Is Johnny Football the Next Tim Tebow?
Will Johnny Manziel, the most hyped college football player since Tim Tebow, also soon find himself experiencing the NFL on his couch rather than on the gridiron?
The pair appears at first glance as an odd couple. The former is small; the latter, large. Johnny throws an accurate ball; Tim, not so much. Manziel lives a party lifestyle. Tebow lives a purity lifestyle. Different in a thousand ways regarding off-field personality and on-field play, the two Heisman Trophy winners come together in one key aspect: no players have elicited as much excitement among college football fans in the last decade as they have.
Another common denominator involves handicaps that might not hinder a player in the SEC but kill careers in the NFL. Scouts saw Tim Tebow’s unique throwing motion and less-than-precision passing as red flags shouting caution at potential takers. Manziel, a very different player, nevertheless exhibits a few glaring shortcomings. Closer to Doug Flutie than Peyton Manning on the measuring stick, Manziel also appears slight of build—and not just next to linemen but next to other quarterbacks, too. Given his propensity to make plays with his feet, questions about his durability linger. And, perhaps most importantly, scouts wonder if he can trade the champagne room for the film room. Neither the jobless Tebow nor the league aspirant Manziel presents NFL teams with a prototype QB.
The SEC convinced the Indianapolis Colts to spend the first pick of the draft on Peyton Manning. But it also deluded Oakland to waste a number one on JaMarcus Russell and Cleveland to do the same on Tim Couch. Although it’s unlikely that the Houston Texans buckle to home state sentiment and trade in their first pick for the rights to the Texas A&M quarterback, some team will take a chance on Manziel as the Denver Broncos took a chance on Tim Tebow.
Should the buyer beware?
Veteran NFL scout Chris Landry gauges Manziel and Tebow as “completely different types.” He believes that the Texas A&M quarterback possesses the abilities to make it in the professional ranks. “Tebow has never been a good passer,” Landry told Breitbart Sports. “Manziel is a very accurate passer to all levels of the field and on the move. He is short and running at the next level will have to be minimized due to his size but not so much as to limit his improvisational skills. He is not for everyone but he has NFL starting capabilities.”
In a league where quarterback is king, the freshman-year Heisman Trophy winner should link up with a suitor in the first round, a prospect that seemed dubious coming into the season when observers pegged him as a second-, third-, or even fourth-round pick.
Manziel’s rising draft stock comes in the wake of Texas A&M’s come-from-behind victory over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Down 38-17 at halftime, Manziel engineered a second-half comeback that put Texas A&M up 52-48 by the final whistle. The Aggies quarterback threw for four touchdowns and ran for one. The performance certainly did not hurt his draft stock—nor did his season. Although the sophomore failed to win another Heisman, he impressed talent evaluators by relying more on his arm than his legs. Pro scouts liked the season they saw even if Heisman voters didn’t like it as much as the previous campaign.
So what concerns will NFL teams have in drafting Manziel? Landry, who has done work for the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and now works a scouting consultant to NFL teams, sees two that stick out.
“It will come down to how comfortable each team is with his willingness to spend all the extra time in the film room and play a more fundamental and less risky style while still allowing for those play-extending qualities that he possesses,” assesses Landry. The sophomore’s sophomoric behavior—getting arrested in College Station for a fake identification after a fight and tossed from the Manning Passing Academy—might cause hesitation. “While it is okay for a pro athlete to enjoy himself socially, he must be totally committed to be the best quarterback between the ears,” Landry explains. “It is what separates the Matt Staffords, Jay Cutlers, and Tony Romos from the Brady, Manning, Brees, and Aaron Rodgers types. All of these quarterbacks make the big plays but it is the latter [group] that also minimizes the mistakes.”
Ultimately, Manziel’s deficiencies are seen as more correctable than Tebow’s.
So, is it possible that Manziel could still be around by the time the quarterback-needy Texans are on the clock for their second pick? To land the Texas A&M sensation, they would have to trade up for a mid-, or if they're lucky, late-first-round pick. Landry confidently forecasts, “He will be gone in the first round.”