2014 NFL Draft: Is Johnny Manziel a legitimate QB prospect?

@madebytim

As we get close to the NFL Draft, the intrigue around Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel intensifies, as does the question to if he's a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect.

It's no surprise that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking at the quarterback position in the 2014 NFL Draft. There's a handful of players that they could be targeting in May, be it in the top of the first round or if they're feeling dangerous at the top of the second round.

There are a lot of different camps in regards to which fans prefer which prospect. There's a big group that prefer Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, seen by most as the top and most complete quarterback entering the draft. There's also a large contingent who don't feel like Bridgewater is worth the top pick in the draft.

That's always going to happen when it's time for your team to pick the most important and impactful position in the game.

There is one prospect however that sparks the most conversation when you bring him up. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, seems to be the biggest lightning rod in the class if he decides to leave school for the NFL.

Heading into the 2013 season, I was a fan of Manziel the college football player/quarterback, but I was very hesitant to accept him as a top flight NFL quarterback prospect because I didn't really feel like I had seen enough during his first season in college. He's an exciting player who thrives in chaos, but he didn't really show enough in a structured setting to give me a feeling one way or another.

I've watched most of Manziel's games so far in 2013 and he's grown on me quite a bit. I won't lie, I've fallen somewhat into the trap that he's so fun to watch because he's totally unpredictable and has the knack for the big play, but he's also done some things that you want to see from an NFL prospect.

One of the things I think he's improved on is his ball placement. It's no secret Manziel benefits a lot from having 6'5" wide receiver Mike Evans going up and bringing down the football, but he's also able to do that because of some of the good ball placement that Manziel shows.

For instance, against Alabama in 2013:

Not only does Manziel show good ball placement, especially down the field, but he also does a nice job of scrambling to throw the ball, not just to run. While there are concerns that Manziel bails on a good pocket way too early, quite a bit of the time when he does it he's keeping his eyes down field and will still throw the football.

Another big flaw in his game is his footwork, which stalls the velocity on some of his throws because he lacks the trunk rotation you like to see to power the throw, but as far as "arm strength" it's not an issue.

His two biggest issues going forward are his footwork and the question whether a team can get him to settle and throw from the pocket, kind of harness him a bit if you will, but not completely hamstring his improvising ability. Part of what makes Johnny Football so interesting is his ability to operate in chaos and when a play breaks down, you just want to limit the amount of unnecessary chaos he's causing.

Outside of those two issues, the other big one is his durability. He's a smaller quarterback listed at 6'1" and 210 pounds, but I'm more inclined to believe he's closer to six feet and just under 200 pounds. The height for Manziel hasn't been a real issue in my opinion, as like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks he's able to change his throwing platforms and lanes to make it work for him.

I'm not ready to say I'd take Manziel over like someone like Bridgewater in the Top 5 of the 2014 NFL Draft, but he's grown on me as an NFL prospect and I think in the right situation, he can be a successful player.


Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama (2013)

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