Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (Height: 5’11¾”, Weight: 206 lbs)
First Round: 22nd Pick
+ Extraordinary competitor and leader
+ Outstanding mobility, hurts opponents with his legs
+ Unnerving improvisational ability
+ Great elusiveness in the pocket and open field
+ Able to make all of the throws
- Must take what the defense gives him
- Lacks ideal size at a hair under 6’0”
- Long-term durability is a concern
- Potential distraction off the field
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Heart of a Lion
Love him or hate him, it is impossible to deny the impact Johnny Manziel has on teammates and opponents. His ability to create something out of nothing helps to energize his side and takes a mental toll on defenders.
A smart player with a great work ethic and an outstanding competitive streak, he will put it all on the line for his team. He is capable of delivering in pressure situations or with the game on the line, displaying courage and poise. There is no quit in him, and he is all too happy to sacrifice his body to pick up every possible inch.
He demonstrates remarkable toughness, bouncing to his feet after absorbing hard hits and willing to play hurt, as evidenced late in the 2013 season.
Regardless of whether or not maturity issues could make him a distraction off the field, he is a born leader who rallies those around him. There is no shortage of focus on game day; he is as passionate and intense as they come. Whoever drafts him in May will be receiving a player who is ready to step into the spotlight and be the face of the franchise.
Unlocking the Defense
Mobile quarterbacks provide several advantages to their offense. Not only are they able to make things happen when plays break down, but gifted scramblers can keep opponents on edge and force defenders to play tentatively.
This play, on a 3rd-and-10 against Auburn, illustrates Manziel’s ability to strike fear into defenses and create gaps in coverage. Here he detects pressure from the edge and climbs the pocket before sprinting out to his left. Now in space, the threat of his scrambling forces Auburn linebacker Jake Holland to respect the run and abandon his coverage assignment in the middle of the field. This leaves Aggies wide receiver Travis Labhart wide open near the first-down marker.
Manziel locates him, stops, resets and delivers before the gap can close.
Throw the Ball, Johnny
Perhaps a frustrating byproduct of his improvisational ability, Manziel is often guilty of holding the ball too long. While at times he is able to pull off magnificent plays by doing so, he often fails to look for his checkdown. His tape shows several instances where he left easy and, in certain moments, crucial yards on the field.
On this 4th-and-goal play against LSU, the Tigers show blitz. When the ball is snapped, LSU rushes six in an attempt to overwhelm the Aggies' pass protection. They leave all four A&M receivers in man coverage with a safety who is hovering around the left hash and spying the running back and Manziel.
The receiver in the slot closest to the quarterback releases outside into the flat, as LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Mike Evans drag underneath. The result is successful inside positioning for Gonzalez and a throwing lane for his quarterback. Little does Manziel know, however, this split second would be his only window of opportunity on this particular play.
As linebacker D.J. Welter explodes through the line, Ben Malena has not put himself in position to pick up the block. When the linebacker blows past the running back, Manziel attempts to spin away from danger and prolong the play. After being chased to the 21-yard line, he finally uncorks a pass toward the end zone as he fades away from his intended target.
Though earning six points would have required a very quick decision, this was a poor read and deflating missed opportunity on a rainy afternoon in Baton Rouge. This was one of many times I found myself shouting at the television: “Throw the ball, Johnny!”
Live to Play Another Down
Sometimes it is best for a quarterback to live to play another down. Protecting the ball should be the top priority, especially on early downs. I question Manziel’s instincts in this one area, as he tends to try to make the spectacular play.
On this 1st-and-10, again in the first quarter against Auburn, the Tigers bring five rushers. He goes through great lengths to escape the heat, spinning away from pressure and reversing field back to his right as he makes defenders miss; however, his final decision with the football is a reckless one. He steps up to his left, resets and throws across the middle of the field into traffic.
The result of this play is an interception, as safety Ryan White reads his eyes and breaks on the ball. You better believe that Manziel and his coaches would have gladly taken 2nd-and-10 after watching the tape.
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