ESPN Experts Discuss Johnny Manziel’s Decision to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft

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ESPN Experts Discuss Johnny Manziel’s Decision to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft

On Wednesday, several ESPN experts discussed Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s decision to declare himself for the 2014 NFL Draft. Comments:

NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., on how Manziel’s skills translate to the NFL: “Very well in today’s NFL, and certainly Fran Tarkenton did it back in an era when it wasn’t a wide-open pass-happy league, and I think that’s who he compares to, Johnny Manziel. You look at the ability to throw the football from the pocket, that’s something he’ll continue to improve, which he did between last year and this year — make strides in this area. His creativity, his instincts, his guttiness, his competitiveness are all positives. They’re all ‘10+’. The concern’s going to be with his style – his running style and that frame, which isn’t very big. It’s six-foot. Staying healthy, being durable, playing smart, not trying to prove you’re the toughest guy on the field, by getting out of bounds, sliding. If he does that and protects his frame, his skillset translates to today’s NFL very effectively.

“It’s going to be an interesting first round, particularly the early portion because you have five of the top eight teams picking overall needing quarterbacks. Problem is, I have (Tedy) Bridgewater at eight, Blake Bortles, Central Florida (at) nine, Manziel at 12. They get an automatic bump because they’re quarterbacks … but be careful. These are not Andrew Luck, RGIII-type quarterbacks coming out. They’re up there, but they’re not one, two, three, four, and that’s where the teams that are picking need quarterbacks.”

Note: Kiper has Manziel rated as the No. 3 quarterback prospect on his current NFL Draft Big Board.

NFL analyst Trent Dilfer: “Watching his game tape, the only quarterback I can compare him to from an instinct standpoint is Brett Favre. Johnny Manziel has eyes in the back of his head. He flat-out sees stuff that other people don’t see, and that’s why he’s special.”

NFL analyst Ron Jaworski: “I do like his ball position. His drop is smooth. His release is smooth. It’s compact. All those little things are very, very important. The arm strength seems to be fine, but until I see him live it’s really hard to say ‘yeah, he spins it great.’”

College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit: “From an intangible standpoint, I think from an ability to make throws, he’s worked as hard as any quarterback I’ve ever seen.”

NFL analyst Herm Edwards: “This guy has a lot of talent. He has field presence. He has the ability to move in the pocket. This year he tried to play more in the pocket, but his attributes are really extending the play. So, you’re going to have to build an offense around his skillset. It’s more of a spread, open offense, a one-back set, which the National Football League is all about now, it seems like. I think this guy will have success if you put him in the right situation that highlights his skillset.”

NFL analyst Jerome Bettis, on how Manziel will be greeted by veteran players in a NFL locker room: “There’s going to be some concern when he steps into that locker room. The question that the players are going to ask themselves is: Is this a ‘me’ guy? Is he an ‘I’ quarterback? Is he going to come in and be part of a team concept? We saw some of the things that happened since he won the Heisman Trophy, and it’s not been all good from a team concept. The players will ask themselves ‘Is he a guy I want to follow?’”

NFL analyst Jeff Saturday: “This is our job. This is no longer just college where you’re kind of a man amongst yourself. It doesn’t really make a big difference. I feed my wife and my kids with this job. So, you not producing, or having some issue off the field that doesn’t allow you to play, you’re affecting all of us. And it’s not just our shot at a National Championship. This is our livelihood. There’s a level that when you step up to in the game in the NFL that’s more accountable to each player. I’m not saying he can’t handle it. I’m just saying there’s a different perspective. As a 37-year old sitting in there, I’m going to tell you, you better get yourself squared away.”

NFL analyst Mark Schlereth: “As he walks into that locker room, the one thing we’ve seen with young athletes now … I don’t give a rip what you did at Texas A&M. Just because you signed as a first round draft choice and because you have built up this cache in the outside world of college football, it entitles you to nothing when you walk into an NFL locker room. We will treat you like the rookie you are. You better not be coming in thinking you are a brand. You better come in thinking you are a pro because that’s what we want in a NFL locker room.”

Senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, on what he’s hearing from NFL front offices about Manziel: “First of all, they believe he is a very exciting football player, but he has this recklessness about him – some say on and off the field – that he needs to corral. One evaluator said he saw him wear down as the season went on in the SEC – did not even look as explosive. But then he freshens up and looks like the old Johnny Football in the bowl game. So, these guys believe he is a first round draft pick. I’ve had more than one evaluator say he’s going to be a top-5 pick, some suspect the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3.”

NFL Insider Ed Werder: “I’ve talked to some people in the NFL who say that, you know, they L-U-V love Johnny Manziel. That was the first text I got back. … This person said this guy’s the best quarterback in the draft. I’ve never scouted a college player since Doug Flutie live who’s better than him. I talked to a GM on a NFC team. He said ‘to take advantage of his attributes you have to structure the offense around what he can do.’ That means getting him outside the pocket and that’s the only way to prevent his lack of ideal size from being a big factor.”


Programming Note: ESPNU to Re-Air Two of Johnny Manziel’s Most Memorable Games Thursday Morning

ESPNU will re-air a pair of Texas A&M college football telecasts (condensed to two hours each) on Thursday morning, Jan. 9. The games highlight two of Johnny Manziel’s most memorable performances for the Aggies, as he threw for a combined 635 yards and six touchdowns in wins over Alabama and Duke:

6 a.m. ET No. 15 Texas A&M defeats No. 1 Alabama 29-24 (Nov.10, 2012)
8 a.m. No. 20 Texas A&M defeats No. 21 Duke 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31, 2013_



Bill Hofheimer

I oversee ESPN’s College Sports PR, while also working on ESPN soccer, Around the Horn, PTI and more. Previously oversaw communications for ESPN's Monday Night Football and NFL studio shows.
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