Johnny Manziel is already receiving high praise from his coaches, more than three months away from the start of the 2014 NFL season.
Kyle Shanahan is in his first year as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator, and after spending four seasons with the Washington Redskins, the coach believes the Browns’ first-round draft pick is a lot like Robert Griffin III.
"Johnny and Robert are very similar," Shanahan told USA Today Sports. "They're both talented guys who can make plays with their legs. But there comes a time in the NFL when they're going to keep you in the pocket, and you're going to have to have that ability to make the throws with your arm and mind.”
“And Johnny, just like Robert, has that arm talent and intelligence to do that."
Cleveland would be thrilled if Manziel could have the same immediate success in the pros that Griffin experienced. As a rookie, the Redskins’ signal caller led Washington to the playoffs, recording a 102.4 passer rating.
Manziel is often in the news for his off-field activities, and a lot of questions surround his potential in the NFL. These questions were a part of his precipitous drop on draft day, as he fell all the way to No.22.
Even after winning the Heisman trophy as a freshman, there are many that believe his skill set won’t translate at the next level. Manziel stands at less than six-feet tall, and it won’t be as easy for him to convert the acrobatic plays that he made with Texas A&M. Still, Shanahan believes he has the other tools necessary to be successful.
"He's got the arm talent, and he ran around, made a ton of plays that won him the Heisman,” Shanahan continued. “You hope he can do that in the NFL. But you also know he won't be able to do it as much. ... Yet he still has to be him and make those plays."
In their final college seasons, Griffin and Manziel posted similar statistics. In his fourth year with Baylor, Griffin threw for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 699 yards. In 2013, Manziel threw for 4,114 yards and 37 scores, adding 759 yards on the ground.
Griffin had a difficult time in his second NFL season, following offseason knee surgery. As a rookie, his ability to use his legs was essential, rushing for 815 yards. He was capable in the pocket, as well, tossing 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Cleveland has made it clear that Manziel will have to earn a spot as the starter. During OTA’s, he’s taken snaps with the first, second and third-team offense.