Private Workouts Far More Important for Manziel Than Individual Pro Day

Greg GabrielFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Many consider Johnny Manziel one of the top quarterback's in this years draft class. Like many of the higher rated quarterbacks in this class, Manziel chose not to throw at the combine, but instead, throw at his pro day which in Manziel's case is Thursday March 27th.

Last week three of the other top quarterbacks worked out for scouts and coaches and the opinions on those workouts were varied to say the least. Teddy Bridgewater threw without his glove and struggled with accuracy. According to the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" show, Blake Bortles had an outstanding day. The same holds true for Derek Carr, who worked out while suffering from some sort of stomach virus.

Thursday will be Manziel's turn, and what is it that evaluators want to see? In order to answer that question I will first give you my scouting report on "Johnny Football".


The Scouting Report

I have watched nine tapes of Manziel over the last two seasons. My conclusion is that he is an excellent playmaker and one heck of a competitor. At slightly under six feet tall, he is far short of having ideal NFL quarterback's height which is more like 6'3'' to 6'5".  His playing weight this year was between 210 and 215, with a playing speed of about 4.60 (Manziel ran a 4.68 at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine).

Based on the tape I viewed, he looked a little smaller and faster in 2012 than he was in 2013. Still, he is extremely quick and may have the quickest feet I have ever seen from a quarterback.

Manziel's collegiate production was excellent. As a runner over the last two seasons, he amassed 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns.  At the same time, he completed 595-of-863 passes for 7,820 yards, 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. His career completion percentage was 69 percent!

Manziel almost always lined up in a spread formation, taking very few snaps from under center. Texas A&M runs a read option offense and Manziel is excellent at running that scheme. He has excellent ball handling skills and has a running back's mentality when the ball is in his hands. He is very elusive in the open field.

Manziel uses his quickness and elusiveness to extend and keep plays alive on passing downs and he is excellent at throwing with accuracy on the run. When Manziel is able to stay in the pocket, he has an excellent feel for pass rushers and does a very good job stepping up into the pocket before he throws. When he makes a decision to throw, he has a compact, quick delivery with the ball coming out of his hand almost instantly. 

When in the pocket, Manziel is calm and poised and shows he can go through a progression. He demonstrates the ability to look off a receiver and then come back to him later in his progression. He is consistently good at finding secondary receivers. With his lack of ideal height, he moves around a lot in the pocket and because of that he can fail to consistently set his feet before he throws. This is a flaw that will need to be corrected at the NFL level.

His accuracy and ball placement are very good. I have seen a number of completions where he "threaded the needle" and got the ball into a tight spot. For the most part, his decision making is good but he will force the ball at times.

Manziel has a good, but not a great arm; showing the ability to complete passes 45-50 yards downfield. He is effective as both a short and deep passer. What makes him so dangerous is that defenses have to account for his running skills. On any given play he can take off and pick up 15+ yards on the ground.

Manziel's immaturity off the field is well documented and the team that drafts him will have to make sure he will buy into their program. At the same time, the team that drafts him has to have a plan. If they think he can be a conventional NFL drop back quarterback they are making a mistake and he will fail. The offense has to be designed to play to his strengths with a style similar to the way Seattle uses Russell Wilson. If that happens, he can be a very successful NFL player.


Manziel's Pro Day

NFL coaches and scouts, aren't going to find out much about Manziel that they don't already know at his pro day. The reason for this is when quarterbacks work out at their pro day it has become more of a media circus.

For quarterbacks, pro days are not controlled by NFL coaches, but rather the players quarterback guru. These are scripted affairs that have been practiced five to seven times before the actual workout. They are designed for the player to look good. and the player will only do what he does well. If he does not have an outstanding day then it raises a big red flag.

Only a few teams will actually be able to sit down and spend time with a quarterback at his pro day. That would usually be the day before the workout or at a designated time after the workout is completed. If you aren't you aren't first or second in line to schedule such a meeting you end up being on the outside looking in.

The prospect will start out doing some footwork drills where coaches can see him drop back from under center and from the spread. There will also be some lateral motion drills that emphasize the prospects quick feet and ability to move around in the pocket.

When they are done with these drills, the player then will make some throws to  specific targets. These throws will demonstrate his release, accuracy and arm strength. When these throws are completed, the player begins throwing to receivers.

I have been to a number of quarterback pro days over the years, and in most the player will throw 50-60 passes. He will basically go through the NFL route tree to both sides of the field. These throws will be from under center, in the shotgun and while on the move.

The evaluators will be able to study his mechanics, footwork, arm strength and accuracy. Because it's fairly controlled envirornment and has time constraints, there will only be a few clubs that actually get a chance to spend one on one time with Manziel. 

If a team wants to spend "quality time" with a quarterback they will have a much better opportunity at a private workout.



Private Workouts 

If a club wants to get a real up close and personal feel for Johnny Manziel, they need to schedule a private workout. While a quarterbacks pro day is a scripted, controlled situation, a private workout will give an interested club a much better opportunity to find out what they need to know about Manziel. A typical private workout for a quarterback could last anywhere from 4-6 hours.

In many cases, it will start out with a classroom situation that will double as an interview. Here, the position coach, coordinator, head coach and general manager can spend as much time as they want talking to the player.

The questioning may include talk about Manziel's background, why he chose Texas A&M, and about his "life in the fast lane" so to speak after he won the Heisman Trophy last year. The position coach and coordinator will also get Manziel "on the board". Usually when this happens, they ask the player to draw up some of his plays from his college playbook and explain the theory of the play.

When that is done, a coach will usually give a brief dissertation on their offense.  They may describe what they are trying to accomplish with their playbook and draw up some of the basic plays. The player takes notes and is then tested on what he learned. It is in this type of situations that the coaching staff will get a good idea of how a player is in the meeting room. How does he take notes and how much of the lecture can he absorb?

When they are done in the meeting room it is time for an on field workout. While a pro day is scripted and has been practiced, the player has no idea of what to expect in this type of situation.

BOB LEVEY/Associated Press

The coaches will have the player do things that that are conducive to their offense, make the throws that are consistently used by them. The tempo is usually faster and a coach will see how well a player like Manziel takes coaching. He will also find out if Manziel is the right "fit" for their scheme. When I say that, I mean a fit as a person and a player.

When the workout is done, the evaluators will have a strong idea if they in fact want Manziel on their team. They will know if they can work with him and have a general idea of how he will be with the other players in the locker room. While pro days can answer a lot of questions for players at other positions, it's the private workout that is needed to answer questions about a quarterback.