Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Entering the Scouting Combine

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 19, 2014

David J. Phillip/AP Images

1. Who is Johnny Manziel?

The NFL trusts Johnny Manziel. 

"I really believe this guy will be one of the best quarterbacks we've seen come out of college in the past four of five years," one AFC scout said. "He'll have a Russell Wilson type of impact. I also do trust him. I believe this transformation."

The NFL doesn't trust Johnny Manziel.

"Taking him with a high-round pick is extremely risky," said an NFC scout, "mainly because you have no idea what you're getting. Some scouts believe the guy we're seeing now is the real Manziel. I don't."

One team personnel executive said: "I think he can lead a team. I think he's more mature than some people want to give him credit. I don't have doubts about him as a person."

Another team executive: "There are a lot of questions about him as a person."

And there it is—the NFL's feelings about Manziel in a nutshell. Love and hate, trust and distrust.

BOB LEVEY/Associated Press

It's likely these feelings, the divergence of them, extrapolate across the league. It might literally be half of football trusts Manziel and half does not.

The last time we saw the NFL this divided about a top prospect was Cam Newton, and many of the same things being said about Manziel now were being said about Newton. We see how Newton turned out. He's a star in this league—just made the postseason with an offensively limited team.

What the combine will be for Manziel, more than anything, is a sincerity test. His skeptics will be searching for realness. Is the hard-working and focused Manziel we've seen the past few months the real Manziel? Or is he the one that slept through the Manning passing camp or became entangled in an autograph-signing scandal?

NFL teams know college players are immature. They know they party. They chase women (gasp). They drink (gasp, gasp).

What teams want to know most—and Manziel will be asked this directly, you can count on it—is what does he want more? Does he want to be a football player or a partier?

They will want to know—who is the real Johnny?

2. Manziel Part II

I thought this analysis from a scout was among the most fair about Manziel that I've seen thus far: "Manziel…blahblahblah, blahblahblah. You will hear all kinds of bulls--- about him, but teams will rely on the film and what he did in games. That's it. No one will care if he parties. We draft dudes who beat their girlfriends. It's all about the play. Watch his play and he's just a guy you can't pass on."

3. Manziel Part III

League sources increasingly believe the Houston Texans will take Manziel with the first pick. The organization has said very little publicly, but privately, the belief is that Houston has been quietly falling in lust with him. 

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

4. Pot tests

There are already rumors that several low-level prospects who will be at the combine are in trouble over failed tests for marijuana at their prospective schools and are prepared to apologize to team officials for those failures. Teams find out about positive drug tests and ask prospects what happened, so as a preemptive strike, some players speak up front about the failures. This is something that seems to happen every year at the combine (as well as players failing combine initiated drug tests, which are separate), and we might be poised for it to happen again.

5. The Wonderlic test

If you're one of these people who laugh at leaked low scores of prospects who have bombed the Wonderlic, well, here, via the Big Lead, is your chance to take the test. Feel free to post your score on the message board, smart guy.

6. Combing trolling

This evaluation of Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla comes from Nolan Nawrocki, a draft evaluator for NFL.com:

Overly emotional and prone to outbursts following a dysfunctional childhood that offered little direction and much confusion related to a divorce. Not a disciplined team player. ...Has overcome a lot of adversity stemming back to his youth and defied the odds to become an impactful performer. Talent grades could garner interest in the second round, but past history could easily knock him down several rounds and off many draft boards.

Really? So that's where we are now in the media draft evaluation process? Analyzing the impact of a divorce on a kid? Going back to his childhood? We're therapists now in the media?

What's next, analyzing when a prospect emerged from diaper training? Did he do it fast enough? Did he show too much attitude in preschool? When he was three years old, took another kid's Play-Doh and received a timeout. Could impact teams' decision on draft day.

Some of this stuff is getting beyond ridiculous.

L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

7. Michael Sam to speak soon

Former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who recently came out publicly as gay, is tentatively scheduled to speak to the media at the combine on Saturday. He will speak along with the other defensive linemen, but let's be real—on that day, few are going to want to speak to any other defensive lineman. He will be the star of the combine.

Someone close to Sam says he will try to keep his press conference short and sweet. He won't talk about his personal life. He will try to keep his comments mostly to football.

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

8. Tony Gonzalez on television

CBS just blew Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe out the door for the recently retired Tony Gonzalez. This was destined for Gonzalez. He's one of the smarter, more communicative players I've ever covered. He'll be fine.

The big news of this is what will happen with Marino. I agree with what's being said across social media and some of the Florida newspapers—that adding Marino to the Dolphins front office would lack any substance whatsoever, but might be a good PR move. Because everyone would see it as such, but the Dolphins could use any positive publicity now—even if it is contrived.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

9. The arrest of Ray Rice

The accusations against Ray Rice are just that—accusations. Nothing's been proven, but still one of the most talked about stories in the league right now is Rice's arrest. Talked about because if you took a poll of players and teams about the player they would pick more than any other to not be arrested, he would make the top five candidates. If you know him, the fact he was even arrested is shocking.

If even a portion of these accusations prove true, it will damage a player many thought was incapable of being embroiled in something like this.

Doug Benc/Associated Press

10. Goodell's cash

Outside of players and the union, I can't find one team person or owner upset about the $44 million Commissioner Roger Goodell received for one year's pay. The reason the owners gave Goodell so much money is because of what he got them. Think about it.

Goodell got a 10-year labor agreement with the union, an agreement many view as one of the owners won. The settlement of a concussion lawsuit with former players was for $750 million—a small amount of money to a multi-billion dollar league. The TV contracts gets richer and richer.

To the owners, the money they gave Goodell was a bargain. Hard to argue with that.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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