In his second game against Alabama head coach Nick Saban and an NFL prospect-loaded defense, quarterback Johnny Manziel not only stepped up to the challenge, he thrived.
The 20-year-old Texas A&M superstar might have lost 49-42 last week, but his repeat performance against a former NFL head coach and defensive guru in Saban has increased chatter about how he would perform in the NFL.
In a story published on Wednesday by MMQB’s Greg A. Bedard, Manziel’s entire game, from his measurements and attitude to presence in the pocket and speed, was dissected to find out how he would fare in the bruising and much faster NFL.
Several general managers and scouts were quoted anonymously, but overall should Manziel decide to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, several teams could snap him up.
In two games against Saban’s No. 1 ranked defense, Manziel has passed for 717 yards and seven touchdowns, and rushed for another 190 yards. Most of that incredible production came from his work last weekend, with his 562-yard game. Manziel nearly broke his own SEC record of 576 total yards against Louisiana Tech a year ago.
Manziel is a third-year sophomore, and could enter a crowded draft field that already includes top quarterback prospects in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Both of those passers are well over six feet tall, and one of the biggest questions marks surrounding Manziel’s chances at the next level involve his size.
“I don’t know tall he’s going to be,” an AFC general manager said. “That’s going to be a concern, I think.”
Bedard’s piece delves into the perception that Manziel is much smaller in person. Turns out his listed measurements of 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs. aren’t that far off. He might not have the arm strength to put as much zip on the ball, but Manziel's large hands and long arms allow him to make every throw asked of an NFL quarterback.
The comparison to 5-foot-10 quarterback Russell Wilson is made, with Manziel coming off as a less cagey pocket passer than the Seattle Seahawks star, but possibly faster and more elusive.
“When chaos erupts—when everything breaks down and chaos begins—and he runs around, that’s his moment,” said the same AFC GM. “Is he a pure pocket passer? No. Does he have some athleticism to beat you with his feet and stuff? Yeah.”
That ability to magically scan and shape a field might be Manziel’s best quality, considering the path NFL offenses are taking these days. Head coach Chip Kelly has brought his brand of offense-on-meth to Philadelphia, and many teams are turning to high-snap, spread offenses, that might give a quarterback starved team enough reason to take Manziel in the first round next year.
Towards the end of the piece, Bedard touched on an anecdote about how Manziel almost ended up playing at Oregon under Kelly. Then still in high school, it turned out Manziel’s favorite schemes were already apart of the Ducks playbook.
When asked about how Manziel could adapt to Kelly’s offense at the NFL level, an NFC GM said to Bedard: “Oh my gosh. He would be the prototype.”