How Johnny Manziel Fits with the Cleveland Browns

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How Johnny Manziel Fits with the Cleveland Browns
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

After the Cleveland Browns used their first pick of the 2014 NFL draft on Justin Gilbert, Browns fans were a bit...disappointed.

That feeling completely reversed after Cleveland traded back up in the first round to select Johnny Manziel, the player nearly the entire fanbase was hoping for.

But exciting fans does not win football games, and Manziel will need to prove that he is a good enough passer to play at the NFL level.

His appeal is obvious. Few quarterbacks in history are capable of the types of feats he routinely pulled off at Texas A&M. The former Heisman winner is an electrifying runner, with unbelievable agility and acceleration. His ability to improvise is unparalleled.

On what, for nearly any other quarterback, would be a sack can be a 60-yard touchdown run for Manziel. He can turn a horrible, potentially drive-killing play into a touchdown that completely transforms the game.

However, while his running ability is his biggest strength, it is also his biggest flaw. There are times when he needs to sit in the pocket longer instead of taking off and running. He makes plays while running, but he also misses out on some opportunities through the air.

Another downside of his tendency to run is the risk of injury. Though injuries haven’t been a factor to this point in his career, the NFL is different from the NCAA. Manziel will be taking hits, and at 6’0”, 207 pounds, he doesn’t have an especially thick build. Whether he will be able to retain his style of play and stay on the field is a legitimate concern.

As a passer, he isn’t perfect. He is, however, better than many give him credit for being. His arm strength is about average, but he is accurate. Additionally, he is capable of going through progressions and finding open receivers.

There is no denying that Manziel is still raw at throwing the ball. With time, though, given his athletic ability, he can be more than good enough as a passer.

Schematically, Cleveland is the perfect fit for him. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked wonders with Robert Griffin III as a rookie, and Shanahan is a creative mind who is adept at using mobile quarterbacks.

Additionally, the Browns have some exciting toys for Manziel. Josh Gordon is already an All-Pro wide receiver at just 23 years old, and Jordan Cameron is another young Pro Bowler at tight end. The offense has huge potential.

Manziel isn’t necessarily a vertical thrower, though he can pass deep. Fortunately, Cleveland’s receivers are skilled both at stretching the field and gaining yards after the catch. There is no part of the field the Browns cannot attack.

It is tempting for a team with offensive talent to simply take a quarterback who can spread the ball around. That’s not what Cleveland did in the draft. The Browns chose the quarterback who can not only get the ball to his playmakers but create by himself.

Cleveland passed on Manziel once, and it could have passed twice or waited for him to fall to the team’s second pick. But the Browns didn’t. They made an aggressive move to go after a player who was worthy of it.

Nothing about Manziel is conservative, and Cleveland made the move to match the player. The Browns didn’t sit around and wait.

They attacked.

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