GUEST POST: Should the Vikings Draft Johnny Manziel?

[NOTE FROM ARIF: As you may recall, Chris Serri just recently initiated his internet career with a guest post about Jared Allen.  He’s at it again, this time about something a tic more controversial. Be sure to follow his Twitter account (@MN_VikingsFans) and enjoy!

If you’re interested in putting together a guest post, feel free to contact us on Twitter with either our official account (@vikingterritory) or my account ( @ArifHasanNFL). You can also email me at arifmhasan (at) gmail DOT com.]

By Chris Serri

Johnny Manziel’s pro day was today, and the consensus seems to be that he had a fantastic performance. While the importance of a prospect’s pro day is debatable, it is still something that will factor into a team’s decision on whether or not to select an individual when the draft rolls around. The purpose of this article isn’t to analyze Manziel’s pro day, rather, it is to discuss whether the Vikings should take a chance on Manziel if he’s available when it is time for the Vikings to select with the eighth pick in the draft. 

Johnny Manziel has been one of college football’s most electrifying players in his two years at Texas A&M. He is one of those players that simply just finds a way to make good things happen on the football field. His arm strength has come into question recently by some, however, after watching his film, I firmly believe that his arm strength is comparable to that of any other quarterback in this draft class. Not only does Manziel have an NFL-capable arm, but he has also been a tremendous leader to the team on the field. Manziel followed up on his Heismann-winning freshman season with another magnificent season. He threw for 4114 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. One particularly impressive aspect of Manziel’s game last season was his accuracy. In 2013, Manziel completed 69.9% of his passes, improving on his completion percentage of 68.0% the previous season. In addition to his impressive accuracy, Manziel also seemed to mature more as a passer in his second season, as he ran less often and made a greater attempt to stay in the pocket and get the ball to the open man. 

Manziel’s 759 rushing yards were significantly less than his 1410 yards in his freshman season, however, he was still  an effective dual-threat quarterback and was the team’s leading rusher. His quickness, burst, and agility are qualities that make him the threat that he is. He consistently finds ways to extend plays using his legs, and has a knack for  making defenders miss. When you combine that with his ability to make all the throws, and you get a very impressive quarterback prospect. There will certainly be teams in this year’s draft who want him, but should the Vikings be one of those teams? 

While Manziel possesses all the necessary tools to become a very good NFL starter, there are several question marks surrounding him, including his size, decision making, and his off-field lifestyle. Personally, I am not extraordinarily concerned with Manziel’s height. While he is shorter than the average quarterback, we have seen that short quarterbacks can succeed in football, with Russell Wilson being the primary example. If a guy has starter-talent, is a good leader, and has a natural ability to improvise on play, then why should his height be a major worry for teams?

Manziel’s decision making is another concern. While his ability to improvise and extend plays has often been quite impressive, it has also been problematic for him, as it has often led him to force passes in to tight coverage, leading to interceptions. There were several instances where he would hold onto the football for far too long and failed to simply get the ball to a check-down as opposed to forcing up bad throws in hopes of his receivers finding a way to make a play. 

The final concerns for Manziel are his his off-field behavior and character. His partying has been well-documented, and it is obvious to see why this would pose as a major concern for teams possibly interested in in drafting Manziel, as no team wants to draft a player who will be a liability. While Manziel has received a heavy amount of criticism for his partying, he has repeatedly said that his focus is on football. In addition to his partying, Manziel has also been accused of receiving money for signing autographs. While this issue is now water under the bridge, it still affects the perception of his character. Overall, however, these are issues that can be worked on, especially with a no-nonsense coach like Mike Zimmer.

If the Vikings are to draft a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft, I think Johnny  Manziel would be a fine option, if available. He has tremendous upside, and is a major dual-threat quarterback. He is comparable to Fran Tarkenton, given his amazing scrambling ability. When you pair his quickness and agility with his throwing ability, it is incredibly difficult to pass him up at #8. While there are questions surrounding him, including whether or not he fits Norv Turner’s offense, I think drafting him would be a great decision. If his playing style does not completely fit Turner’s scheme, than Turner will surely find a way to adjust his scheme to fit Manziel’s game. Manziel has the potential to become a star in the NFL, and I believe the Vikings should definitely take a chance.

