Posted November 26, 2013

NFL Draft 2014 Risers/Fallers: Johnny Manziel’s LSU headache

NFL Draft, NFL draft 2014
Johnny Manziel went 16-of-41 with 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Texas A&M's 34-10 loss to LSU.

Johnny Manziel went 16-of-41 with 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Texas A&M’s 34-10 loss. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Is LSU’s defense simply the kryptonite for Johnny Manziel? Or is how he plays against the Tigers a sign of larger, more worrisome issues with his game?

Those are the types of questions that NFL front offices will spend the next few months attempting to figure out, assuming Manziel heads to the 2014 draft as expected.

Twice in his career as Texas A&M’s starting QB, Manziel has run into LSU. Twice, he’s been corralled. LSU held Manziel’s Aggies to 10 points on Saturday; previously, A&M had not scored fewer than 41 in a game this season. Manziel completed one touchdown pass, to Derel Walker, but mostly flopped en route to a 16-of-41 outing with two interceptions. And while Manziel led the Aggies with 54 yards rushing, LSU’s defense mostly kept him contained and confused, forcing him from his comfort zone on countless occasions.

Manziel did not respond well to LSU’s focused effort. Part of the reason he topped 50 yards rushing is that his first move on passing downs often was to drop his eyes, portending a quick exit from the pocket. When he did stay and throw, he had issues reading the defense and hitting his mark, possibly influenced by an apparent hand injury suffered early.

NFL defenses will make nothing simple for Manziel at the next level, so teams are left wondering if he can progress his game enough to be more comfortable against challenging attacks. There is a lot of positive Manziel tape out there for evaluators to study. LSU has provided at least two glances at the spectrum’s opposite end.

Rising

Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State: Urban Meyer said this week that he does not believe QB Braxton Miller is ready for the NFL yet. Hard to believe he’d hold the same opinion about Shazier, who just keeps producing in his junior season.

The latest outburst: a 20-tackle showing against Indiana on Saturday that included five tackles for loss and a sack. So long as teams can look past his lack of bulk, Shazier ought to find a home nice and early at the 2014 draft.

Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State: Moore is closing his college career in style — he’s made TD catches in each of the Cowboys’ past four games, including one in a 126-yard performance vs. Baylor. At 6-foot-2, Moore plays a fairly physical game; he has all the makings of a player who carves out an NFL role after being a mid- to late-round pick.

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: Williams may not be rising so much as simply cementing his status as a player who deserves much more attention in the coming months. Saturday, he rushed for 263 yards in a win over Maryland, bumping him to 2,073 yards for the season on the ground. He’s seen a high number of carries — 320 — but the rushing total has been well-earned.

Allen Hurns, WR, Miami: Rather quietly, the 6-3 Hurns has stayed Stephen Morris’ top target throughout the season. With 126 yards receiving in a win over Virginia, Hurns now has reached triple digits in each of his last three games. He’s also within 35 yards of a 1,000-yard season. Hurns will not blow anyone away with his measureables, but the production speaks for itself.

Tom Savage, QB, Pitt: I’ve been meaning to loop Savage into the Risers/Fallers discussion for a few weeks — not necessarily because he’s flying up the board, but because he’s progressed from a draft non-factor to someone who might have an NFL shot. The NFL Network’s Gil Brandt was so impressed with him earlier this season, in fact, that he issued a Troy Aikman comparison. That’s probably reaching too high (Savage is not exactly setting the world ablaze), but he’s been a major factor in Pitt attaining bowl eligibility. Savage threw for 218 yards, one TD and one interception in a win over Syracuse this past weekend, a solid showing right in line with what he’s done most of the season.

Falling

Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma: One of the country’s top senior RBs, Williams was dismissed from the team with little explanation this week. That’s a colossal red flag for a player who had sat out two games already in 2013 on account of off-field issues. Williams rushed for just shy of 1,000 yards last season and had another 553 and seven TDs this year. It will be hard to overlook this latest situation, though.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: Baylor’s loss to Oklahoma State was more or less a total team meltdown, and Petty’s numbers — 28-of-48 for 359 yards and two touchdowns — actually turned out rather strong. Those stats belie what occurred in the game, however, as Petty was unable to get his offense moving against the Cowboys.

