Posted February 27, 2014

Ron Jaworski’s take on Johnny Manziel reveals oddities in pre-draft analysis process

2014 NFL Draft Primer
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Once again, Johnny Football’s ears are burning. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Every pre-draft process is filled with uncertainty, but there’s one thing we know beyond a doubt: At some point in every year, a well-known analyst will say something about a marquee prospect that has people up in arms and lighting up the social media universe.

In recent years, those polarizing takes have been the property of former Pro Football Weekly and current NFL.com draft analyst/armchair psychologist Nolan Nawrocki. But on the 2014 pre-draft leaderboard, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski took a sizeable lead with his recent take on Johnny Manziel. From Philly radio station 97.5 The Fanatic, via Phillymag.com:

“I’m a big believer in Nick Foles, but who knows? Manziel may fall. I’m not crazy about him, to be honest with you. I’ve only looked at five games. I wouldn’t take him in the first three rounds. That’s my opinion. It’s incomplete right now. But he has not done a whole lot to me.”

Jaworski, who is rightly considered one of the best quarterback evaluators in the media whether you agree with him or not, was speaking specifically about the reported scouting combine meeting between Manziel and the Philadelphia Eagles. And in the context of what the Eagles should do in this draft, it could be argued that they would be a bit off-center to take Manziel unless he dropped in the draft for some weird reason and simply became too good a value to pass up.

FARRAR: Johnny Manziel and the changing face of modern quarterbacks

In the larger sense, Jaworski’s comments created their own news cycle, especially when his employer got hold of them. And you can bet Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith will be knocking that one around like a piñata for days. Just as it was when Jaws claimed Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. It was clear that he didn’t think Kaepernick was there yet but that he had the physical tools to outmatch nearly every quarterback who’s ever played the game. And that’s a point worth considering.

But what that became was the traditional soundbite, and now it’s been added to his controversial opinion on Manziel, and now a guy who has been crunching tape on quarterbacks for as long as or longer than most of us have been drawing breath is thought to be just one more screaming head for the Worldwide Leader — all squall and no substance. Which isn’t really fair in this case.

Because in this case, you can pick five games of Manziel tape in which he looks everything from average to downright undraftable. And if you took the wrong five games, it’s understandable.

Take Texas A&M’s 34-10 loss to LSU last Nov. 23, when the Tigers bottled Manziel up in the pocket, stunted him to death with creative pressure packages and proved he struggles at times when he’s forced to play within structure and without the ability to roll out and split defenses every which way. He finished that game with 16 completions in 41 attempts for 224 yards, one touchdown and two picks.

You could balance out the five touchdowns he threw against Mississippi State two weeks before LSU with the three interceptions he also tossed. And there’s the two picks he threw in A&M’s Oct. 19 loss to Auburn — four touchdowns be damned. And on and on.

I don’t know Jaworski, but I’ve done projects with Greg Cosell, his great producer for ESPN’s NFL Matchup, for years. And I know from talking with Cosell that Jaws looks hard to see whether a quarterback can play consistently within structure — to balance out those “random moments” with consistent drive production.

“He’s a random quarterback who likes to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs,” Jaworski told SIRIUS NFL Radio about Manziel on Wednesday morning. “In the NFL, he won’t last three games playing that style. He’ll get hurt. He took a lot of vicious hits at A&M in the last two years.”

Even if you’re on the side that believes Manziel is a rare talent with a great deal of NFL potential (which I am), the fact that Manziel doesn’t do that enough yet is indisputable. He’s a human highlight film with a foundation that needs work, and that’s something he admitted when he spoke to the media at the combine.

BANKS: Manziel’s No. 1 in my Mock Draft

“I’m just looking forward to [showing] up all the people who are saying that I’m just an improviser,” he said. “I feel that I worked extremely hard this year to hone in on my game all around. I’m continuing to do that — working out in San Diego [with performance coach George Whitfield], and getting better as a pocket passer and as a quarterback in general.

