It’s the question major draft fans and casual football followers alike are wondering. Where’s Johnny Football going to go on draft day?
As of right now, it’s still very much up in the air. And I get the sense that, while most teams wouldn’t mind getting their hands on the unique talents of Manziel, I think that more than a few also wouldn’t mind letting some other team be the one to see if the experiment works.
Manziel is a polarizing prospect in the media, and I suspect in NFL war rooms. Whether it’s scout vs. scout, general manager vs. head coach or management vs. ownership, it’s likely a tight-rope discussion for a handful of teams in the quarterback market. With that said, here’s my best attempt to handicap the Manziel interest and where he may land on draft day.
The Real Longshots: Titans, Rams, Steelers, Cardinals
These four teams aren’t in the mix for Manziel right now, but all will have draft day discussions if/when Manziel starts to slip. The Titans trust Jake Locker, but Ken Whisenhunt might value his mobility. The Rams are committed to Sam Bradford…for now, but could change if Manziel is available. The Steelers and Cardinals need to find Big Ben’s and Carson Palmer’s heir apparent, and Manziel could intrigue.
10. New England Patriots
Johnny Manziel doesn’t fit the Patriots offense or type of character they generally want in their locker room, but after they took a chance on Ryan Mallett and they’ve shown interest in the other top passers in this class. I wouldn’t put it past Belichick to lock-up another top-end quarterback talent and trade him to the highest bidder in a year or two, if Manziel is still on the board.
9. Green Bay Packers
Similar to the Patriots, the Packers don’t have any glaring needs to address in the draft and rumors are that Green Bay would like to get into the quarterback-stashing market. Manziel could fit well in this offense if ever asked to step in, plus he’ll be in an organization that can allow him to grow as a quarterback.
8. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders this low may surprise a bit, but the fact is that Oakland already traded for Matt Schaub and is in “win-now” mode basically takes them out of the early round quarterback market. If he slips to the late first round or early second, they might have some interest in scooping up the talented playmaker, but more likely, they’ll pass and look for receiver/linebacker help.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Manziel in Big D? Sounds crazy, but if he starts slipping, I think Jerry Jones could be intrigued enough to pull the trigger. The Tony Romo cap numbers the next few years are astronomical and certainly are a hindrance to this option, but that hasn’t stopped Jones before. Romo will be 35 in two years, just in time to pass the torch to a new creative quarterback in Manziel.
6. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota has the personnel in place to be a great fit for Manziel’s growth. They have a strong running game, solid left tackle in place and a receiving threat in Cordarrelle Patterson that can take some of the pressure off of him. But he doesn’t fit Norv Turner’s offense and probably isn’t worth the risk for GM Rick Spielman, who’s already firmly on the hot seat.
5. Houston Texans
Despite being in the top-5 on this list, I think Manziel to Houston is still very unlikely. However, if Manziel does start to slip (and the Texans don’t take a quarterback first overall), ownership may want to keep Manziel in-state too much to pass on him twice. He doesn’t fit Bill O’Brien’s system, though, and O’Brien will have a lot of say on who’s on the team’s draft board.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
This is where it gets interesting, especially if Manziel slips past the top ten picks. Alex Smith is in talks to get a new extension, but odds are it won’t be more than 2-3 years, with the third probably not being guaranteed at all. Andy Reid’s offense may be the best fit for Manziel, both in terms of letting him develop and having an offense that can best use his creativity.
3. Tampa Bay Bucs
After filling their offensive and defensive line needs in free agency, the Bucs don’t have a major need outside of receiver, which they can address often in this deep receiver class later in the draft. That’s why quarterback is such an intriguing option for Tampa Bay. While Jeff Tedford’s connection to the Carr family makes him a better fit in my opinion, the rumors of the Bucs interest persist, so it’s an option I wouldn’t rule out.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
As of now, I’m expecting the Jaguars to either consider Bridgewater in the first or make a strong push for Jimmy Garoppolo in the second. However, they’ve worked out all of the top quarterbacks, and if Manziel made a strong impression during that private workout, he’ll be in the mix at #3 overall. Still, as of now, I’d be surprised if the Jaguars took Manziel.
1. Cleveland Browns
This is the number one spot I’d expect Manziel to land, and I’m not even confident they covet him. New head coach Mike Pettine likely wants a quarterback who can make things happen on his own so he can focus on his defense. Owner Jim Haslam wouldn’t mind the appeal of having Manziel as the face of the franchise. But I’m not sure Ray Farmer and the scouting staff is sold on the high-risk, high-reward quarterback being a high pick in the regime’s first draft.
The easy favorite, in my mind, is Cleveland. If they want him, they can take him at four (or trade up to second overall if they’re worried Jacksonville might take him) or hope he falls and snag him with their second first-rounder. And he can fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which is a plus. But overall, I’m not sure any team is sold on Manziel as an NFL starter, and every team views him as an on and off-field risk to some extent. He still could go in the top-seven picks (as the three favorites to draft him are picking in), but a draft-day slide wouldn’t surprise a bit.