Johnny Manziel figured to be the aspiring future starter of any team drafting him in Round 1 of Thursday's 2014 NFL draft, but in his new home at the Cleveland Browns, he'd be best set opening Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers as the starting quarterback.
After two of the longest hours of his life, Manziel finally saw his first-round slide end at pick No. 22 when the Cleveland Browns traded up from the 26th pick to get him. They passed on him at No. 8, but not with their second first-rounder.
The easy part for Manziel is now over with—he has his team. Now comes the tough part of winning the starting job over Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer opened up his 2013 season proving to be a breakout quarterback with nearly 600 yards in his first two games, but he tore his ACL after just three games as a starter.
However, his strong start last season has given Cleveland optimism toward 2014. Browns coach Mike Pettine even said it would be "very difficult" for any incoming quarterback draft pick to beat out Hoyer, per USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones.
But that was before they drafted Manziel.
Now, it's apparent that the Browns are building their franchise around the former Heisman Trophy winner. And as analyst after analyst has harped on regarding Manziel, they'll have to build their offense around him right away.
Cleveland has a young stud at tight end in Jordan Cameron. And with the Browns possibly losing Josh Gordon to a one-year suspension, per an ESPN report from T.J. Quinn and Dan Van Natta Jr., it's apparent that the Browns will be filling an already thin receiving corps with young players in the second and third days of the draft.
Manziel can be a great commander of an offense and bring the best out of young potential-laden receivers, but only if he's starting. Hoyer taking snaps and being the featured quarterback, with Manziel being included sparsely, won't do anything for his growth with those receivers.
But if the Texas A&M product comes in right away and starts, he can go through those inevitable growing pains with his young receivers and allow Cleveland to instill unique play calls that it would not be able to with Hoyer.
Manziel is still developing, and yes, he's only three years removed from high school.
Should Manziel start right away?
But he's done everything fast in his career. From being the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy to being a surefire NFL draft entry as a redshirt sophomore, Manziel has been on the fast track ever since he hit stardom in 2012.
The growing pains might be inevitable, but they can get out of the way for the most part in Year 1 if he starts 16 games and stays healthy.
Then, of course, there's the inevitable fan outcry.
Johnny Football has been hyped as a massive ticket seller and a player who puts butts in seats for whatever franchise drafted him over the weekend. But in Cleveland, it's at a whole new level.
Check out the spike in season-ticket numbers in the hours since Manziel was drafted, per ESPN SportsCenter:
Johnny Franchise: In 12 hours after Johnny Manziel was drafted, Browns sold more than 1,500 new season tickets. (via @darrenrovell)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 9, 2014
The Manziel hype is national, and Cleveland could also cash in on a wide-scale fanbase and build more of a coast-to-coast following it has lacked without a star quarterback, as B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller alluded to:
Can we be honest? Moving the draft to May didn't increase ratings. Having Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney in the draft increased ratings— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 9, 2014
Browns fans have been desperate for their struggling franchise to get back to the top, and a much-improved defense in 2013 along with a promising new coaching staff offers some optimism.
Despite finishing 4-12, Cleveland was stout on the defensive end for the most part in 2013 with a top-10 passing defense. The offense obviously needs work, but after drafting Manziel in the first round, signing Ben Tate in free agency and adding future picks, it's obvious that they're building toward a young, exciting offense in the future that includes Manziel at the helm.
Johnny Manziel has done everything fast in his career. And like many have acknowledged, he's either going to have great success early on in his career or hit a wall due to the transition of the NFL game. Why not find out right away?