The most excruciating two-hour wait of Johnny Manziel's life is over. The Cleveland Browns selected the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner with the No. 22 overall pick, moving up four spots after executing a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Browns have been linked to Manziel throughout the draft process, with some pegging him as Cleveland's top option at No. 4 overall. They chose to wait instead, executing a trade with the Buffalo Bills to move back to No. 9 before moving up one spot to take Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Cleveland's patience, as general manager Ray Farmer hinted at in an interview with Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, paid off.
“I would tell you that, for me, Johnny, for as much of a good college football player he is, I don’t know if I would ever tell anyone the answer to that question until it’s all said and done. I mean, people like him. People think there is talent there. The question is, is Four too rich?” Farmer said.
Manziel dropping to No. 22 allows the Browns to play out their best-of-both-worlds scenario but is hardly a boon for the former Texas A&M star. ESPN's Darren Rovell noted Manziel will make $12 million less in his rookie contract than Blake Bortles, who was selected No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It's safe to say Manziel will more than make up some of that ground in endorsements. One of the most famous faces in college football history, Manziel's time in College Station was littered with as many questions about his "celebrity" lifestyle as touchdown passes. He maintains a close friendship with rapper Drake and Miami Heat star LeBron James—someone who might know a thing or two about the Cleveland area.
Manziel will undoubtedly be the most-covered athlete since James took his talents to South Beach.
As for whether he'll give the Browns the franchise quarterback they've lacked for decades, well, the jury is still out. Manziel's college production is unimpeachable. He became the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman in 2012 and came back last season as a wildly improved passer. Working in Kevin Sumlin's high-octane offensive system, Manziel threw for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns against 13 picks in 2013.
Concerns regarding his footwork, size and ability to translate his skills to the NFL level are legitimate. Manziel is one of the most polarizing prospects in recent draft history because so few can agree on whether his improvisational skills can stand up against pro athletes.
The Browns are comfortable that he can. They also have an offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan who is experienced working with unorthodox quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III blossomed into a Rookie of the Year and face of the franchise with Shanahan calling the plays in 2012. While both parties played some part in Griffin's regression last season, Shanahan at the very least has shown a willingness to adjust his system based on talent.
Manziel will need it. He's a unique talent who doesn't fit the prototypical mold. Cleveland will assuredly begin implementing Washington-style read options and zone-read blocking into its playbook if it hasn't already. That could give Vince Young, who the Browns signed this month, a leg up in the backup quarterback competition.
Manziel dropping here could wind up being a fortuitous bounce or a harbinger of a franchise that has not learned from its mistakes. The Browns' last two franchise quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, were brought in following similar trades. In an interesting twist, both Quinn and Weeden were the No. 22 overall pick in their respective drafts.
Cleveland better hope Manziel proves the third time is the charm.
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