Johnny Manziel: Updated Draft Stock & Expert Analysis for NFL QB Prospect

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 8, 2014

USA Today

Texas A&M redshirt sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel is officially headed to the NFL, per's Gil Brandt. How will the league view him?

Manziel accomplished plenty at the college level during his two seasons as the Aggies' starting quarterback. He won a Heisman Trophy. He led the team to a surprise win over Alabama in 2012 and then nearly beat the Tide single-handedly this past season. Manziel has produced, and he leaves College Station as a decorated college quarterback. But that's not always a guarantee of future success in the NFL.

With Manziel officially in the draft, NFL scouts can speak more freely about his draft stock. One AFC West scout told me that Manziel would be a top-10 pick, and probably top five. Another former NFL front office executive likened Manziel to a cross between "Russell Wilson and Brett Favre." That might seem like hyperbole, but Manziel is highly regarded among scouts and executives who have bought in on the mobile quarterback trend.

Those teams who aren't impressed with running quarterbacks are likely to view Manziel much differently, of course. His style, on and off the field, is not for everyone.

The question marks with Manziel are as long as his impressive list of accomplishments. He's small for the position, expected to come in around 5'11" and 210 pounds. That's roughly the same size as Russell Wilson, though, and he's doing just fine as a professional. 

The other concern I hear most from NFL scouts isn't about Manziel's well-known night life, but about his style of play. He's an amazing athlete, but his run-around style that worked so well in the SEC is troubling to NFL teams that see a small quarterback running for his life in the pocket.

The team that drafts Manziel must commit to letting him be the wild card that he is in and out of the pocket. The biggest mistake you could make initially would be to cage him and attempt to make him something he's not. Best to roll with the ups and downs while he learns on the job.

Mechanically, there is good and bad to his game. Manziel still tends to throw off his back foot far too often, but fix that and you also improve his velocity on underneath passes. What you like is that he's athletic enough to throw on the run and shows the strength to make tight throws from various angles and body positions. He has also shown impressive touch on passes up the seam and over the middle.

The positives to Manziel's game are bigger than you might think. He's the most instinctive quarterback in this year's class and rates similar to Robert Griffin III in terms of his ability to process information on the fly and make adjustments as needed. Manziel also developed as a passer this year, showing much better ball placement on throws to all levels of the field. Add in his ability to make plays with his feet along with his high-level field vision and it's easy to see why NFL scouts love Manziel as much as they do.

Looking at the 2014 draft as it stands today, it's tough to see Manziel lasting longer than No. 5 overall. With four teams (Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland) in the top five picks all needing a quarterback, Manziel figures to be one of the first players announced at Radio City Music Hall on May 8.