With roster spaces limited on a fantasy football team, you do not want to waste a draft pick. The good news is picking Johnny Manziel would not fall under this category.
It is easy to be hesitant about drafting a rookie who might not even start for his team. There are plenty of quality quarterbacks available heading into the draft, and there is no shame in playing it safe. Even after the top names like Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, you can get quality backups like Andy Dalton or Philip Rivers.
At the same time, rookie quarterbacks do not always pay off from a fantasy perspective, even if they play right away. Geno Smith finished 20th among quarterbacks in fantasy points last season despite playing every game, while EJ Manuel only ended No. 29 on the list, according to ESPN.
A player like Manziel, who is still far from a polished product and has some serious competition from Brian Hoyer, might get even less opportunity than these rookies. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com quotes the quarterback about taking his time getting on the field:
Manziel: "I'll play whenever the coaches say I'm ready. There is no rush. I don't know if they drafted me to be ready Week 1." Very telling— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 31, 2014
This makes it no surprise ESPN ranks the Cleveland Browns player as the No. 23 available quarterback heading into the season, which is borderline undraftable in most leagues.
That being said, it would be a worthwhile move for fantasy owners to take him much earlier than that.
There is a reason the Browns took Manziel with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 draft. The former Texas A&M star is one of the most dynamic athletes to come into the league in a long time with the ability to make plays with his arm or his legs.
In two years as a starter in college, he totaled 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdowns, as well as 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. This dual-threat ability will continue at the next level as he racks up plenty of fantasy points.
Once he gets on the field, he can have a year similar to Robert Griffin III as a rookie. The Washington Redskins quarterback ranked fifth among quarterbacks in 2012 fantasy points thanks mostly to his 815 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
With the Browns having an even better offensive line than the Redskins, Manziel should be able to post similar numbers on the ground.
The question is whether the rookie will actually get a chance to play. Hoyer was impressive in his short stint as a starter last year and is looking to prove he can be a franchise quarterback.
However, those watching him believe that Manziel is closing the gap between the two passers, like ESPN's Chris Mortensen:
Watched Browns scrimmage today. Just a scrimmage but easy to see Manziel is closing gap & will start getting some one reps next week.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 2, 2014
Tom Withers of The Associated Press thought the rookie was the better of the two in a scrimmage:
Overall, I would give Manziel the nod today. Made plays with arm, legs. Hoyer still has lead, but it has shrunk in a week. #Browns— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) August 2, 2014
With a rabid fanbase hoping to bring in some excitement, you can be certain Manziel will see the field sooner or later. Even if he does not start Week 1, he will absolutely be taking snaps within the first couple of months.
This fact makes the quarterback worthy of a relatively early draft pick in fantasy. If you get a solid player at the position early on, feel free to take the Browns passer as early as the ninth or 10th round. The upside is simply too good to pass up.
Even if he stays on the bench for the first few weeks of the year, you will be thrilled with the move once Manziel starts carrying your team heading into the playoffs.
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