“I think there’s times when plays aren’t going to go as scripted, as people draw them up on the whiteboard. You go through your reads and you do certain things, and there are times to take off and get outside the pocket and make some plays. But at the same time, I want to be a guy who can drop back and can go through my progressions, go through my reads, and really take what’s given to me.”

I remember writing my draft evaluation of then-North Carolina and current New York Jets defensive lineman Quinton Coples two years ago. It was the single most frustrating experience I’ve ever had when watching a prospect and deciding how I thought he’d do in the NFL. Coples was all over the place, in multiple ways — he played everywhere from one-tech nose tackle to outside linebacker, and he wasn’t especially dominant at any one position, though he showed enough everywhere to make you worried that you were going to miss out on a player who could be great and was just miscast in multiple roles.

That relates to Manziel because I watched more Coples tape than I’ve ever watched of any prospect because I was confused and I didn’t feel I had the full picture. I felt an obligation to move past a few highlights and a quick statement.

In his comments about Manziel, Jaworski said his five-game view is an incomplete picture, and I believe him. I think he will go back and watch more tape, perhaps with a sharper eye on the modern quarterback paradigm, where structure may not be as important and improvisation is a valuable (perhaps indispensable) skill. Hopefully, he’ll get as many good games as bad and come to the table with a more comprehensive opinion.

Because when we make statements about draft prospects, we’re throwing darts in a crowded room. It’s best to aim.

KING: Monday Morning Quarterback: Manziel undergoes image makeover

125 comments
TonyHuff
TonyHuff

Jaws should know better. Coming out of college there were doubts about his abilities. Manziel's abilities are significantly better.

tjdascoli
tjdascoli

It could be interesting. I've seen many great college players fail at the professional level, and many unknowns succeed as well. As failures, Gary Beban and Terry Baker, Tim Couch, all Heisman trophy winners come to mind.( Even Archie Griffin, the only 2 time Heismen winner struggled in the pros and ended up with a short, unimpressive career) but the list is very long, and loaded with failures. So we shall see.

OconnorPainting
OconnorPainting

he will be a 1st round pick but will be a bust in nfl

Bender
Bender

Manziel is a winner.I remember the same things being said about Joe Montana.

ToddFennell
ToddFennell

I dont think the problem is his height. He is taller than Russell Wilson. He is obviously fast enough to elude and has a good arm. I think his problem will be attitude. Will he listen to his coaches? or will he think He knows better than they do?  Does he have the drive and discipline  of RW. Im not so sure 

Kalzy
Kalzy

jaws is a profound dork. he want's the Eagles to grab him. Please. What a buffoon.

Thomas15
Thomas15

Agree with Jaws. Manziel will always be injured. Plus he's a head case. As for Eagles, ANYONE who doesn't get that Foles is the real thing should just stop watching football. 

eagleeye502001
eagleeye502001

Chip Kelly obviously likes him a lot.  He thought he had him recruited to Oregon.  With the emergence of Nick Foles, it would seem odd to have two so completely different quarterbacks competing for the starting position.  Interviews at this stage don't mean anything.

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

Read the whole thing, geniuses.  He simply said that, were he the Eagles, he wouldn't take Manziel in the first 3 rounds.  He didn't say no team should take him in the first 3 rounds.  Misleading headlines are making "news" almost unreadable these days.

DSM
DSM

Any proof for the notion that Jaws is a highly respected QB evaluator? His claim that Colin K will be one of the very best ever suggests he is just another analyst throwing bombs to get attention. And don't both Colin K and Russell Wilson use their mobility quite a bit, too?

Mike26
Mike26

One thing is for sure:  In 10 years, we'll know for sure if Jaws was correct, incorrect or somewhere in between.

Cool
Cool

Please explain to me how you can admit that you have only watched 5 games that a player was in.. then go on to declare that player... "no doubt one the best players to ever play college football." and then also turn around and say "I wouldn't pick him until after the 3rd round."    5 games people.. 5 games that made him believe Johnny is the best college player ever.. and 5 games to decide he doesn't think he will make it in the NFL.


