The NFL will become engulfed in Manziel Mania starting this May when he’s drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. The former Texas A & M quarterback declared for the draft last week and has sent the media into a tail spin on his chances at success in the NFL. His draft stock is high, especially after his performance in the Aggies’ come-back win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But is Manziel, with all his “celebrity” already destined for greatness in the NFL or does he have more hype than skills and will end up following the path of the last over-hyped SEC quarterback to enter the NFL?
Manziel had quite possibly two of the most exciting football seasons we’ve seen since the last time a quarterback and an exciting season. Seems as soon as Tim Tebow was done lighting everyone up in the SEC, Cam Newton took his place and then Manziel took Newton’s. Tebow’s strengths never quite developed in the NFL and Newton took a couple of seasons to gain the composure and maturity his skills needed to flourish. The fact that we haven’t learned our lesson yet and are already expecting Manziel to take the NFL by storm before he’s even drafted amuses me.
Sure, Manziel has got the improvisational skills down pat. He’s got a play-making ability that allows him to get rid of the ball quickly and for the most part, accurately. His downsides, however, are big ones when it comes to having a quality career as a quarterback in the NFL. His arm strength isn’t nearly at the level of the top quarterbacks in the league and he, in spite of the success of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton, hasn’t developed the pocket presence that he’ll need as far as being aware and patient enough to go through multiple reads and progressions. Something that all quarterbacks still have to do in the NFL, no matter how mobile their quarterback is.
Manziel’s maturity is something that will also be greatly tested once he becomes a millionaire on draft day. Sure, he hasn’t had any kind of controversy since his half-game suspension, a joke of a punishment from the NCAA for being rumored to be involved in a cash-for-autographs episode, but does that mean that he’s got the maturity necessary to withstand the life of an NFL quarterback already? It’s a big culture-shock that some players who have that entitled, spoiled, immature mentality when they enter the NFL that in spite of the millions of dollars they are making the criticism level goes up exponentially.
Days after “Johnny Football” made the announcement to declare for the NFL draft, ESPN ran a story comparing Manziel to Joe Namath, saying that Manziel will “instantly become the league’s biggest celebrity quarterback since Broadway Joe.” Nothing like some premature jubilation to kick off the kid’s professional career, right? Just recently ESPN’s Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest draft board to reveal his prediction of Manziel as the No. 1 overall pick to the Texans. The thing is that Manziel is going to come with a certain amount of hype no matter how he performs, much like how Tim Tebow entered the NFL. While Tebow didn’t have the skill set to justify that hype, Manziel doesn’t have any guarantees either. If you question whether a quarterback with Manziel’s talents can succeed in the NFL you don’t have to look further than the NFC Championship for the answer. Whether Manziel gets the opportunities and building blocks around him that both Wilson and Kaepernick have benefitted from so far, remains to be seen.
So it could really go either way for Johnny Manziel. He could live up to his hype, find a good system with whatever team drafts him and have coaches willing to build the team around his strengths and protect his weaknesses. Or, he could continue to be overhyped by the media, land on a team that throws him to the wolves and expects greatness with no support and fizzle out to be known more as a punch line than as a former Heisman Trophy winner.