Everything about draft coverage is fluid.
Teams don't even get seriously into evaluating the upcoming draft class until their season is done, so perceptions of college players change dramatically when teams turn on the film.
So what is said in September doesn't always hold up in January. Things change. Another college season comes and goes, providing a lot more games to dissect. New information comes to light.
But it's still startling to go back to September, when ESPN's Mel Kiper didn't have Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in his top 25 or being selected in the first round, because this week Kiper projected Manziel No. 1 overall in his first mock draft.
Kiper's projection of Manziel as the top overall pick was surprising. Most mock drafts have Teddy Bridgewater as the top pick. Most have Manziel going very early of the first round but not No. 1, mostly because of questions about his size and the spread offense he ran in college. Back in September, Kiper had the same questions about Manziel, left him off his top 25 and said he didn't view him as a first-round pick.
When Skip Bayless said on ESPN last September that Manziel should be top five, Kiper let out a "whoa." When Bayless said maybe Manziel should be in the top two, Kiper asks, "Why?"
Kiper compared Manziel to short quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Doug Flutie, and said he had to answer questions about his off-field issues.
"If he was 6-3 and had a rocket arm, great, maybe he could overcome, but he's not," Kiper said in September. "He may get a bump because of Wilson's success and the way the NFL changed. He may get a bump to the second round. He's not getting in the first round, in my opinion."
"May get a bump into the second round" has turned into Manziel being projected as the first pick of the draft. Nothing really changed. Manziel played about as well this past season as he did when he won a Heisman in 2012, certainly nothing to dramatically change the perception of him, good or bad. He didn't create any off-field headlines during the season, which helps. But it's still a big jump up the board.
"When you talk to people in the league, I get a consensus on Manziel that I don't get on (Blake) Bortles or Bridgewater," Kiper said on Wednesday.
"To me, he can be a very good to great player in the NFL. Today's NFL suits his skill set effectively."
Kiper said at worst Manziel will go eighth to Minnesota, and he'll probably be a top-five pick. Kiper, to his defense, doesn't have Manziel No. 1 on his "big board." His mock draft reflects what he thinks will happen in May and he makes that list from talking to sources, not his own evaluation. But he did effusively praise Manziel on ESPN this week, which he didn't in September, and has him 11th on his personal rankings published Wednesday, which is a far cry from him maybe getting a bump into the second round because of how Wilson has succeeded in the NFL.
"Everybody told me, with an exclamation point, Johnny Manziel is going top five overall," Kiper said this week.
Kiper is the most prominent draft analysis in the business, he has great sources and his opinionated views are commendable – and also open him up for second-guessing.
The comparison isn't to bash Kiper (again, everything can change in draft evaluation from September to January, it's understandable), it just shows how much debate will be had about Manziel over the next three-and-a-half months before he gets drafted. He will be a hotly debated player, and that won't end when he's drafted either.
There will be some who view him as a great athlete, a ridiculously productive quarterback in the best conference in college football and a fantastic competitor. Others will skeptically look at his size (he's listed at 6-1 but we'll find out for sure at the scouting combine), off-field controversies and also wonder if he can be a pocket NFL quarterback when evaluating him.
Kiper's opinion has changed pretty dramatically in the past few months, and we still have a long time before the NFL draft begins. This isn't the last time we'll hear some strong and differing opinions about Manziel's NFL future before his name is called.
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