Overall, Petty has been brilliant in 2013: 26 touchdowns to just one interception, with 3,351 yards passing. Right now, all signs point to him returning for his senior season with Baylor, especially given the deep class of QBs headed to the 2014 draft. Saturday’s outing likely was merely a blip on the radar, but he has failed to get to 60-percent passing in each of Baylor’s past three outings, a worrisome trend for someone playing in such a quarterback-friendly attack.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: As mentioned in our Week 12 mini-Mock Draft, Arizona made Mariota look pretty bad on Saturday. Though he hit on 27-of-41 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, most of those numbers were of the hollow variety. A pair of interceptions and a general inability to move the chains left Oregon way behind the eight-ball.

There’s still a very solid chance that Mariota heads pro after this season … and he should be a top-10 pick if he does so. That said, there are enough concerns about where he is in his development to keep scouts busy.

31 comments
ocbradyckt
ocbradyckt

I think that New England should draft Tom Savage. I watched some game film and he has the arm to take Tom Brady's starting job if tom can teach him to make the right throws and not force passes.

QuinBagwell
QuinBagwell

Opinions are worth what they cost , if someone is willing to give Manziel a 4 million dollar signing bonus with a multi year contract , they more than likely have a better grasp of his ability than the pseudo experts commenting here.

J Diddy
J Diddy

I'm not going to guarantee pro bowls or anything, but the people acting like Manziel is Tim Tebow are kidding themselves. He has almost all of the skills required to be an excellent NFL QB (his arm strength is fine, his accuracy good, excellent playing IQ, etc.)--with the added benefit of being uniquely agile.

He isn't an ideal height, but at some point Drew Brees, Russ Wilson, etc. have to put that argument to bed. You can either ball or you can't. And even a moron would admit Johnny can ball. And unlike Tebow, he can ball AND mechanically perform the task.  

No, based on talent and ability alone, this guy can rock the NFL. The bigger question is will he dedicate himself to doing it when he has to actually try week in and week out. Even the most gifted athletes have to work their tails off to succeed at that level. Have you ever seen Adrian Peters or Calvin Johnson phone one in based on their talent alone? I haven't. Those guys are already better than anyone athletically speaking, and they're going to outwork them, too. Thats why they're great.

I don't see that in Johnny yet--that desire to be better than he already he is, to outwork everyone else even when he doesn't have to. Guys with that mentality don't spend the offseason on the casino and front-row-seat circuit when THEY'RE SOPHOMORES IN COLLEGE.  He needs to go back to school one more year and learn how to be a leader on and off the field. He figures that out, he'll do great in the NFL.

Chuckster
Chuckster

Manziel has those College QB skills of a dynamic play maker that upset college defenses, the vast majority of the time.   If he lands on the right NFL team (right coaches that use him in the right way), he'll have some success as a rookie.   The NFL is SO good at adjusting to a player's abilities that Manziel's success will dwindle very quickly unless he matures rapidly.  Flashing the money sign and trash talking millionaires is NOT a recipe for long term survival at the highest level of football.  

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

Manziel looked like a rookie versus LSU yet one ignorant sportscaster still gushed about him during the NIU game last night. Think it was the same one who said "he has ran" later on. It would figure.

MichaelC
MichaelC

There's no point predicting Manziel's NFL future UNTIL he's on an actual NFL team. Why? Because so much of NFL QB success hinges on player development and being on the right team at the right time. It's really outside their control. Russell Wilson is considered one of the best young QBs in the game but how would he fare playing for Jacksonville or Oakland? Steve Young was nearly out of the game when he started at Tampa Bay but after backing up Montana, he inherited a great SF team and became an all-timer. 

If Manziel finds himself on a crappy team with poor leadership - he gets hit often, there's too much pressure for him to be a "savior," and he quickly loses his swagger - he won't amount to much. But what if he gets drafted by the Broncos, serves as Peyton's back-up for a couple years, "learns" how to prepare for a game from the best, and takes over full-time after Peyton retires? Then the probability of his success is maximized.

Draft position really does not mean much in the NFL.

DerekSugimura
DerekSugimura

Manziel's got a fractured bone in his hand right now.  You could see him grimacing on the sidelines and flexing his hand, and he missed passes he's been hitting for two years straight.  Let's see how he looks in the bowl game.

crashtx1
crashtx1

"Fill in the blank" is going to redefine the position. Yes he doesn't have the classic skills needed, but he compensates for being too short or too slow or poor throwing motion, etc, etc, etc.  Heard it before, haven't seen it yet.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

He took a hit LAST year as he is NOT a pro QB the way he runs around with the ball.  

NickGarrison
NickGarrison

Anyone who thinks Manziel will be a good NFL player is delusional....