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  1. Thanks for a great read Chris, I agree with everything you have said about JM’s “starter-talent” and all those attributes you shared. However I think the key point you made is about our new “no-nonsense” head coach Mike Zimmer. As a first time head coach whom ever is drafted as the future quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings is going to be forever joined with Coach Zimmer. Somehow I just don’t think Coach Zimmer wants to be joined with the “sideshow” that is “Johnny Football”. IMHO Coach Zimmer is looking for a “gym-rat”, first in last out, film studying, walking, talking, eating, sleeping, dreaming, breathing football player. And just given the hype and commercial aspect that is “Johnny Football” I’m just not sure Johnny is Coach Zimmer’s guy. Heck I am not sure that kind of quarterback is even in this years draft, but I do know there are two excellent CBs available that are first round material and not even considered a reach at #8, as well as a certain OLB from Ohio State that Coach Zimmer could plug into his “D”, maybe even allowing Rick Spielman to trade back and acquire his coveted 10 draft picks. So the debate goes on for likely right up until the Vikings send their selection to the podium on May 8th.

  2. Bridgewater and Carr are gym rat-all in guys, but so was Ponder. QB is such a crapshoot. The one thing the Vikings have going for them in the first is that I think at least 2 guys will fall to 8. These QBs are all lower grade than top 10 for me. Vikes O has some pieces (Talent+Norv)so its not a bad situation to get drafted in to. Many guys who could have made it but were drafted high in 1st by trainwreck teams with poor talent and unfriendly QB offensive systems failed instead. Top 4 (Carr/Manziel mid 1st) (Garrapolo Late 2nd) Murray/Metzenberger 4th or later. Then hope Norv develops them

  3. I hope we get him. He’s a little baller. The question IS Zimmer. I was thinking, I like that he wore the helmet and shoulder pads. He’s right. Why wouldn’t you. Bold and innovative. He’s there to be a star athlete, not party. Then I read Zimmers comment and I laughed. It sounded just like what my Dad would say. This kid is going to light it up, and if we pass on him when we’re this high up in the draft, we’ll be sorry.

  4. I disagree with the notion that Norv will adjust his scheme to fit Manziels’ game. Norv has succeeded running offenses in the NFL for 20+ years by running HIS system, and signing with teams that have QBs with the skills to run HIS system. So with that being said, I don’t see how you can believe that the Vikings brought in Norv to do anything but run HIS system.

    Doug Flutie was Norv’s QB during the 2001 season in San Diego, and he was statistically pretty bad. In fact, it was the worst season of Flutie’s career in which he attempted at least 200 passes.

    1. If Norv can’t adjust to the talent he has then he ain’t worth a darn. And it’s no wonder he struggled as a HC. That’s part of being a good coach…is it not?

      1. I’m sorry, but who’s the person with a proven track record in the NFL, Norv or Manziel? The Vikings know that Norv’s system can be very successful with the right type of QB in place, so it would be utter foolish of them to flip that on its side and cater the offense around a QB that has question marks up the kazoo. Arif also posted a lengthy article on the Daily Norseman 1-2 months ago that talked about how the best teams draft/sign players that fit their system.

        Seriously, you kinda sound like one of those Tebowites from a couple years ago that wanted their team to break down barriers and cater the entire team and coaching staff around putting him in the best situation to be successful. No thanks.

        1. …so it would be utter foolish of them to flip that on its side and cater the offense around a QB that has question marks up the kazoo.

