Plenty of quarterback-needy franchises at the top of the 2014 NFL draft will likely be interested in former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel. He's set to go on a plethora of private visits before the first round commences on May 8, but a surprise meeting with the New England Patriots is reportedly up next for Johnny Football.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported Tuesday that Manziel, despite no distinct history with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, will make an early stop on his pre-draft tour in Foxboro on Wednesday. However, Howe does note that Belichick may be evaluating Manziel as a future opponent more than a future Patriot:
Texas A&M start quarterback Johnny Manziel is in town today and set for an official pre-draft visit with the Patriots tomorrow, according to a source. Interestingly, this is Manziel’s first pre-draft visit, but he has plenty more lined up afterward...
Manziel is a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, so the Patriots’ interests is almost certainly a means of advanced scouting. Bill Belichick has often discussed the merits of interviewing draft prospects as a way to formulate a base in their scouting reports, either in terms of preparing for a future opponent or a possible free agent. Manziel has no prior history with Belichick, according to the source, so this furthers that notion.
Both NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Field Yates of ESPN.com have confirmed the report of Manziel's visit to the Patriots:
Johnny Manziel is set to visit the Patriots on Wednesday, a source confirms @RapSheet's report— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 2, 2014
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports provided his take on the rather surprising development:
Didn't see that coming RT @FieldYates: Johnny Manziel is set to visit the Patriots on Wednesday— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) April 2, 2014
It would make sense for New England to bring Manziel in just to see how he is, since it's borderline impossible that the Patriots could even dream of drafting him as a successor to the legendary Tom Brady. The team holds the 29th overall pick, and the former A&M QB isn't expected to fall outside of the top 10 in the draft.
Speaking of potential successors, NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport reports that Manziel isn't the only quarterback who will be in Foxboro:
Wow. Teddy Bridgewater is visiting the #Patriots tomorrow, source says. It’s not just Johnny Football in Foxboro.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 2, 2014
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler doesn't believe Manziel will even be on the board when the Oakland Raiders make their selection at fifth overall:
Lots of opinions out there, but I'll be very surprised if Johnny Manziel is still available at No. 5 when OAK picks #NFLDraft— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 1, 2014
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com provided an interesting angle in his analysis of the Johnny Football-New England news:
In the event Johnny Manziel slides through the first round, the Patriots may have an opportunity at No. 29 to trade down with a team hoping to vault back into round one to get Manziel. By fully and completely scouting Manziel, the Pats will have a better sense regarding the appropriate trade compensation for a crack at Manziel.
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe gives his take on the news of Manziel's visit leaking out:
Interesting that the Manziel and Bridgewater visits to NE reached the media. Seems like #Patriots wanted the info out there— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) April 2, 2014
Manziel doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical NFL quarterback—and he certainly doesn't blend in with the "Patriot Way" culture that Belichick preaches in Foxboro.
The former Heisman Trophy winner oozes with swagger, makes improvised magic out of broken plays and isn't afraid to speak his mind. All of that goes against the grain in comparison to Brady and the overall blandness associated with the Pats.
According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, Manziel has already worked out for the Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings worked Johnny Manziel out privately Friday, the day after his Pro Day. Manziel will throw for others too over the next month.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 31, 2014
Things didn't go entirely smoothly during that visit, however. The Vikings' new head coach, Mike Zimmer, alluded to some of the "flags" Manziel has attached to him that could turn a team like the Patriots off, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:
We asked him all kinds of questions. We went to dinner with him the night after (his pro day). We talked to him at the combine. There are some flags that come up. All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles, the commercials and all that stuff. The position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right.
That's the thing you want to know about him: Will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?
Regardless of whatever the visit with Manziel unearths, the Patriots have been the most consistent, winning franchise since 2000. This could be another subtle tactic deployed by the juggernauts to stay ahead of the competition.
To thicken the plot even more, Breer reports that the Patriots visited with UCF product Blake Bortles last week:
It's interesting, b/c in addition to Manziel, the Patriots visited with Blake Bortles while checking out UCF prospects in Orlando last week.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 1, 2014
Barring an unforeseen blockbuster trade, New England doesn't have the means to acquire either Manziel or Bortles at the top of the draft. Staying pat with Brady under center and acquiring multiple quality players in what's considered a very deep crop of prospects should suffice.
Offensive concepts from the college game are trickling into the pros, and the Pats are using some of those tactics with their uptempo offense. NFL.com's Gil Brandt recently compared Manziel's football IQ to that of Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan:
I speak to @JManziel2 frequently and I'd never question his mental capacity. Rates up there w Matt Ryan in terms of football smarts.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 26, 2014
What do you think of the Patriots' scheduled visit with Johnny Manziel?
So if Manziel is indeed that smart in terms of grasping schematics, assessing opposing defenses and can provide some insight into what makes him successful aside from his uncanny instincts, New England should get a lot out of the visit.
At the same time, this is a golden opportunity for Manziel. Should reports surface that he impressed the Patriots' brass with his official visit, his stock should continue to climb, making the Houston Texans further sweat potentially passing on the in-state Aggie with the No. 1 overall pick.
Manziel also gets a close, personal look at Belichick and should grow from the conversations he has in Foxboro. For a young player who appears determined to succeed in the NFL, there isn't a much better model to emulate than the one in New England.