AlanCBrown
AlanCBrown

LSU has very fast defensive players on the line and at linebacker.  Johnny Manziel did not have a speed advantage over LSU when he ran around with the football.  Manziel also runs back to the same place; kind of like a rabbit being chased by a dog runs in big circles back to the hunter - who then shoots the rabbit.  LSU had linemen waiting in the middle of the field for Johnny to come back rather than have all 4 or 5 rushers chase him.  Name change in Baton Rouge would be "Johnny Rabbit" not Johnny Football.   

carjax1202
carjax1202

He'll be another Ty Detmer...Tim Tebow...etc...etc... The kid is a college QB.  nothing more nothing less.

He might as well stay in college another year, than to waste his time at the pro level.  Hey kid, the big boys in the NFL can run just as fast as you can.  Try running away from them.  We see if year after year.  Great college QB...worthless pro.  And regarding the article saying Mariota should stay another year...how bout this little puke.  He does not have what it takes to be a pro.

GregSamick
GregSamick

I don't think Manziel is that good anyway.

He throws too many INT's.  And seems to have a attitude problem towards his coaches.

I don't think he is a "team" player.

Robert96
Robert96

Manziel sucked..................He finally showed just how good he is....................he will never make it to the elite pro level......................AGGIE fan.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

Now I'm not a Johnny Football fan (graduated from a Big Ten school better known for basketball than football) but Alabama's defense this yr is better than LSU's and Johnny Football sure played pretty well against Bama.

Come to think of it, he played pretty well against Bama last yr too as he beat Bama at home.

Now LSU is a great team too, but Bama has been pretty good as well the past few yrs too.

Now I'd really be worried if Johnny Football stunk it up as he did vs. LSU both yrs and had NOT done well against Bama or had not played Bama...

berdosux
berdosux

@QuinBagwell Yup Jamarcus Russel, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf all were worth the money they got.

berdosux
berdosux

@J Diddy To compare Manziel to Russel WIlson is crazy.  Have you seen Russel WIlson?  Dude is a beast of a man.  Brees isnt a runner either and Manziel is going to get crushed once he runs like a chicken with his head cut off like he does.

berdosux
berdosux

@MichaelC You  think Peyton will want him on his team, or if he does get draft will he want to teach him anything after that Manning Camp debacle?

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

@carjax1202 His smartest move would be to take what bonus money he can get at this point then call it a day. College will still be there after his release.

riley8
riley8

@carjax1202 I agree completely.  His speed is why he can put up some numbers in college.  He also has a future NFL stud WR to throw to at TA&M.  His speed will be marginalized in the NFL bc everyone has speed.  On draft day someone will take a chance on JM but I think he slips before his name is chosen.

eddie767
eddie767

@Sportsfan18 Since you say Ala.D is better than LSU D,J.Football isn't going be a good NFL QB. Out of 32 NFL teams,8-9 have great D's. So,Mr.Footballs record will be 4-12,since he will play these D's 4 times a yr. Now,how great is this QB?.

AnthonyPatterrson
AnthonyPatterrson

@Sportsfan18 Alabama's defense, at the time they played A&M was nowhere as good as it is today, they've gotten better and maybe more consistent than LSU, but I'm not sure better. And break down tape of HOW he played in those games, I think thats what the article is implying. Its much more than a simple 'this D vs that D' as "better" is subjective. Perhaps LSU is playing him differently than Alabama, hmmm. Or are you saying its fluke he's had easily his worst games against the same team?

Krivka
Krivka

@berdosux @QuinBagwell Not to mention Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson (can't miss pick so they said) and dozens of others. The plain fact is there is seldom a can't miss and all teams make picks with their fingers crossed. 

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@AnthonyPatterrson @Sportsfan18   I'm not going to split hairs.  Bama and LSU are both good teams for the past several yrs.

Johnny's game vs. Bama last year came towards the end of the season as opposed to the early part of the season.  Yes, Bama has gotten better as most, not all, teams do throughout the course of a season.

My point was that the author made it sound like a big, bad, tough athletic defense stopped him in college and implied that he'd not do well against the bigger, faster, more athletic NFL offenses.  No, he didn't use those words exactly, but he was implying it.

My point was that if Johnny laid an egg against Bama too or hadn't played them then the authors point would carry more weight with me.

But Johnny played well against another top defense (as both Bama and LSU have very good defenses).

My point was that Johnny did compete and do well against a good "D" similar to LSU's.