          Not talking about flipping the system on it’s side….or cater. To adjust to what you have. If you’re waiting on the perfect QB….he ain’t there this year.
          So, Norv only signs with teams that have a QB to match his plans. How’d that work out for him in Cleveland?
          Of course Manziel would have to adjust some as well.
          I am not crazy about Manziel, but I do think he will be a good QB in the NFL. His playmaking ability alone is enough to win a lot of close games…and maybe lose some. He is that guy, he’s got some sandlot in him…that can be a good thing, and a bad thing.
          Seriously, don’t compare me to the Tebowettes or whatever…
          If they don’t pick Manziel because he doesn’t play like or look like Troy Aikman…? Ok…break out the clone machine, cause sounds like that’s what you want to please the almighty Norv.

      2. “No wonder he struggled as a HC”

        ???? HUH?

        He has not been a HC until hired by the Vikes this offseason. How could he have struggled when he has not been one yet.

  5. The guy worries me. I guess I’m just a bit gun-shy when it comes to drafting QB’s. We’ve had the most miserable results in the last several years.
    No question the guy is a baller. Can move around like no one else and has an accurate throw.
    Someone pointed out on his long bombs, he has to put his WHOLE body into making them, which tells me he has no cannon.

    I would guess if he’s still there at 8, it tells me that a whole lot of QB needy teams took a pass on him. That should be a warning sign to me, rather than an opportunity.

    I much prefer Carr, especially if we could move down and get him, which is getting more and more unlikely as his stock seems to be rising.

    1. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit… Carr over Manziel?! Johnny Football is the man, Carr is a product of a system(colt Brennan, Case Keenum, DAVID CARR) I love Manziel for his playing style and more for his big game ability. His 2 best games came against Alabama… Bama has a defense better than ours was last year. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but he can compete a 65 yard bomb no problem and I remember last year ponder couldn’t throw a hail Mary from the 50yard line. Michael Vick is a scrambler with a cannon arm and how’d that work out…

      Bring Manziel to Minnesota!

  6. QUANTIFIABLE BLADDERHORNS: I understand where you are coming from, however I disagree with the the Tebow thing. I think that Manziel is FAR better of an NFL prospect than Tebow ever was. I honestly don’t think that an offensive coordinator would have to change his scheme drastically in order to cater to Manziel, because I think that Johnny has the arm to be a damn good QB in the NFL. Just because he differs in some ways from your prototypical quarterback doesn’t mean the kid can’t be a good one. He can make the throws, and he has the arm strength as well as the scrambling ability to be a good starter. I’m not saying he is a sure thing to be the next great NFL quarterback, I’m just saying he has all the tools necessary to become one. It seems to me based on your comment that you don’t believe he has the talent, and that is where I disagree with you.

    1. My intention wasn’t to compare Manziel and Tebow as prospects, although I can see how you’d interpret it that way based upon how I worded my sentences. I merely brought up Tebow from the standpoint that I believe the coaching staff would need to do something outside of the box in order to put him in the best position to succeed. Denver did that with Tebow by running the read-option and throwing very few passes (for obvious reasons).

      I agree that Manziel has much better accuracy and mechanics than Tebow, so I believe he could run a much more pass-oriented offense than the read-option — just not a Norv-type offense that relies heavily on the QB standing tall within the pocket and throwing intermediate timing routes.

  7. When I spoke on the possibility of him not being the perfect fit from a schematic standpoint, I never said that he definitely would not fit the offense. I only mentioned it because it seems to be a popular concern among Vikings fans. Really all I was saying was that if Norv needed to add some special plays to the offense to help him, he could do that. Nonetheless, I believe that you draft your quarterback based on talent, and than you find ways to fit him into your scheme. If you get picky and wait until you find the perfect guy for your system, it won’t always work out the way you hope and it can cause you to miss out on some very good quarterbacks.

    1. Good point Chris. Also, just because Ponder didn’t work out…don’t pass on a guy because of that. If he’s there and you believe he is the guy….

