With such a stacked draft class, it's been a tough process for the Houston Texans to decide on whom to pick up with the No. 1 pick. But when all the smoke and mirrors go away, the answer should be simple.
The next chapter of a perfect Hollywood tale is ready to be written. Manziel, the native Texan whose risen above the skeptics to become one of the most prolific college quarterbacks of all time, can continue his legacy in the Lone Star State. All it takes is for the Texans to select Johnny Football with their first overall pick.
But there's more to it besides Manziel's heritage and swagger as to why he should go No. 1.
Houston has been desperate for the type of playmaker that Manziel will provide to whoever drafts him. The Texans have never—repeat, never—had a quarterback capable of getting outside the pocket and making a big play when pass protection breaks down. Manziel brings an athleticism and improvisational ability that David Carr, Matt Schaub and other Texans QBs lacked.
Game-changers are Manziel's wheelhouse. From his touchdown pass at Alabama in his freshman season where he bobbled the ball before scrambling around and then finding his man, to escaping seemingly every defensive lineman Duke had on its roster before throwing for a touchdown in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year, Manziel's apt for making something happen in the most dire of circumstances is his specialty.
If you look around the AFC, each team that made the playoffs last season had that game-changing presence, That one guy who can win you a ball game when you're in a pinch. The Denver Broncos had Peyton Manning. Indianapolis drafted Andrew Luck two years ago. The Chiefs let Jamaal Charles loose at the drop of a hat.
The list goes on. But as you start checking off AFC teams, you notice the list may very well stop in Houston.
Right now, the top quarterback on the roster in Houston is Ryan Fitzpatrick after trading Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders. According to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports, new Texans head coach Bill O'Brien confirmed in late March that Houston will select a quarterback at some point during the draft. Whether that's with the first overall pick or not remains to be seen.
If any NFL GM says that they'd rather have Fitzpatrick than Manziel as their starter, they're lying to themselves. Fitzpatrick isn't a franchise quarterback that will carry a team for multiple years.
He's a palette-cleanser. Not a main course. Fitzpatrick is in Houston to simply ease the transition between the ugly exit of Schaub to whoever will be Houston's next franchise QB.
Secondly, the Texans simply haven't been the type of elite offensive team that it takes to win in the NFL. Only once since 2011 has Houston ranked in the top 10 in total offense in the NFL. And that's in a league with 32 teams, so just ranking in the top 10 puts you just in the cut of top-third.
In Manziel's two years at Texas A&M, the Aggies ranked No. 4 in total offense in 2013 and No. 2 in 2012 in the FBS, where there's over 120 teams. Granted, the Aggies ran the spread offense which isn't as widely used in the NFL, but it's still hard to argue against those type of numbers. Especially since Texas A&M competes in the SEC, which is basically a breeding ground for NFL defenses.
Obviously, this year's draft class is quarterback heavy and also features Jadeveon Clowney, perhaps the best defensive prospect in the NFL draft since Ndamukong Suh in 2009. But nobody is a better fit for Houston than Manziel.
For starters, the Texans could defintely utilize but don't necessarily need a guy like Clowney. The Texans have a talented core group of the defensive side of the ball that includes superstar linebacker J.J. Watt. But it's the team's sputtering offense that can't win games.
Just look back to the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. They had a defense loaded with Pro Bowlers like Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. But a terrible offense that featured poor quarterback play from Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn doomed the Chiefs to two wins.
But they got the No. 1 pick and a new head coach that revamped the offense, including acquiring a new quarterback in Alex Smith. One season later in 2013, the Chiefs were the last team during the regular season to lose its first game, and they eventually made the playoffs.
The stage in Houston is almost identical to the one that was in KC. A good defense but poor quarterback play led to the Texans getting the first overall pick and a new head coach. And now they need a new gunslinger.
Now this year's draft class is loaded with quarterback prospects. From Blake Bortles to Teddy Bridgewater and even Derek Carr, it's been tough so far these players to separate themselves as the best guy available.
Where Manziel has an edge over all those guys is the competition he faced. Last year, both Bortles and Bridgewater competed in the American Conference, considered by many to be the worst BCS conference last season. Carr's competition was even worse in the Mountain West.
But Manziel had to go up against SEC talent. His best games of his career were against the likes of Alabama, LSU and the like—a talent pool routinely poached by the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Finally, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks and perhaps the best to ever spend his pro career in Texas gave a vote of confidence to Manziel on Thursday.
Roger Staubach, the Hall of Famer and former six-time Pro Bowler from the Dallas Cowboys, told the NFL Network that he'd select Manziel over Jadeveon Clowney with the top pick, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com (h/t ESPN):
I think Manziel is a Russell Wilson-type player...He doesn't have the height, [but] he has a strong arm and he throws with accuracy...I just think there's something about this kid -- the quickness...Today in the league, the quarterbacks can fly; we weren't allowed to do that. I think Manziel is going to be a valuable player in the NFL."
Another vote of confidence came from Shawn Zobel of Draft Headquarters, who believes Johnny Football will be the top pick.
The choice should be easy for the Texans. The kid grew up less than four hours away from Houston. You don't pass on the type of homegrown talent that will almost surely change the fortunes of the franchise.
Manziel needs to be drafted No. 1 by the Houston Texans on May 8. And he needs to be the starter on Week 1.
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