Of all the stars at the NFL Combine this week, Johnny Manziel is the brightest.
He has that “it” factor people pay attention to. Fans, scouts and media members all want to see how the fiery, talented, playmaking quarterback from Texas A&M does on the big stage of the Combine, where his every move and word will be dissected.
Going into the 2014 Draft in May, he’s a classic boom-or-bust pick, a player who could make teams look silly by either drafting him and then seeing him fail, or passing on him only to watch him thrive.
And with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, the Raiders might well be in position to take Manziel, which makes his performance at the Combine this week all the more interesting for Bay Area observers.
It’s interesting to note that as Manziel gets ready to show NFL teams what he has, both his pros and his cons are being discussed publicly.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, for instance, was asked about Manziel Thursday and spoke highly of the former Heisman winner from his alma mater, Texas A&M.
“He’s a very talented player,” Allen told reporters. “He’s a multi-dimensional player. He’s able to throw the ball. He’s able to throw the ball from the pocket, but also able to create things with his feet. As we get more into the process, he’ll be a fun guy to really evaluate.”
Manziel was measured at the Combine Friday and his official height is now listed as 5-foot-11¾. That’s always a minus to NFL scouts, who like to see taller quarterbacks, such as other top prospects this year, Teddy Bridgewater (6-2 1/8) and Blake Bortles (6-5). But Manziel’s hand size was great, even larger than Bridgewater’s and Bortles’, meaning he has the size to not only take care of the football but throw it even in bad conditions.
Yet former Raiders and longtime NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, now an NFL analyst for Sirius XM NFL Radio, doesn’t believe Manziel would be a good fit for the Raiders.
Because the Raiders are a struggling franchise with needs across the board, Gannon doesn’t believe it’s the right environment for Manziel.
“Bad fit,” said Gannon, according to NFL.com. “Only from the standpoint that I think a team has to be ready for a young quarterback. I don’t think that team is quite ready yet.”
Gannon believes that for Manziel to thrive – and Gannon believes Manziel can be a good NFL quarterback – he needs to be drafted into the right situation.
“I think he has to go somewhere where they have a very disciplined coordinator and quarterback coach,” Gannon said. “Somebody who is really going to grind on him and stay on him for those first couple years as he learns the system. He’s a guy who ad libs a lot, and you can’t always do that in the NFL.”
One thing Manziel won’t do at the Combine this week is throw for NFL scouts. He’ll save that for his pro day at Texas A&M on March 27. But according to most observers who know something about football, Manziel’s arm strength isn’t an issue.
Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, for instance, told USA Today this week that he loves what he sees in Manziel, and reminds him of himself when he was that age.
“I didn’t throw near as well as him,” Favre said. “He may have that capability – unbelievable throws and can make plays with his feet.”