There will be some dueling conversations on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel this fall. One will be about his college legacy, and another will be about his pro future. Both might get pretty heated.
Sides are already being taken when it comes to Manziel's pro future. What NFL scouts think about Manziel could affect his college career, or at least how long it lasts.
NFL.com writer Bucky Brooks, a former player who spent seven years as a NFL scout, isn't a big fan of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner's NFL prospects.
Brooks put out a top 30 players to watch after the draft, and Manziel's name was so conspicuously absent he wrote a couple graphs at the end of the story to explain the omission. He wrote a more in-depth piece on NFL.com that goes into great detail about Manziel's pro future. It's a very interesting read, even if you just care about college football and aren't a fan of the NFL. It's an illuminating look at Manziel's strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback at either level.
After studying Manziel's game film, Brooks believes Manziel will be a "marginal pro" based on his less-than-ideal physical stature, unproven ability to operate from the pocket and his arm strength. He goes to great lengths to praise Manziel as a college player, saying he has great athleticism and improvisational ability, but that NFL coordinators will make Manziel play from the pocket and Brooks isn't sure Manziel can do that.
Brooks even answers the inevitable comparison to Seattle's Russell Wilson, saying Wilson was a more polished passer in college than Manziel and that made it easier for Wilson to make the transition. He compares Manziel to Doug Flutie instead. (As an aside, had Flutie come along during a different time with some more creative offensive coaches and better teammates, he might have been a much more successful NFL quarterback. As it was, he still threw for more than 14,000 yards with 86 touchdowns and 68 interceptions.)
The most interesting comments by Brooks are about Manziel's arm strength. In watching Manziel, including once in person, I never thought his arm wasn't good enough to make it in the NFL. And obviously, he is well above average in areas like athleticism, throwing on the move, feel for the game and intangibles like confidence and charisma. He already carries himself like a NFL quarterback, and his teammates rally around him. If I had to bet, I'd say Manziel becomes a very good NFL quarterback. Manziel already put up incredible numbers against top SEC competition, and I don't think you can do that without having NFL-level talent.
Manziel doesn't have elite arm strength, but I think it's good enough, especially given his other strengths. The throw that I remember well comes at the 3:20 mark of this video, when he throws while still dropping back and hits his receiver with a pretty accurate pass that travels almost 40 yards in the air:
There are other deep throws on that video (starting at the 47-second mark there are two in a row) that are pretty good, but that's not to disagree with Brooks. He has scouting experience, has watched game film on all of Manziel's throws and is far more qualified to tell if a quarterback has a NFL-level arm or not.
Manziel will have at least this year to work on his game, and he'll be just a sophomore in the fall. He won't get taller but could improve his overall physical strength, and that could help his throwing velocity. Another year against SEC defenses should make it more clear if his deficiencies are too much to overcome in the NFL.
Because Manziel is an incredible college football player but doesn't have the traditional strengths of a NFL franchise quarterback, his game will be debated very loudly well before he can declare as an early entrant to the 2014 draft. And maybe, if he takes a step back as a sophomore, he'll stick around Texas A&M beyond this season. Just add it all to the intrigue to college football's most exciting and interesting player.
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