Go No. 1

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel answers a question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Johnny Manziel has been nothing short of perfect on his approach to the biggest day of his life.

However, it simply will not be enough.

At this point, it is rare to find a discussion about Manziel going No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans because the grim reality has set in for most—Manziel is not the best player in the class.

This has nothing to do with Manziel's attitude or notions about his character thanks to his days spent as a college student doing things young college students do.

No, this has everything to do with his play on the field and his preparation for the NFL draft.

The approach thus far has been pristine. At the combine, Manziel measured as expected in comparison to his peers and surprised the media and teams in interviews.

Clearly, the NFL had some demons to exorcise in terms of preconceived notions about Manziel, as an Oakland Raiders executive revealed to ESPN's Adam Caplan:

A quote from Manziel's quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. does more than explain why the NFL should have seen this side of Manziel coming, via Jeff Schudel of The Morning Journal:

You can’t wake up, get out of bed, and do what he’s done the last two years if he wasn’t all about football. It’s historical...The word compete is thrown around a lot. There are some guys that will compete and try hard. There’s a difference. The other guys have an "Over-my-dead-body" attitude. That Johnny has in common with the other guys. You don’t just have to hear me say it. Hit the play button and see it. I think Johnny Manziel has the best antenna in sports — the awareness, the feel, his short area quickness, getting in and out of jams. He’s special — quick thinking, quick eyes. I think that’s a unique trait of his.

Manziel himself explained to reporters in Indianapolis why his approach was so serious, via Jim Corbett of USA Today:

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. 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.

The approach is just what the doctor ordered for Manziel's stock, who seems a lock to go in the first round at this point thanks to a rehabbed image and a freestyle, sixth-sense game that suggests a very high ceiling at the pro level.

That game is something Manziel's sound approach to the draft cannot save.

Senior NFL Films producer Greg Cosell spoke with ESPN's Colin Cowherd recently and helped to explain in part why Manziel's game hints at struggles in the NFL:

Simply put, Manziel's ability to extend plays with his feet is a double-edged sword at the next level, where elite athletes will keep up with him and capitalize on his erratic mistakes.

In fact, some of Manziel's future peers do not think too highly of his skill set:

Speaking of those Texans, they have plenty of other directions to go with No. 1 overall. Whether it is Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or even a wild card like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Houston looks like a franchise not so inclined to keep Manziel in the state of Texas.

Predicting the draft is a crapshoot, but it does look like Manziel will be rewarded for his exemplary efforts by going No. 4 overall to Cleveland.

That is, unless a report by CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson that says the Browns prefer Fresno State's Derek Carr over Manziel is true.


Give credit where it is due—Manziel has done a complete 180 in the character department in the minds of most. While noble, the efforts have done little to better his claim for the No. 1 spot come May.


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