The most-watched player during Thursday night’s first round was quarterback Johnny Manziel, and after a fall out of the top-10 the Cleveland Browns traded up to get him 22nd overall. “Johnny Football” now becomes the favorite to start under center for the Browns Week 1, but can he take his college success into the NFL seamlessly and be a top fantasy option?
Brian Hoyer played well after taking over as Cleveland’s starting quarterback early last season, with 590 passing yards and five touchdown passes (three interceptions) in his first two starts, but he suffered a torn right ACL early in Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills and missed the rest of the season. Hoyer is on track to be ready for the start of the season, and he is still in the mix for the starting job with head coach Mike Pettine’s assertion that the team will not force Manziel into the lineup.
It would be surprising if Manziel doesn’t win the starting job during training camp, and the Browns have some talented pieces in place around him. Wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron are coming of great seasons in 2013, and notable additions were made at running back (Ben Tate) and wide receiver (Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson) in free agency.
Manziel’s ability as a dual threat (over 2,100 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons at Texas A&M) enhances his fantasy potential, but it’s worth wondering how his aggressive playing style will translate to the next level. With less than ideal size (6’0″, 207 lbs.), Manziel may always carry durability concerns and become an annual boom-or-bust fantasy pick.
If he is on track to start Week 1 Manziel will be worth a look as a QB2 in 12-team leagues, but I think it’s likely he gets drafted too early in single-season leagues based on name recognition. Looking beyond 2014, Manziel is a top option in dynasty leagues and should be the first rookie quarterback drafted in that format.