Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing prospect in the 2014 NFL draft, which makes it fun to discuss him. He was an exciting playmaker in college, someone who demolished Nick Saban's defenses repeatedly and who was the talk of the nation every Saturday. But does that the mean the Buccaneers like him? And does that make him a good fit?
Why he's a realistic option
Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to add a quarterback, have openly praised Johnny Manziel, have been linked with him in various reports, and because there's a chance he'll be available to take with the seventh overall pick.
Johnny Manziel may also be the best player available with that pick, depending on how you would define "best player available", that is. Some people will look at Manziel and see exactly what they want out of a quarterback, and it's certainly possible Lovie Smith would be one of those people.
Why Manziel fits the Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have consistently emphasized mobility in their discussions of quarterbacks this offseason. They signed Josh McCown, a mobile quarterback who thrives on structure, to replace Mike Glennon -- a pocket quarterback who has shown many positives, but mobility isn't one of them. Meanwhile, Johnny Manziel is probably the most mobile quarterback in the NFL draft.
There's much more to Manziel than just that, however. He's an easy thrower of the football, is generally accurate and has no problem pulling the trigger on tough throws. He remains composed, even when escaping the pocket, and has solid arm strength. He also has terrific foot quickness, even if he can be a bit lazy with his mechanics and footwork.
For the Bucs, though, the question is how much emphasis they'll place on playing within structure. Jeff Tedford's offense is all about structure, while Manziel's best asset is improvisational play outside of structure -- and he has a tendency to abandon structure a little too often and too quickly. That could also lead to general issues in the NFL, as we don't know how well his improvisational skill will translate to the NFL. He's an exciting player, but exciting and NFL-production are not the same thing.
Another question mark is his character and how that would fit the locker room. Manziel is a flashy player, both on and off the field, and he's known for loving the party life in college. Nothing wrong with that, really, but that's not what every NFL coach wants to see in the face of their franchise. He is generally seen as a hard worker and leader on the field, but it's still a bit of a concern.
Overall, though, he certainly displays enough positive traits as an explosive athlete and playmaker where any coach could look at him and see a potential star. Pairing him with a strong running game and quality defense, which is what the Bucs plan to do, will also help limit Manziel's negatives and emphasize his strong points.
What others say about him
"Hit or miss? What the hell are they talking about?" one scout said. "He's a better passer than the guy (Russell Wilson) who won the Super Bowl, and he's got a better arm. Here comes the pressure, a guy breaks open and he finds the receiver. Does he have a gun? No. But he doesn't have a bad arm at all." Has had a colorful if not controversial career off the field. Nicknamed "Johnny Football." Said another personnel man with more than 15 years of NFL scouting experience: "I'm fine with him on the field. He's probably the most unique guy I've done at that position. Just the way he kind of controls the game when he's on. But it's the other stuff. He's not a worker. He doesn't show up. He does what he wants to do. They need him. Everybody just kind of shrugs it off. You try to pull some of the stuff he does in an NFL locker room and it's just not going to work."
"[Manziel] is a see it, throw it passer," Cosell told Zierlein. "He's not an anticipation thrower. He's not a patient pocket player. If he doesn't see it right away, he'll be gone, he'll leave the pocket. That's what he does up to this point, that's all we have to judge."
"Then you have to decide if the random improvisational play, which obviously he's unbelievably phenomenal at, you have to decide how many of those he can make in the NFL. Can you live on those plays in the NFL? These are what evaluators have to determine. You also have to look at his overall play."
"There's a wide variation in his play. And I think the consistency issue will always be concerning for any evaluator. And then you have to decide, even when he plays well, how is he playing well? Does that translate to the league?"
"There's no question he makes throws from the pocket. I went through all of his 15+-yard completions, and the large majority came from the pocket, contrary to what people might think. I view that as a positive. Then you have to break those down in detail and see what kind of throws they were, and he's not an anticipation thrower. And you know in college, guys tend to be wide open."
Overall, Manziel is unique. He is not for everyone. The team that drafts him has to have a plan and play to his strengths. He is not nor will he ever be a conventional pro style drop back passer. While Manziel lacks ideal NFL quarterback size, there are top quarterbacks in the league that also possess less than ideal size. Drew Brees is list as being 6'0, but he isn't. Russell Wilson is under 5'11. If I had to compare Manziel to another NFL quarterback I would say he is part Wilson, part Brees and part Brett Favre. It obviously remains to be seen if he will have the success of those players.
Manziel's immaturity off the field is well documented and the team that drafts him has to be sure that he will buy into their program. The one thing I do know is that on game day, Manziel is as competitive a player as you will ever see. Scouts have told me that he has matured in the last year and his game preparation and leadership were much better in 2013 than in 2012. I think there is a lot of "special" to Manziel and he will be a very good NFL player. It would not surprise me to see him drafted in the top-five. He could very well be the first quarterback selected.