I wonder if Ron went out with his wife and decided she was the one for him just after 5 dates?  

jzty
jzty

Sounds like Jaws is just trying to make a name for himself.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

He's the poor man's, white Mike Vick.

PhiloPhool
PhiloPhool

Manziel may have one problem but it was not made public at the combine. Can he take coaching?  He appears to be a "I want things my way" type of athlete, therefore will not work well as a professional football player.

RafalPruszyn-ski
RafalPruszyn-ski

Let's be real: Manziel will be a big time bust. I don't even buy the "great athlete" argument. He isn't a great athlete. He is a small guy who panics quickly. Its great to improvise when your schedule has you see maybe a dozen NFL caliber defenders over a whole season. Good luck "improvising" or, rather, scrambling for your life with a hope and a prayer, when you see nothing but NFL defenders all season long. Johnny Football will either get hurt, BAD, or will simply fail big time. The earlier he goes, the bigger a bust he becomes. Couldn't happen to a better guy.

MatthewEugeneHaag
MatthewEugeneHaag

Unfortunately for Jaws the league is driven by QB play.  Johnny has been in the spot light and is a great athlete.  He is going to be way to tempting for a QB needy team to pass up.  Tim Tebow was taken in Round 1 I can say with nearly 100 percent certainty that Manziel will go in the first round as well.

Rick in Huahin!
Rick in Huahin!

Finish this sentence--The NFL combines are great for......!

Rick in Huahin!
Rick in Huahin!

And what was your analysis of Wilson after his combine?

Its all like figure skating judging, subjective and no idea what is burning inside.

But makes for great TV, so keep tving!!!!!!!

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Quite the scolding you give the former All-Pro QB, Doug (“polarizing,” “sharper eye,” “incomplete,“ “oddities”).  Maybe this admonishment speaks to Jaworski’s high standing amongst some media that an unfavorable but rational comment on Manziel could give rise to a 1750-word (?) lecture.  What’s next, take away his hall pass?


John was special on the college gridiron but he’s got some red-flags that were hard to miss, i.e., size, fear-flight, boyish attitude and short resume (2y) for a top pick in the biggest game in town (10B yearly).  How much “tape” you need?    


Apparently, Ron’s not “confused” about Manziel and doesn’t take alarmist view (“darts”) on “statements about draft prospects.”  He may even believe he’s entitled to refrain from buying into in a “modern (QB) paradigm” that run-QB groupies pass off as “indispensable,” even as “improvisation” has yet to lay claim to one Lombardi trophy.  As for Russ, in the 2014 PS, he was a game-plan implementer all the way.

JRock
JRock

Wonder if they even watched the LSU game. First Qtr 2 drops and Manziel playing solid. One 4th and goal in the second Qtr, the back doesn't pick up the blitz and Manziel was running for his life from the snap. Blame it on the RB. Otherwise, he was making good throws. Not sure you can put all the blame on him for the loss. LSU was up 14 - 0 quickly.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Bender  I remember the same thing being said about Vince Young.

Kopernicus1967
Kopernicus1967

@Bender  I don't remember 'poor work ethic' or 'media circus' being used to describe Montana....

The_truth_hurts
The_truth_hurts

@SteveRowFla  So only the Eagles shouldn't take him in the 3rd round? Get real, he's evaluating him as a QB. He's a midget that will get demolished in the NFL.

anon6
anon6

@DSM  except he said "COULD." That is very different than "WILL." 

Tony M
Tony M

@Mike26  10 years?  Try like 3 or 4.  QB;s go big or go bust in this league

TheDoctorIsIn
TheDoctorIsIn

@Cool  The irony of you criticizing Jaws for making an overly quick conclusion is palpable. 


There is a huge difference between watching 5 games and analyzing 5 games.


I have enough respect for Jaws' that if he says something that contradicts a belief that I have regarding a player, I will revisit my beliefs to double check them, because Jaws is more likely to be correct than I am.


I'll even play your dating game analogy....5 dates may not be enough to decide a woman is right to marry, but it is often more than enough to decide she isn't.


That works the same in reverse, as I'm sure you have probably noticed given you likely can't get more than 5 dates with any woman.

