Johnny Manziel was a dynamic college football quarterback who made his mark with an unorthodox but successful approach to leading an offense.
Now, he hopes to transfer his unique skill set to the NFL, and he says Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson has provided a path for him to follow at football’s highest level.
“I think [Wilson] kicked the door wide open,” Manziel told the Houston Chronicle. “You’re seeing more guys being successful avoiding that first wave of pressure — get out and do things outside the pocket.”
The quarterbacks’ games undoubtedly are similar. Manziel and Wilson both are undersized for the position, but they offset their height disadvantage with scrambling skills that give defensive coordinators fits.
Wilson has excelled since transitioning to the NFL, enjoying a 28-9 career as a starter and a Super Bowl victory that could be the first of many.
Manziel had similar success in his college career and was especially bold when he broke out of the pocket, maneuvering downfield for big gains thanks to his legs, or using the chaos that came with his escape abilities to find an open receiver.
“The game’s evolving,” Manziel said. “More and more [pass rushers] like [defensive end Jadeveon] Clowney are coming out of college, and they’re big, and they can run. You have to be able to create plays.”
While few doubt Manziel’s big-play ability, the danger of scrambling and facing bigger, faster and stronger defenses in the NFL is cause for concern among some scouts. NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki’s scouting report on Manziel highlights a number of disadvantages for the quarterback, including his habit of breaking up a play at the first sign of pressure.
“Feels pocket ghosts and often takes off running at the second flash of coverage. … Cannot see over the pocket easily and almost never steps up into it, creating extra difficulties for OL coaches to coordinate blocking schemes and for offensive linemen to anticipate where the pocket will be,” Nawrocki’s report says. “Dances around the pocket too much and creates needless sacks rolling into protection when the pocket is clean.”
Nawrocki also calls into question Manziel’s attitude off the field, cautioning that the quarterback at times appears to be more interested in the stardom that comes with his position than the duties it requires both on and off the field.
The majority of mock drafts have Manziel as a top-five pick. He is a high-risk, high-reward quarterback whose career already has drawn an enormous amount of praise and scrutiny. For Manziel, though, the ultimate goal is the same as the one Wilson accomplished just this year: hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.