Sitting in plush offices with multiple TV screens and two cell phones seemingly attached to their ears, NFL executives are watching intently. They’ve been watching the same rapid transformation we all have, seeing Johnny Manziel morph into the galavanting, party-boy and defending Heisman Trophy winner that is Johnny Football.
They’ve taken note.
A year ago, Johnny Football didn’t exist. He was simply Jonathan Paul Manziel, a descendant of an old money oil fortune, but otherwise a normal college kid. Now, after ESPN’s Wright Thompson wrote a piece chronicling the inner-struggles of the star Texas A&M Aggies quarterback as he deals with his newfound celebrity, we’re miffed at how quickly that’s all changed.
It’s hard to say how anyone would react given the circumstances, but as we all watch Manziel’s saga unfold it’s hard not to question his future, specifically as it pertains to football.
Johnny Manziel is still the gifted playmaker who dissected the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide on his way to the Heisman. However, with millions of dollars on the line, it’s impossible to imagine a world where Manziel’s off-the-field issues don’t register to those aforementioned NFL executives sitting in their ivory towers.
I’m not one to judge Johnny Manziel antics. If people were to dig into my exploits as a 20-year old, they’d find another confused young man who didn’t seem to understand the consequences of binge-drinking at all costs and simply not having a filter.
However, if I were an NFL executive I wouldn’t have drafted 20-year old me, and I’m not sure that I’d draft Johnny Manziel, either.
Actually, let me qualify that: I wouldn’t draft Johnny Football.
Now, granted, Manziel wouldn’t be eligible until the 2014 NFL Draft, and a lot can change in a year. Yet, as we watch Jonathan Paul Manziel fall further down the pseudo-celebrity rabbit hole, it seems as if he’s hurdling full speed towards being devoured by Jonny Football entirely.
Nothing that Johnny Manziel has done this offseason–with the exception of the latest rumors that he accepted money for signing autographs in January–really registers as life-altering on its own merits. However, as a collective, they paint a picture of someone who just doesn’t understand that he’s going to be held to a higher standard as an elite collegiate athlete and aspiring professional quarterback.
That’s enough to make me skeptical of whether or not he’ll mature quickly enough to take being an NFL quarterback with the seriousness we all know that it requires. And all these issues register before you even pop in the game tape.
Once the tape is on, Manziel has a few other issues to worry about as it pertains to a future in the NFL.
Make no mistake about it, Johnny Manziel is an electrifying playmaker with a penchant for creating something spectacular amid chaos. And while the NFL of old would have been terrified by a quarterback of his style, we’ve seen a league willing to adapt to and even embrace spread quarterbacks in the past few years.
However, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah polled five executives about Manziel’s NFL prospects and the results were mixed.
Three of the five stated that Manziel was worth the risk because of what he brings to the table athletically, while the other two cited his size and arm strength as causes for concern.
Then, of course, you have reasonable concerns surrounding the durability of a guy like Johnny Manziel. He doesn’t have the hulking frame of a Cam Newton, and having seen Robert Griffin III suffer an ACL tear last year, it seems silly not to wonder if Manziel’s style of play is conducive to staying healthy in the NFL.
All told, I think there’s enough red flags to raise serious doubts over taking him in next year’s NFL Draft. Even with the new CBA eschewing the rookie wage scale back in the teams’ favor, I don’t see the point in drafting an immature kid whose entire resume consists of one out-of-the-blue season.
I’m guessing plenty of NFL executives would agree with me, but as was the case with Tim Tebow at the 2010 NFL Draft, it only takes one person to have enough interest to see Johnny Football cashing a first-round check next spring.