Mike26
Mike26

@Cool  1.  What a stupid analogy between dating and player scouting.

2.  You can start to see trends./patterns quite easily after 5 games.  Watching more games may/may not strengthen the original viewpoint - which is exactly what Jaws said.

Mike26
Mike26

@jzty   If you don't know who Jaws is jzty, then I'd like to say HELLO and WELCOME to NFL football!

pirate
pirate

@PhillyPenn   Why mention his color? It's not a significant distinction, especially in the NFL. Jaworski may ultimately right, but you know someone's gonna take him in the first round, probably in the top eight unless something comes up between now and May.

But really, stop worrying about whether a player is black or white. Doesn't mean anything.

pirate
pirate

@PhiloPhool Appears to be? Based on what? Have you talked to his college coach?

iceyvick
iceyvick

@MatthewEugeneHaag  Manziel ran a 4.68 40-yard-dash at 5'11, 207 pounds and had a 31.5 inch vertical leap. For a guy who is supposed to be a "scrambling QB," he's far from being "a great athlete." Good athlete? Sure. Great? Hardly. In fact, 15 defensive linemen and linebackers ran a 4.68 or faster in this combine alone (one of which is a 285 lb DT at 6'0) and there are plenty more like that in the NFL. He will go in the 1st round though a lot can happen to his stock between now and May. In the NFL everyone is very big and very fast. Think he can "improvise" all the time like he did in college, but he's not going to get up after one too many of those big hits from top tier athletes. 

bobdevo
bobdevo

@JRock Johnny is apparently responsible for offensive live play AND the fact A&M had no defense.

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

@Mike26 @Cool Jaws may be right but I'm with Cool. He's only watched 5 games. I've watched more games with Manziel and I'm just a guy who likes watching football. You would figure that with all the hype this guy has had over the past two years that anyone analyzing this guy would have seen more than 5 games. Almost looks like Jaws just doesn't like the guys personality not his play.

RafalPruszyn-ski
RafalPruszyn-ski

@bobdevo @RafalPruszyn-ski Is Alabama an NFL team? Take the worst NFL team and put them up against Alabama. Does Alabama have a prayer? Again, don't confuse college performance with NFL potential. This really should be plain for all to see: Manziel is not cut out to play in the NFL. Period. He is a horrible pocket passer, does not play in a system and is a severely undersized. Tebow 2.0 except that Tebow could take the hits. Manziel will be laid out flat.

Blinker
Blinker

@bobdevo @RafalPruszyn-ski

How many times did you beat Alabama?

It was ONE game.  It was LUCKY.  I bet if he stayed at a+m he would have lost the next two.  That would put his record at 1-3.

iceyvick
iceyvick

@bobdevo @JRock  If he was the prolific offensive player his fans make him out to be, Texas would have simply outscored their opponents and improvised his team to an undefeated season.

WillWillis1
WillWillis1

@KevinDoucette @Mike26 @Cool  Even though Farrar referenced it off the top, I think the context of Jaworski's comments quickly gets lost by most people. It wasn't a general *no one* should draft Manziel before the 3rd round, it was that the Eagles specifically shouldn't given their current QB situation and more pressing needs elsewhere.


Mike26
Mike26

@KevinDoucette @Mike26 @Cool  Jaws specializes in NFL players, not year-round scouting.  He DOES do a nice job on QB's in the draft - but he doesn't start that type of scouting until after the NFL Is pretty much done.  It's not surprising to me that he's only watched 5 games to this point; my guess is that his employer forced him to make a point-blank statement in order to gain clicks/viewers.  It also won't surprise me if he softens his stance a bit later on.  


However, I WILL be surprised if by the end of watching all of his games that Jaws changes his mind completely about Manziel OR if Jaws is wrong and Manziel becomes an all-timer.

Mike26
Mike26

@Blinker @bobdevo @RafalPruszyn-ski  It wasn't "lucky", it was really good.  He was also really good the next year but his team lost.  Regardless, none of that matters for the most part to NFL scouts and management, so why argue?