Johnny Manziel was the most-watched player during the 2014 NFL Draft, and the Cleveland Browns ended his first-round fall when they traded up to No. 22 overall and selected him. Team brass has tempered expectations that “Johnny Football” will start immediately, but with Brian Hoyer working his way back from a torn ACL and little else on the depth chart he has a clear path to playing time.
Manziel was very productive in one of college football’s toughest conference over the last two seasons, and his passing numbers (4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns while completing close to 70 percent of his passes) were actually better last season when compared to his 2012 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign. That shows his potential for improvement, which has a good chance to continue at the next level.
Browns’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has compared Manziel favorably to Robert Griffin III, who he worked with during his time in the same post with the Washington Redskins. Given how Griffin performed during his own rookie season in 2012, that is good news for Manziel’s fantasy outlook if he wins the starting job.
Manziel is slightly built (6’0″, 210 lbs.), and his borderline reckless playing style stands to put at him at risk for big hits from NFL defenders. The Browns have decent depth at the skill positions, but the likely loss of wide receiver Josh Gordon for the entire coming season due to a suspension is not good news.
Hoyer threw for 590 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in the two games he started and finished last season prior to tearing his ACL, which is enough to make it that he shouldn’t lose the starting job strictly to injury.
Manziel should tentatively be considered the front runner to start Week 1 for the Browns, but it’s clear the coaching staff is not in a hurry to anoint him and will make him earn the job with a strong training camp and preseason. Even with a Week 1 starting nod it’s no guarantee Manziel makes it through all 16 games unscathed or is consistently productive, which makes him draftable only as a risk/reward QB2 this year. Even if he doesn’t beat out Hoyer for the starting job during the preseason, it would be a huge surprise if Manziel doesn’t see significant action as a rookie.
Bye Week: Week 4
Projected Round: 10th or 11th Round
Auction Value: $8 (Fantasy Sharks.com)
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.