Johnny Manziel Worth a Late-Round Flier in Fantasy Leagues

Tim KeeneyContributor IAugust 7, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel walks off the field after practice at NFL football training camp in Berea, Ohio Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Coach Mike Pettine is expected to name his starting quarterback for Saturday night's exhibition opener in Detroit. Brian Hoyer is listed first on the team's depth chart, but rookie Manziel may be gaining on him. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Johnny Manziel isn't starting the Cleveland Browns' first preseason game. Good. That will only decrease his price on fantasy draft day. 

On the surface, drafting Johnny Football in redraft leagues (non-keeper or dynasty leagues) seems like a job reserved for masochists, Browns fans or that guy in your league who takes one too many shots of R&R during the earlier rounds of the draft. 

The polarizing QB, who has received more attention this offseason for his trips to Las Vegas than his play on the gridiron, is locked firmly in a battle for the starting gig with Brian Hoyer. The incumbent Hoyer led at the start of the camp and has played well enough to stay atop the depth chart.

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora recently gave a glowing report of Hoyer's play in practice:

Brian Hoyer is considerably faster, and more nimble, than Johnny Manziel.

No, that is not a misprint.

The veteran journeyman, coming off an ACL surgery and trying to retain his job as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, is quicker than Johnny Friggin Football, record-setting college football dervish who is in the first week of his first training camp.

Moreover, Manziel, while plenty talented himself, has admitted he faces an uphill climb in terms of learning the playbook, via ESPN's Pat McManamon:

It's a process for me. It's not something that I should just come in here naturally because I played well in college and just know how to run this offense.

It's a complete 180 from everything that I've been used to. And it's going to take time. It's a process coming from a spread, air raid system in college to a pro style system that's very unfamiliar [to] me as far as terminology and routes.

But you aren't drafting Manziel for his position on the depth chart or his surrounding weapons. You're drafting him for his tantalizing skill set and gambling that the Browns realize they can't afford to keep him on the bench. 

Manziel is made for fantasy. He has a strong arm to make all the throws, but more importantly, he has the quickness and elusiveness to cause havoc on the ground.

Aaron Josefczyk/Associated Press

The Browns, a franchise that has been to the playoffs once since the turn of the century and last had a winning season in 2007, need an injection of energy. Sooner rather than later, they'll turn to the electrifying 21-year-old they traded up to take in the first round. 

Once that happens, he's going to put up lots of numbers. Dual-threat quarterbacks with his kind of running ability, whether it's pretty or not, are always valuable in fantasy. Robert Griffin III and Terrelle Pryor were pretty atrocious throwing the ball last year but still held value because of their legs. 

Cam Newton had the fewest throwing yards per game of his career yet still finished third among all QB's in ESPN's standard league scoring.

I'm not advocating drafting Johnny Football to be your starter. Only Johnny Football would do that.

According to, he is being drafted, on average, as the 18th QB overall. Considering the ceiling he has as a starter, he's absolutely worth a late-round gamble and a stash on the bottom of your bench.