Following a successful showing at his pro day, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel found himself rocketing back up the draft boards of teams around the NFL. By all accounts, Manziel looked good. He was sharp in completing a variety of passes, mobile and accurate. Of course, he looked amazing while throwing to familiar receivers in a familiar setting with nothing more than air defending them. Granted, it’s a lot better than Louisville‘s Teddy Bridgewater was able to do during his pro day session, but the fact of the matter is that Manziel rocketed back up the draft boards after doing nothing more than playing a glorified game of catch with his friends. And in a move that has sent a collective chill of dread down the spines of half of the Raider Nation and an electric jolt of excitement through the other half, Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has brought Johnny Football to town for a two day series of pre-draft meetings.
McKenzie’s offseason — though it got off to a bit of a rough start with the Rodger Saffold fiasco — has been nothing short of brilliant. He’s assembled one of the better free agent classes in the NFL and has the future of the organization looking brighter than it has in quite some time. It would be a crying shame for him to tarnish it by wasting the fifth pick in the draft on Johnny Manziel.
This is not to say that Manziel won’t be a good fit somewhere. He’s got freakish athletic gifts and a real talent for improvisation. But many are quick — and right — to note that he’s not a disciplined pocket passer and prefers improvising to reading his progressions. Manziel supporters compare him to Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, but it’s a comparison that falls flat. Wilson is a strong, accurate quarterback who looks to throw first and run second. He buys time with his legs but is always reading his progressions. The more apt comparison for Manziel would be to the soon-to-be-departed Terrelle Pryor — both are incredibly gifted athletically, but are run first, throw second quarterbacks. And while that is a style that will definitely work with some organizations, it’s not a good fit for the Raiders as currently constructed.
The team has brought in Matt Schaub to be the starter, and according to Dennis Allen, it’s not just for this season. And the team has a highly capable backup in Matt McGloin. Both are solid pocket passers and terrific game managers. And despite a terrific free agent class that has addressed some of the most glaring areas of need, the Raiders still have a few holes to fill. They most notably still need a playmaking, No. 1 wide receiver to complement James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes and Denarius Moore. They need weapons for Schaub to utilize, not a project quarterback who has problems with discipline. It would be a waste of a high pick to not equip the team with a weapon like Clemson‘s Sammy Watkins or Manziel’s A&M teammate Mike Evans. And lest we forget, it was also Evans’ athleticism and talent that helped make Manziel the star that he is.
Many around the Raider Nation are hoping that this current two day visit might be nothing more than a smokescreen and a bit of pre-draft gamesmanship. Teams are notoriously more secretive — and less prone to leaks — than the NSA when it comes to their draft boards. Perhaps hosting Manziel and hyping their interest in him is nothing more than a move designed to take the focus off the player McKenzie and Allen truly covet. McKenzie’s moves this offseason have put the Raiders on the right track and given some hope to a beleaguered fanbase. We can all hope he doesn’t derail it by burning the fifth pick in the draft on Johnny Football.