COMMENTARY | Fans of the Cleveland Browns are starved for the team to grab a franchise quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft.
A majority of the reputable NFL mock drafts that have been floated out there in early January are linking Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel with the Browns. Manziel, who officially declared for the draft on Wednesday, is a polarizing figure, as not all within the league believe that his skills will transition over to the NFL.
Johnny Football is also undeniably a star, one who will attract a boatload of attention from local and national media.
Some, but not necessarily all, Cleveland fans have become enamored with Manziel. Don't take my word on it. Photoshop jobs such as this one were created even before the conclusion of the 2013 NFL regular season. The name "Johnny Cleveland" is already a thing.
Not so fast, everybody. The fact remains that the Browns right now today have no say in whether or not the team will be able to grab Manziel with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Two teams ahead of the Browns in the draft, the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, both need quarterbacks. Early reports are that Houston and new head coach and quarterback guru Bill O'Brien are enamored with Blake Bortles out of Central Florida. Bortles is, at 6-4 and 230 pounds, thought by many smart football people to be an ideal NFL QB.
That leaves Jacksonville, who have been linked with both Bortles and Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is probably the safest bet of the top-three prospects. He has a solid NFL arm. He doesn't turn the ball over.
Bridgewater also isn't going to sell a ton of jerseys or a ton of tickets.
The Jags don't have as loyal a fan base as is that of the Browns for a variety of reasons. There's longevity, and also the fact that Cleveland experienced the gut-punch that was losing a NFL franchise less than two decades ago.
Fans of the Browns will whine and moan about the current status of the franchise from now up through night one of the NFL Draft. They will then, once the team grabs some young talent, begin to get excited about what could be to come. It's a yearly tradition in northeast Ohio.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, needs a ticket draw. The team needs somebody or something to attract eyes, the right kind of attention and, most importantly, fans. Manziel would give the Jaguars that and then some.
Critics can, until they are blue in the face, say whatever they want about Manziel's size or about his style of play. Johnny Football will, guaranteed, be on the front page of the local papers found in the cities in which he lands this coming May. Sportscenter will have cameras there for his first practice.
It's even possible that his first preseason game will air on national television.
Pro football is about winning, yes, but it's also a business. Whatever franchise lands Manziel is going to make money on jerseys, on ticket sales, on concessions sold during home games, and on advertising. Drafting Johnny Football will be smart business for a team.
That's why, barring his having terrible public workouts during the next several months, the Browns will have to move up in order to get him.
Cleveland facing a scenario where Bridgewater lands into the team's lap at the four spot wouldn't be the worst thing for the franchise. The more time passes, though, more and more Cleveland fans are going to want Johnny Football. I'm witnessing it occur on a daily basis.
The question will, when May comes around, be simple: How badly will those in charge of the Browns want Manziel?
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Cleveland Browns
- Johnny Manziel
- NFL Draft
- the Browns