Johnny Manziel is one of the most intriguing talents available in the upcoming NFL draft. The Texas A&M product possesses a tremendous amount of upside and is one of the most unique prospects at the quarterback position, but there are also concerns about his size, celebrity status and more.
Regardless of those perceived flaws, a handful of teams at the top of the draft seem willing to roll the dice on Johnny Football. He could become the franchise quarterback many of the clubs picking early in the first round desperately need, or he could wind up as the next forgettable quarterback bust.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for Manziel on May 8.
Best-Case Scenario: Cleveland Browns at No. 4
Cleveland has been a graveyard for quarterbacks over the past two decades, but Manziel has both the innate talent and the star power to change the culture of this franchise.
There is little doubt that this young man would be the best quarterback Cleveland has put on the field in a long time, but his off-field issues are scaring some clubs.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network assessed those issues in his analysis of Manziel heading into the draft, per Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press, via ABC News:
As far as the face of the franchise, sometimes that's not definable. I look at Johnny Manziel, whatever it is, he has it. I know on Sunday ... he's going to show up with an edge about him, thinking he's the best guy on the field and he's going to elevate the play of those around him. (But) I also struggle with him a little bit with his off-the-field antics.
If Manziel can shy away from making waves off the field, he would be a perfect pick for a team that appears poised to compete for the playoffs in the wide-open AFC North.
The front office seems to agree. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently reported that Manziel is not going to slide past the Browns at No. 4:
THIS JUST IN: Chris Mortensen reports he expects Browns to draft QB Johnny Manziel at No. 4 if he's still there. pic.twitter.com/iQNNfNDg2H— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) May 5, 2014
Manziel told Josh Katzowitz of CBSSports.com that he would love to play for the Browns: "If something happens, and it's the Cleveland Browns, I'm going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland. I don't care if they've had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I'm going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl."
Johnny Football would be an incredible asset under center in The Forest City, especially considering the weapons that would be surrounding him from day one.
While he's known for his elite playmaking ability and his creativity while scrambling outside the pocket, Manziel improved drastically as a passer in 2013, his second season as a starter. He appears more than ready to handle the complications and intricacies of an NFL offense.
Having talented, tall, athletic, speedy options to throw to—such as emerging superstar wideout Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron—will make the transition a cinch for Manziel.
Will Manziel flourish with the Browns?
The Aggies signal-caller would also make life easier for this talented duo as well as the rest of the receiving options on Cleveland’s roster. Gordon put up massive numbers with a revolving door of quarterbacks under center this past season and might be poised for a record-breaking campaign with a bona fide star such as Manziel slinging the rock.
Manziel’s elusiveness allows him to extend plays, giving the receivers more time to break down the coverage and find seams in the defense. That, along with a variety of other unique skills, will drive defensive coordinators crazy and make Cleveland a contender from the moment the former Heisman Trophy winner steps on the field.
Worst-Case Scenario: St. Louis Rams at No. 2
It isn’t gong to be the end of the world if St. Louis drafts Manziel, as the young quarterback will still get paid and could carve out a decent career, but the odds of the latter happening are slimmer than if he landed in Cleveland or with another franchise.
The Rams aren’t in dire need of a signal-caller and would basically be using this selection to light a fire under Bradford. Manziel would be their “Plan B” in case the incumbent starter goes down with another injury or performs poorly in his critical fifth season.
St. Louis didn’t draft Bradford with the top pick back in 2010 to let him languish on the bench or be overtaken by another first-round quarterback just a few seasons later. The former Oklahoma star has shown plenty of promise and flashes of greatness during his tenure in the league, but bad luck and ill-timed injuries have hampered his development.
Regardless, the Rams must use the second pick to shore up more pressing areas and cannot afford to make a luxury selection that would amount to nothing more than a backup quarterback for the franchise.
The team could address a major need along the offensive line or trade down for the second year in a row to land another large fortune for its coveted draft position.
Regardless of what the club decides to do, Manziel is far too talented to waste away holding a clipboard. It would be terrible to see him land with the Rams instead of with a team where he could immediately contribute.