Johnny Manziel, the charismatic quarterback predicted to go first by some and not even in the first round of the draft by others, wound up with the Cleveland Browns. The AFC North team appeared to be a natural landing spot for Manziel, so the marriage between Johnny Football and the Dog Pound didn’t surprise. The fact that the Browns managed to land the fleet-footed quarterback with their second pick of the first round did.
Cleveland switched their #4 for Buffalo’s #9 and next year’s first-round pick. Then they switched places with the Vikings to move into the #8 spot, where they selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Sensing Manziel’s time in waiting about to end, Cleveland again shook up the draft by swapping their second first-round pick for Philadelphia’s #22. At that point, Roger Goodell’s announcement seemed unnecessary.
Cleveland’s 2014 draft evoked their first round in 2007. Owning the #3 pick, they bypassed Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame quarterback mock drafts imagined them taking. Quinn, cornered by cameras as his stock fell much the way ESPN broadcast Manziel’s humbled look periodically last night, somehow remained when Cleveland’s second turn in the round arrived. The Browns then pounced on the player that experts had them pouncing on much earlier. Manziel hopes that here’s where the comparison ends.
“God had a plan for me and it would all work out,” the Texas A&M sophomore explained after seeing two of his college teammates picked before him. He said of Cleveland, “I’m where I’m meant to be.” The drop from a possible first pick to a mid- to late-first-round pick not only served as a blow to Manziel’s ego. It hurt his pocketbook, too. He loses out on more than $10 million going at the twenty-two spot instead of in the first one.
John Gruden, who appeared happier than Manziel with the pick, celebrated the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner as a player with “instincts,” “courage,” and “guts.” As teams with quarterback needs bypassed the short signal-caller, cameras caught strained looks from the player and microphones captured disbelief from his cheerleader in the broadcast booth. Gruden explained, “He’s a legitimate duel threat.”
ESPN analyst Ray Lewis offered a more cautious assessment. “This kid is playing in a very, very physical division,” the former Raven noted. “When you get out of the pocket,” he advised, “slide in the National Football League.”
The Browns clearly reacted as though they had hit the lottery. “When Johnny Manziel’s name was called by Roger Goodell, you could hear the crowd cheering,” Sal Paolintonio, reporting from Browns headquarters in Ohio, reported. “It went up like a roar on Sunday afternoon.”