Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel debuted on ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr’s “big board” as the 25th-best draft-eligible prospect for the 2014 draft. Manziel is still flying on high on the hype he created, and deservedly so, from his 2012 campaign. However, the success Manziel had in 2012, and any future success he as in college football, does not alter the reality that he should not be above a third-round selection when he does declare for the draft.
Manziel, on the road to winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy, put together a statistical resume that rivals that of Tim Tebow and Cam Newton during their respective Heisman campaigns: 3706 passing yards, 1410 rushing yards, 47 totals touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Although very impressive, these numbers do not lead one to believe that Manziel’s game translates to the NFL.
In 2012, the NFL saw a type of rebirth in quarterback play. Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III were able to recreate the college-style read option and have success with it against NFL defenses. However, past experiments with supremely athletic quarterbacks produced varying levels of individual success, but failed to alter the way the position is played in the pros. For example: Michael Vick, Tim Tebow and Kordell Stewart.
The style of play that Manziel excels at has hit the NFL fields, but do not expect to see Johnny Football shredding defenses on Sundays anytime soon, if ever. While his game seems to possibly translate due to recent developments from the aforementioned quarterbacks, Manziel does not compare to any of these. Kaepernick has elite arm strength, runs with power and is 6’4, 230 pounds. Wilson lives in the gym and the film room, exemplifying an unrivaled work ethic. RGIII is a world-class sprinter and throws the best deep ball in the game. Manziel is only 6’0″ and around 207 pounds, possesses above-average arm strength at-best and does not have the speed of either Kaepernick or RGIII. Manziel, though, does look very similar to another former Heisman winner who played quarterback in the NFL: Troy Smith.
Smith was ranked as high as 20th on Kiper Jr’s “big board” in 2006, and the Ohio State quarterback posted fantastic numbers as a dual-threat quarterback in college with 611 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior nnd over 2,200 passing yards in his junior and senior seasons. Smith, on film, looks so much like Manziel it is eerie. Both quarterbacks excel at evading the rush, buying time and finding open targets. While Smith won a Heisman, took his team to a National Championship game and was drafted in the NFL, his game did not translate to the pros then and would not now. Manziel seems destined to follow a similar path.
While exciting to watch and prolific on the stat sheet, some electrifying quarterbacks simply do not have the right tools to play on Sundays. Manziel has a tremendous amount of hype carrying over into the 2013 season, but this hype should not warrant him recognition as a top NFL prospect.