ESPN's Merril Hoge Drops the 'Bust' Label on NFL Draft Star Johnny Manziel

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterMarch 19, 2014

USA Today

Johnny Manziel was one of the more electric and polarizing athletes while playing at Texas A&M, so it makes sense that his pre-draft process would offer more of the same. While many have high hopes for Manziel, there are some, like ESPN's Merril Hoge, who see a big fat bust. 

Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm reports on the latest ESPN video making its way around the Internet, featuring Hoge's analysis of Manziel as he embarks on an NFL career. 

In the video, Hoge offers a poignant view on the 21-year-old star who won a Heisman as a freshman with the Aggies and followed it up with a sophomore campaign in which he threw for over 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns (transcription via Yahoo Sports): 

He has absolutely no instinct or feel for pocket awareness. He has an instinct to run. That's a bad instinct if you're going to have that in the National Football League. You have to play in the pocket with traffic around you and throw it. When traffic comes around him, he runs, and that's dangerous in the National Football League. His skill set does not transition to the National Football League, and it is a big, big risk. In fact, I see bust written all over him, especially if he's drafted in the first round.

Tell us how you really feel, Hoge. 

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Of course, he isn't the only analyst to have serious doubts about Manziel and his ability to transition smoothly to the professional ranks. 

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Hoge's ESPN colleague, Ron Jaworski, spoke with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic (h/t Bleacher Report) at the end of February, discussing where he might take the quarterback (transcription via PhillyMag.com).

I'm a big believer in Nick Foles, but who knows? Manziel may fall. I'm not crazy about him, to be honest with you. I've only looked at five games. I wouldn't take him in the first three rounds. That's my opinion. It's incomplete right now. But he has not done a whole lot to me.

Bleacher Report's Tim Keeney notes Jaworski gave a more thorough explanation of this thoughts with Sirius XM NFL Radio (transcription via Pro Football Talk):

He’s a random quarterback that likes to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs. In the NFL, he won’t last three games playing that style. He’ll get hurt. He took a lot of vicious hits at A&M in two years, and those hits that have that cumulative effect will knock him out of games in the NFL.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Manziel ranked third among the draft's top quarterbacks, and agrees that the young QB is indeed unconventional. 

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies drops back to pass against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

However, as Miller writes, that is hardly a bad thing: 

Manziel doesn't fit into the classic metrics for quarterbacks. He's not 6'2"; he doesn't play primarily in the pocket; he runs too much; and he throws off his back foot all the time. But he makes plays—a lot of them—and they're NFL-level plays at that. Manziel may not be conventional, but he's really damn good.

Miller goes on to say Manziel is a tough QB to crack when you are evaluating talent. Not fitting a particular mold means you are going to have opposing views at both ends of the spectrum. 

On one end, you have the Hoges and Jaworskis that see doom and gloom on the horizon for any team that wastes a valued pick on this particular gunslinger. 

On the other, you have those who see the highlights, propensity to run and dazzling plays, and see them as a good thing. 

With nearly a couple of months to go until the draft, Manziel, an athlete who already convinced a company like Nike of his worth, will continue to be the subject of heated debate. 

There is no middle ground when it comes to a player like Manziel. You either believe he is the answer or a potential nightmare. 

That makes him no less than a superstar in terms of draft talk—whether that will eventually lead to his stardom in the NFL depends greatly on whom you talk to. 

No matter the opinion, there is absolutely no holding back when Manziel is the topic of conversation. 

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