Johnny Manziel has yet to play a down in the NFL, yet he has been one of the most talked about football players in recent memory. The Johnny Football lovers out there are swoon by Manziel’s ability throughout college to make incredible plays with his feet, but the ability to make plays with your feet isn’t the only skill a quarterback needs to succeed in the NFL (HI TIM TEBOW!)
Many factors go into creating a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. Johnny Football will have to reengineer the way he plays in order to have success.
Here are the five reasons why succeeding in the NFL will not be easy for Johnny Manziel:
Size: Manziel has been measured at just a hair under six feet tall and weighs in at a light 207 pounds. I’m worried about his height, but I’m more concerned about his weight and durability. Manziel needs to add some weight to his frame. Manziel had some big guys chasing him while playing in SEC at Texas A&M, but in the NFL he will have massive mountains of men dragging him down to the ground. Imagine the sight of Vince Wilfork of the Patriots or Haloti Ngata of the Ravens body slamming Manziel. Hits take a toll on QB’s body. Robert Griffin III and Mike Vick are great examples of the risk involved with mobile quarterbacks. Manziel plays a similar style of football to those two and that style of play won’t help Manziel stay healthy.
System: While at Texas A&M, Manziel played in spread offense which affords shorter QB’s a better view of the field both for throwing the football and making plays with your feet. In the NFL, he’ll have to line up under center more, no matter which team he is drafted by. Moving from a shotgun based system to lining up under center is like moving an air traffic controller from the tower to the ground. The view is drastically different and Manziel will have to get used to playing from under center in order to run play-action and to prevent the offense from becoming predictable.
(Editor’s counter note: The success of rookie quarterbacks in the last couple of years is due in part to offensive coordinators tailoring their offenses to the quarterback and not vice versa. It’s completely conceivable to envision an offense tailored for Manziel.)
Mechanics: Manziel’s feet are always moving which is great for making defenders miss, but doesn’t help when it comes to throwing the football. For a quarterback, feet placement and hip movement is just as important as upper body and core strength. Manziel uses a lot of upper body strength to throw the football which takes some distance out of Manziel’s throws because the spiral isn’t as tight as it could be. Even with bad mechanics Manziel still has a decent throwing power, but with the proper mechanics and footwork Manziel could be much more effective and efficient throwing the football.
Discipline: This has nothing to do with Manziel’s parting because I would ask you to name me a student athlete that hasn’t had a beer at a frat house. What I mean by discipline is on the field. Whenever Manziel feels pressure his first instinct is to take off instead of hanging in the pocket and making a throw. In the NFL, Manziel won’t be able to out run linebackers and defensive backs like he could in college. Manziel will have to develop a robust pocket presence and learn to trust his arm and footwork in the pocket.
Supporting Cast: In the 2014 NFL draft there is the possibility that Johnny Manziel could be the third Texas A&M player taken in the top 10 behind offensive tackle Jake Matthews and wideout Mike Evans. Also, four other players from Texas A&M, tight end Jace Amaro, running back Ben Malena, wide receivers Derel Walker and Travis Labhar all have good chances of being drafted or finding spaces on NFL rosters this year. Manziel was surrounded by NFL caliber talent at Texas A&M, which made playmaking easier especially when Jake Matthews is protecting your backside and Mike Evans catching jump balls. Manziel can’t do it all by himself and will need a quality offensive line and a plethora of skill position players.
Many different variables go into the making of an NFL quarterback. The mountain Manziel has to climb will be steep no matter which team he is drafted to. The Jacksonville Jaguars would be an example of a horrible match. The wide outs, tight ends and offensive line is sub-par. The Jacksonville offense was ranked 28th in 2013 in total offense. It’s imperative to Manziel’s development that he’s surrounded by good coaching and a load of quality players.
The wait is almost over, the draft is almost here, but the journey is just beginning for Johnny Manziel and the team that decides to take the chance. I have my doubts, but I hope Manziel proves me wrong.