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Continued: The risk/reward of Johnny Manziel

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 19, 2014 - 11:10 PM

One of Manziel’s staunchest supporters is Gil Brandt, the legendary scouting guru who helped build the powerhouse Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1970s. While championing Manziel as the top prospect in this draft, Brandt checked off many of the attributes for which he has looked in a half-century of evaluating quarterbacks — intelligence, athleticism, competitiveness, arm talent, work ethic.

“Drew Brees and Vick showed us that 6-foot quarterbacks can be successful, and he’s just a fraction under that,” said Brandt, now an analyst for SiriusXM radio. “Like everything in life, it changes. When [former Viking Fran] Tarkenton came into the league, people doubted that he could be successful. The unfortunate thing is that we didn’t have another Tarkenton after Tarkenton.”

His roller coaster style of play ensures that Manziel, who idolized Vick and former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, will generate excitement wherever he begins his NFL career.

“There is going to be a lot of buzz about this kid,” Savage said. “And it’s going to be fascinating to watch.”

Party time

Will the attention that will follow Manziel make teams hesitate? Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, after meeting with Manziel in March, expressed concern in a radio interview that Manziel might be more concerned with being a celebrity than a great quarterback.

Manziel has posed with NBA stars such as LeBron James and celebs such as Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. He sat on a couch next to Jay Leno. Kicked it with the guys from “Duck Dynasty” in the French Quarter. Hit the club with rapper Rick Ross. Created a secret hand gesture with Drake. Even former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara had a front-row seats in a golf cart at Manziel’s pro day.

The only places where Manziel has been spotted more often than the end zone are Deadspin and TMZ.

“I’m from a small town of Kerrville, Texas — 20,000 people,” Manziel said. “I get lost in kind of the people who make me out to be a big Hollywood guy. [I’m] really just still a small-town kid.”

Manziel also made headlines for being arrested after his redshirt year for disorderly conduct and possessing a fake ID, was scrutinized for oversleeping and being sent home from the Manning Passing Academy last summer and got suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s 2013 season opener after unproven accusations that he was paid to sign autographs.

“[I’m] continuing to learn from my mistakes and continuing to grow up,” Manziel said. “I have an opportunity now moving into a professional phase. This is life now, this is a job for me. Taking it very seriously, and I’m really excited about the future.”

Plenty of choices

But with jobs usually at risk whenever a quarterback is selected in the first round, some teams might be unwilling to risk it with Manziel and go with a more stable option under center.

Spielman, Zimmer and the Vikings have been spending the past few weeks poking and prodding quarterbacks, from the consensus first-rounders in Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles to other prospects such as Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Louisiana State’s Zach Mettenberger and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who rarely relied on dual-threat quarterbacks in the past, will have input in the decision.

While the Vikings might have several intriguing options from which to choose, none moves the pocket or the meter like Manziel.

“I think his strength at this point in time is the ability to make random, arbitrary improvisational-type plays,” Cosell said. “And that to me is not something you want to hang your hat on. … Others may disagree, but I don’t think you can live on the edge playing quarterback in the NFL.”

Soon, one team — maybe even the Vikings — will bet the house that Johnny Football can.













 

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