The 2014 NFL draft is full of electric, franchise-changing players that will undoubtedly make a huge impact next season.
Perhaps no player in this draft is more polarizing and infamous than Johnny Manziel.
No one knows for sure who will be taken come May 8, but already Manziel’s stock has risen and fallen throughout the pre-draft activities.
Manziel is projected to be taken anywhere in the first round. A number of teams need quarterbacks, and just as many teams need players as marketable as Manziel. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller stated earlier today that Manziel is being pegged at No. 2 with the St. Louis Rams.
Recently, a number of other teams have been linked to Manziel as well. While many teams have a case for drafting a potential franchise quarterback in Manziel, a lot of allegedly strong rumors during the weeks before the draft end up being false.
Here is a breakdown of the latest rumors surrounding Manziel.
As Davis notes, the Cowboys have never shied away from star power. Manziel was one of the most electric playmakers in college football, as well as a beloved figure ever since he won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.
Much of the Cowboys ownership has openly praised Manziel for some time, believing he will become a top-tier talent in the NFL.
"I think he's going to be a star in this league. I think he's going to be very successful," [Executive VP Stephen] Jones said. "I think he's a great competitor, and I think he's going to have an unbelievable career.
On the other hand, the Cowboys already have a very good quarterback in Tony Romo.
Romo also signed a monstrous six-year, $108 million extension last season, including $55 million guaranteed and a $25 million signing bonus.
Although Romo did restructure his contract this offseason, that is a common occurrence for players with big contracts around the league. The Cowboys, regardless of Manziel’s presence, have committed too much money to Romo to replace him.
That said, the Cowboys do not pick until No. 16. ESPN’s Ed Werder (h/t Mike Florio of NBC Sports) believes that if Manziel drops to them in the draft, then the Cowboys will scoop him up. In his article, Florio takes the idea and runs with it:
We think that, if Manziel slides past the Vikings at No. 8, the Cowboys could be inclined to trade up to get Manziel. In 20 of 25 drafts, Jerry Jones has made a move with a first-round pick. This year, moving up for Manziel could give the Cowboys the kind of offseason shakeup they surely covet.
Said Werder on the air, “Jerry Jones was raving about [Manziel] this weekend . . . in front of Romo.”
As the quote portrays, the Cowboys have commonly executed first-round trades for the players they desire.
Do not read too much into Jones' praising of Manziel in front of Romo, as that is likely the breaking news media trying to create a story.
That said, if Manziel falls to No. 16, the Cowboys realistically could take him.
But expecting the Cowboys to trade up for Manziel, especially when they already have Romo, is not smart. Considering that they gave up the third-most yards in NFL history last season, they should use their first-rounder to help a porous defense.
Owner Jerry Jones also did everything but deny the possibility of the Cowboys trading up to get Manziel:
We’ll never see him. We couldn't get there if we traded three drafts to get him. But he's an outstanding player... No doubt in my mind he’s going to be an outstanding NFL football player. But we have Tony Romo, and Tony Romo is our ticket.
Unless an unlikely trade occurs, the only way the Cowboys land Manziel is if he inexplicably falls to No. 16.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As Ed Werder noted, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are very serious about picking Manziel at No. 7:
Bucs would seriously consider Johnny Manziel if on the board at 7th pick. Team sees him as very unique, good arm and accuracy, great athlete— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 24, 2014
On paper, Manziel to the Bucs seems like a good-but-not-ideal pick for either side.
The Bucs have a number of needs on both sides of the ball that should be addressed before quarterback. Moreover, Mike Glennon was quite serviceable in 13 starts last season. He finished with 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Moreover, the Bucs also signed Josh McCown this offseason to a two-year, $10 million deal.
McCown was sensational in his brief stint last season for the Chicago Bears. In place of the injured Jay Cutler, McCown finished the season with a phenomenal 66.8 completion percentage for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception.
Also, McCown’s move to Tampa reunites him with former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Smith has made his choice of McCown as starter no secret.
Unless the Bucs plan to groom Manziel for two years under the 35-year-old McCown, he likely will not end up in Tampa.
Lastly, many of Smith’s successful game plans revolve around tough defense and a quarterback who won’t lose you games. McCown is a good fit for Smith, as evidenced by his success in Chicago.
Manziel, on the other hand, is a young and mobile gunslinger. It is natural for a rookie to force plays at times, and Manziel is sure to have his moments. Plus, who knows what kind of media headaches might occur from not starting Manziel right away as opposed to (perhaps rightfully) grooming him for the NFL.
Therefore, the Bucs are likely going to stick with the veteran McCown at quarterback.
Of all the teams competing for Manziel, the Cleveland Browns seem like the most likely scenario.
Sitting at pick No. 4, the Browns have a massive need to fill at the quarterback position.
Their only viable option right now is Brian Hoyer. Hoyer started just three games last season (notably all victories) and finished with just 614 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Browns are also conceivably looking to win now. With millions to spend, the Browns splurged on talent through free agency, revamping the entire defense in the process.
On offense, the team already has a talented line and playmakers in Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon. The only piece missing is a leader at quarterback.
That piece could be Manziel, who is scheduled to visit the Browns (sans Kevin Costner) next Thursday.
But the Browns have a number of top- and middle-tier quarterbacks visiting before the draft. As the article details, the team has their concerns over the Texas A&M quarterback:
Gifted playmaker… The play starts when he makes the first guy miss. That's exciting to watch, but to transition to the NFL, he'll have to be able to play in structure, his fifth-step, his foot hits the ground that he can execute a throw.
The Browns are all-in on Manziel’s playmaking ability but also have legitimate concerns about Manziel in the AFC North.
Their division is tough and demanding. Cleveland knows what Manziel is capable of in the hot and sunny SEC, but they have their worries about his pocket-passing ability in a cold, snowy day against an NFL defense.
Regardless, the Browns are the most likely suitor for Manziel. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports is confident the Browns will scoop up Manziel given the chance.
I believe the Browns will take Manziel if he's there. Haslam did not buy this team for $1 billion to see them be irrelevant. He's the pick.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) April 24, 2014
A revitalized Browns team needs the one consistent piece for success in the 21st century: a franchise quarterback.
Rumors and mock trades aside, if Manziel is on the board at No. 4, it would be a shock if the Browns do not draft him.