Johnny Manziel is one of the most exciting and polarizing players in the history of college football, so it is only fitting that NFL talent evaluators and even celebrities came out in droves to witness the quarterback's pro day workout at Texas A&M University.
Johnny Football figures to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the 2014 draft this May, and he certainly didn't do anything to hurt his stock Thursday. In fact, his accuracy and moxie may very well have improved his status.
Plenty of familiar faces were on hand to take in Manziel's workout, including Texas governor Rick Perry and former United States President George H.W. Bush, according to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Gov. Perry and Pres. Bush 44 are among those expected at Manziel's pro day. Biggest pro day ever at A&M.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) March 26, 2014
Yes, it's George HW Bush 41.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) March 26, 2014
ESPN College Football on Twitter captured a shot of Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush looking on:
Manziel got the opportunity to meet the distinguished couple Wednesday, as seen in this photo courtesy of Manziel's Instagram account:
There were also several head coaches and general managers in College Station, Texas, to get a first-hand look at Johnny Football, according to Texas A&M football's official Twitter account:
With so many dignitaries in attendance, it should come as no surprise that the media coverage was immense. ESPN was there in full force with Ed Werder, Bill Polian and Todd McShay setting up shop, as Texas A&M football on Twitter pointed out:
Tania Ganguli of ESPN had a full count of the people in attendance:
75 representatives from teams were here for #JohnnyDay. 30 teams represented. 8 GMs, 8 coaches.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 27, 2014
The Bears and Browns were not here at #JohnnyDay. All others represented.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 27, 2014
The impressive guest list was hardly the sole unique aspect of Manziel's pro day. He attempted to differentiate himself from some of his peers by working out in a helmet and pads, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen:
Johnny Manziel plans provide a little twist to his Pro Day for NFL eyes: He will wear helmet and shoulder pads when he throws.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 27, 2014
When asked why he came to that decision by NFL.com's Gil Brandt, Manziel gave a simple and logical answer:
Just asked Manziel why the pads and helmet at pro day: "Isn't the game played with them on?"— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 27, 2014
Which team will select Manziel in the 2014 NFL draft?
Manziel also took snaps from under center, which is something he wasn't asked to do much within Kevin Sumlin's offense at Texas A&M. Even so, he looked comfortable and didn't have any exchange issues. That is another concern NFL teams can probably cross off the list at this point.
The early portion of Manziel's workout focused on short timing routes, which are staples in most NFL offenses. He was proficient and accurate in completing all of those attempts.
It's nearly impossible to simulate a pass rush in a pro day situation, but the Texas A&M coaches decided to get creative.
According to NFL.com's Albert Breer, Manziel was chased around with a broom during a portion of the workout:
Also, Manziel will be throwing with a "rush" today -- he'll be chased with a broom by coach @georgewhitfield. 60-plus throws in the script.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 27, 2014
Manziel's scrambling ability and movement in the pocket to avoid danger is one of his greatest assets. In fact, he does it better than any other quarterback in the draft. He benefited from showing that he could operate within the pocket, but the broom drill gave scouts something else to think about as well.
Johnny Football ultimately unleashed 64 passes on the day, and although he wasn't perfect, he was fairly close to it.
Two of Manziel's incompletions on the day could be attributed to his receivers, as Mike Evans bobbled a pass out of bounds and Travis Labhart dropped one. His lone bad throw came on a low effort in the direction of Labhart:
Low pass to Labhart. Incomplete. 60 of 63.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) March 27, 2014
Manziel rebounded, though, and was able to finish strong. His final pass of the day was a beautiful deep connection with Evans, which elicited a spirited response from Johnny Football:
Yells "Boom!" after last pass. 61 of 64. One bad pass.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) March 27, 2014
There are definitely some concerns regarding Manziel from an on-field perspective as he gets ready to enter the NFL. His size, arm strength and durability have all been questioned. Perhaps the biggest red flag, though, is a perceived lack of maturity.
Manziel set out to show that he is committed to being a great NFL quarterback, however, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer:
Johnny Manziel to #NFL Network: "I just want to let these guys know that my focus is football. I see what it takes to be great.''— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 27, 2014
Manziel did win over some doubters, as outspoken critic Ron Jaworski praised Manziel's performance (via NFL on ESPN):
"I saw a tremendous improvement on the mechanics of Johnny Manziel. He moves up on my board." - Ron Jaworski on @SportsCenter— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 27, 2014
Jon Gruden also praised Manziel following the workout (via Adam Schefter of ESPN), as did former GM Bill Polian (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle):
Jon Gruden: “Steve Young is who I see when I watch Johnny Manziel’s tape. Lot of common ground: size, speed, playmaking ability and upside.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 27, 2014
Bill Polian on Manziel "magnificent arm strength, electric feet, great accuracy. He has magic. It's hard to find players with magic."— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 27, 2014
The former Heisman Trophy winner looked poised and polished despite immense pressure to perform. Manziel always seems to thrive in the spotlight, and his showing Thursday was no exception.
Having won over Jaworski, it's likely that he also impressed the scouts in attendance, bolstering the belief that Manziel will be a highly sought-after prospect come draft day.
When it comes to collegiate production as well as overall skill set, no other quarterback in the 2014 class can touch Manziel. Even if he isn't the first quarterback taken, his pro day likely solidified the notion that he won't get past the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8.
With that in mind, his outing has to be considered a huge success.
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