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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.