NFL.com's Gil Brandt has cited multiple sources who say that Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, perhaps the biggest lightning-rod player to enter the NFL since Cam Newton or Tim Tebow, will declare for the 2014 NFL draft, along with his highly rated receiver and favorite target, Mike Evans.
No surprise but Manziel and Evans will be playing final college games tomorrow, multiple sources tell me. #TAMUvsDUKE
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 30, 2013
Manziel was asked about his intentions after the game, but the redshirt sophomore quarterback wisely deflected the talk and praised his teammates and the incredible atmosphere following the Aggies' wild 52-48 victory.
If the report is true, and Manziel will walk away from the college game after Tuesday's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke, then he certainly has made an even more interesting case for himself as an NFL quarterback.
Not that he hadn't already. But he capped off his career in fine style if that's how he's going out. Manziel had Duke on the run all night. Even when they had him hemmed in, Manziel escaped and made a play with his arm or his legs. The Aggies were down 21 points, and Manziel never looked pressed. He completed 30-of-38 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns, also rushing for 73 yards and a score, playing the Duke defenders on a string in the 100-point thriller.
Watch this ridiculous whirling dervish of a touchdown.
Manziel easily will be one of the most fascinating figures to enter the league in recent memory, and there will be some teams who value his toughness, playmaking ability and intangibles extremely highly. Other teams will grade him tough on his past indiscretions in college, which were well-documented, and his concerning proneness for injury and lack of great size.
But the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner (and this year's fifth-place finisher) will be one of the more unique draft prospects, and it would be a surprise if he did not land in the first round, with some team likely to gamble on greatness. He's Fran Tarkenton, basically. Will that type of player work in today's game? I can't wait to find out.
The team that does also almost certainly will have to deal with a Tebow-esque side show of media attention that could detract from the team and threaten to distract from it.
Evans has a chance to go in the first 10 picks, as his size and catching radius are exactly what NFL teams seek in a receiver. Although Evans doesn't have breakaway speed, he is fast enough and strong enough to separate from tight coverage to make plays on the outside.
In the end, both players could land in top 10. It depends largely on how Manziel handles the pre-draft process, including team interviews, and whether he can convince a team to make a gamble on potential greatness. My guess is that one will.
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