  8. a team, and it’s new rookie QB, usually take on the coach’s traits. if we get a guy that’s closer to zimmer’s personality, it’ll just be that much easier, and if that’s J-football, so be it. predicting the future of an nfl rookie QB is so hard to do, there’s definitely an element of luck to it. if we can increase our odds of getting a good one with a shot at a top prospect, i’m sure we’ll take it, unless he’s the polar opposite of zimmer. i think maybe the choice will kinda be made for us by the time we get to 8. if a top QB falls to us, we’ll probably take him. zimmer has said he mostly wants a guy with his same persona, and if someone falls to us that isn’t to zim’s liking, they might as well trade back. that’s how i think they’re looking at the ‘fit’, not so much scheme, but personality and leadership

  9. You put an explosive QB like JM behind center, that means defenses can’t load the box against AP. That would be huge. single coverage against AP?? Whoa!!!

  10. You’ve had too many precedents broken the past 5 years for this guy to slip in the draft. Every year guys work out and guys fail. Sometimes extremely quickly. Some guys, especially at QB last forever despite never turning the corner. Are you taking a risk drafting Manziel? Probably no more so than any other player. I’m sure kiper and mcshay will say otherwise.. But they’ve pitched and stood by complete flops too many times.

    So what’s the upside? Probably an elite QB. I don’t think Bridgewater will be. He’s more like, and I say this not out of stereotype but throwing motion and likely landing spot.. Byron Leftwich. He was solid for a couple years. With an upside of pre injury Pennington, or a not so hobbled version.

    Bortles is in the Bradford, Tannahill mold with an upside of Palmer in his prime. Which was really good.

    I actually really liked the Steve young comp for Johnny. So if that’s his ceiling, his floor is Rg3s progression thus far. Watching the vikings game against RG3 was a perfect example of the benefit of mobility. Our linebackers and safeties would end up too far apart, offering huge windows. Drop to your depth he scrambles, spy and he puts a pass over your fingers.

    If I guy can live up to the nickname johnny football in Texas, well hell. Think if an elite prospect went by Johnny Slapshot.. You’d have some expectations for that Kid.

  11. I’m pretty split on Manziel, I do think he will be successful in the league but I have no idea if he’ll bring a bunch of championships with his style. People like to make the Fran and Young comparisons because of his legs, but he has a lot of Favre in him as far as mentality for forcing things that may not be there. As great as Brett was, he won one Super Bowl in his 20+ year career and that was with a very strong roster. He had key turnovers that kept some of his other great teams out of the Super Bowl, and I wonder if that ultimately could be something that catches up with Manziel in his career. I put that on top of the other questions and it makes me worry about him. I don’t love any of these QB’s. I like Bortles potential and I think if you can get Garappolo in the 2nd round his quick release could be just as valuable a tool to work with as any single attribute any of the other guys possess. In a perfect world, Mack would still be on the board at 8 and we would just take him and see which QB’s are available in round two, but I don’t think Mack will be there when our pick comes up.

    1. If Manziel has one ounce of Brett Farve, Fran and Steve Young in him I’ll take it. If he ONLY wins us ONE Super Bowl, I’ll take it. If he’s there at #8 it doesn’t mean the other teams knew something nobody did, it means THEY blew it.


    1. This is a rivalry thing. He visited a frat party at UT and they threw stuff at him and kicked him out. It goes a little deeper down there.

  13. Sell Manziel. Buy Bridgwater.
    I think this article glosses over his shortcomings. Je was also kicked out of Mannings camp or his other off field and temperament issues.

    He does make bad decisions and he does run a lot which means he’s not very good at reading the defenses and calling his own protections. The mere fact that he does scramble so much is alarming . Contrast that to the style of Bridgewater who is calling protections, audibles and attacking defenses rather than relying on fight flight instincts like Manziel. I agree Manziel has excellent fight or flight instincts and is exciting, but he is not the composed tactican that we need. Between Jennings, Rudolph, AD, Flash … We have enough play makers on offense. We need a guy to distribute the ball to them not run for his life if his first read isn’t open or doesn’t anticipate a blitz well enough to hit a check down. for my money I’d rather have Bridgewater.

  14. Wtf didn’t you post this before? I’m not a hoge fan.

    He’s not Christian ponder. Ponders personality is ambivalent. If Johnny fails he fails hard. But at least you’ll know.