Will the Dallas Cowboys Make a Play for Johnny Manziel in 2014 NFL Draft?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 28, 2014

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We've reached uncharted waters in the NFL. With the NFL draft two weeks later than usual in 2014, the rumor mill has 14 extra days to churn.

Given that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was the most talked-about player in college football this year, it's not surprising that he's the subject of some of the draft's latest scuttlebutt.

The surprise is the team involved.

While speaking recently with Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, Jim Nantz of CBS Sports passed along his belief that Manziel is very much in the sights of the Dallas Cowboys:

I’ve heard this rumor for a month -- the Cowboys will figure out a way to get Manziel. Wherever Manziel goes, there is going to be more clamoring about Johnny Manziel than there would be about Blake Bortles going No. 1 or (Jadeveon) Clowney going No. 1, or anyone else. This is a guy that there’s just a tremendous interest in everything he does.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated added fuel to the fire in his weekly MMQB column:

I absolutely buy Dallas’ interest in Manziel. One: He is Jerry Jones’s kind of guy, and I believe Jones all along has had half an eye on Manziel, particularly if he could get him at a bargain position—say, the middle of the second round. I don’t believe Manziel will make it out of the first round, of course, but Jones could be sorely tempted at No. 16 overall if Manziel were there. Two: Tony Romo turned 34 last Monday, and his back is balky and twice surgically repaired, and Troy Aikman has been sounding the clarion call about the dangers of fooling with a bad back. Three: See number one.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, while speaking with KLRD-FM (per Jon Machota of Fox Sports Southwest) dismissed the talk of Manziel to Dallas as "purely speculation." However, Jones also talked up the young signal-caller:

The only thing I'll say about Johnny Manziel is he obviously had a great career in college, one of the greatest college football players that I've watched in terms of exciting and being a great competitor. Those are things we'll work through and there's a lot of things that go into where you ultimately put a player on your board.

Of course, it's not hard to understand why the Cowboys could be interested in Manziel.

Romo is well past 30 and coming off back surgery. Manziel's not inconsiderable talents aside, he'd be an absolute jackpot from a marketing standpoint.

Manziel himself told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in February (via Louis Ojeda of Fox Sports Southwest) that "Growing up a Cowboy fan ... I was born at halftime of a Cowboys game. That would almost be a folktale."

However, back at February's NFL Scouting Combine, Jerry Jones downplayed the possibility of Manziel landing in Dallas. As Machota wrote, Jones just didn't see the Cowboys getting an opportunity to take 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. The area I feel the best about our chances in is at our quarterback. And I feel that way for the next several years. The only exception to that being injury.

Frankly, the most likely scenario remains Manziel coming off the board before the Cowboys pick at No. 16.

It's possible that Jones' comments were a smokescreen (we are talking about Jerry Jones, after all), but the Cowboys have more pressing needs than at quarterback.

Like, say, something resembling an actual NFL defense.

That makes the idea of trading up a doubly expensive proposition, especially for a team that's very much in "win now" mode.

With that said though, if Manziel makes it to 16, all bets are off.

It could happen, too.

There's been a growing sentiment among draftniks that the shine has worn off this year's top quarterbacks where the teams drafting early in Round 1 are concerned.

Rotoworld reported earlier this month that ESPN draft analyst (and former NFL GM) Mark Dominik thinks Manziel could "fall a little more than people think" in the first round May 8.

Were that to be the case, Jones and the Cowboys are going to have a decision on their hands.

Use the 16th pick on a player to shore up the NFL's worst defense from a season ago, or look to the future under center with the hometown kid who would sell a ton of merchandise before he ever set foot on the field.

In other words, if Manziel makes it to Dallas with the 16th pick, we might just find out how that folktale turns out.