NFL Draft: Johnny Manziel

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TAMPA, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft. Click here for a full list of Buccaneers draftees.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesMike Evans can begin his career as Tampa Bay's
No. 2 receiver opposite Vincent Jackson.
Best move: There was a lot of smoke about the Buccaneers possibly drafting quarterback Johnny Manziel. But Tampa Bay’s top target all along was wide receiver Mike Evans. The Bucs got him with the seventh overall pick. Evans projects as an immediate starter opposite Vincent Jackson. At 6-foot-4, Evans has a frame similar to Jackson, and this duo is going to cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. Evans can begin his career as the No. 2 receiver, but Jackson already is in his 30s. It might not be long before Evans takes over as the No. 1 receiver. By resisting the urge to take Manziel, the Bucs made it very clear they view Josh McCown as their short-term starter and Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. Evans’ arrival makes both McCown and Glennon better.

Riskiest move: The Bucs began the draft without a clear-cut starter at right guard. They still don’t have one. They did take guard Kadeem Edwards out of Tennessee State and Purdue's Kevin Pamphile, who projects as a tackle, in the fifth round. But it’s a lot to expect a fifth-round pick to be an immediate starter. The Bucs might have to keep an eye on the free-agent market to get their starting right guard. There also are health concerns with left guard Carl Nicks, so Tampa Bay doesn't have a lot of depth at guard.

Most surprising move: The selection of running back Charles Sims in the third round. The team already had a deep stable of running backs with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. It wasn’t really necessary to add another back to the mix. But Sims isn’t a typical back. He was used extensively as a receiver out of the backfield in college, and it’s likely the Bucs want to take advantage of those skills. We don’t know what coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense will look like just yet. But, with the addition of Sims, it probably is fair to say the Bucs want to throw some passes to a running back.

File it away: You generally don’t expect a sixth-round pick to get playing time early, but Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron has a shot. The Bucs have an opening for a slot receiver, and Herron has speed to spare. He’ll get a chance to compete for the slot receiver spot. Herron also has return skills and could factor in on special teams.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One of the greatest college football players in history was right there for the New York Jets. All they had to do was write "Johnny Manziel" on a card, give it to the commissioner and -- boom -- the NFL draft would've been turned upside down.

Manziel
Johnny Football in the Big Apple.

He-e-e-e-e-re's Johnny!

Didn't happen, of course. The Jets passed on Manziel, selecting former Louisville safety Calvin Pryor with the 18th pick. In more ways than one, it was a safety choice.

Afterward, general manager John Idzik refused to say whether they considered Manziel.

"We won't get into who was in consideration," he said. "Suffice it to say, we stuck to our philosophy and we stuck to our board."

Idzik acknowledged that they "fielded plenty of calls" from teams picking below them, presumably teams interested in trading up for Manziel. One of them may have been the Cleveland Browns (26th), who wound up trading places with the Philadelphia Eagles (22nd) to take the former Texas A&M star.

It would've been an upset if the Jets had picked Manziel, considering how much they've talked up Geno Smith, not to mention the one-year contract they gave to Michael Vick. Now, if Smith fails to develop in 2014, the Jets will be back to square one at the quarterback position in 2015, providing fodder for those who thought they should've grabbed Manziel. Clearly, Idzik didn't want to toss Smith to the curb after one year, in part, because it would've been a self-indictment on his scouting and decision making.

It would've been fun, though.
Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That's a question that GM David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round May 8. Not that they're asking, but I'm here to offer help. Every day until the first round I'll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.

Today I make the case for quarterback Blake Bortles. Monday will be quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Remember all that stuff we talked about Thursday regarding Johnny Manziel?

The ability to make plays outside the pocket, to improvise, to extend plays? That all applies to Blake Bortles, too. But there's one additional thing that he has that Manziel doesn't.

Size.

There are no concerns about the former Central Florida standout's frame. He's 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds -- close to ideal size for an NFL quarterback.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bortles
AP Photo/Michael ConroyBlake Bortles' ability to tweak his mechanics so quickly bodes well for his mental maturity.
Bortles isn't as accomplished as Manziel on the collegiate level, but numerous scouts and analysts believe his best football is ahead of him and what happened during his pro day is their best evidence.

There were concerns about Bortles' mechanics and scouts, and analysts dissected his flaws on tape after the Knights' season ended. The biggest issues were his lower body and footwork. Bortles obviously worked on that pretty hard in the first few months of 2014 because he was much cleaner in his mechanics at his pro day.

His balance was better, the ball came out of his hand cleaner, his throwing motion was more economical, and as a result he threw the ball harder and more accurately.

That he was able to clean up those issues relatively quickly is a huge plus about his mental makeup. In addition, there's the report by the Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran on a Jacksonville radio show that Bortles took over the room during a meeting with Jaguars coaches and personnel.

Considering that GM David Caldwell recently said the No. 1 quality he wants in a quarterback is leadership, that's another argument for the Jaguars to take Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick.

There are additional concerns about Bortles because he played in a spread offense and threw a lot of one-read passes. He didn't have to sit in the pocket and go through three or more reads. A lot of the throws were short passes, too. Evaluating him means projecting that he'll be able to adjust to a pro-style offense and become more comfortable taking snaps under center.

But he's the most physically impressive of the big three quarterbacks and he does have the ability to escape and turn a broken play into a big one. There's also less of a worry about him getting hit than Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater. His size will allow him to take more punishment.

The Jaguars have said they don't want a rookie quarterback to play right away. They want him to sit and learn behind Chad Henne. That would benefit Bortles because he has the most upside of any of the top quarterbacks in the draft.

Taking Bortles may not help in 2014, but it would pay off in 2015 and beyond.

Beckham leads 2014 All-Satellite team 

April, 28, 2014
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Odell Beckham Jr.AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisOdell Beckham Jr. could do double duty in the NFL as a wide receiver and return specialist.
One of the projects I put together every year for the draft is the All-Satellite team -- the players who are the best in space. All eight of the guys listed below are exceptionally elusive with the ball in their hands and can be nightmares for opposing defenses to contain in the open field.

You can find my list from the end of the 2013 college football season here -- but below you'll find my eight-member All-Satellite team based on all the prospects I've evaluated for the 2014 NFL draft.

1. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Beckham has elite top-end speed, but that's only part of what makes him so good in space. He accelerates quickly, frequently makes the first defender miss after the catch and is a very instinctive open-field runner who knows when to cut back against the grain. He uses his fluid hips and quick feet to get defenders off-balance in space, using a variety of shoulder dips, inside-outs and other moves. He has the potential to develop into a dangerous return specialist in the NFL.

Analyzing McShay mock: Vikings 

April, 24, 2014
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In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay made his picks as though he were the general manager for every team in the league. In other words, he's picking the player he thinks the team should take, not necessarily whom they will take.

That's an important distinction to make, because in this particular case, it illustrates how badly the Vikings need to address their quarterback position for the future.


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As I've mentioned many times during the past few months, there isn't a ton of separation among the top three quarterback prospects in the 2014 draft. I have UCF's Blake Bortles ranked No. 9 overall on my board with a grade of 93, with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater at No. 15 (91 grade) and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel at No. 16 (91 grade). But there isn't a consensus regarding these quarterbacks among teams, and evaluators could place varying levels of importance on different deciding factors.

With that in mind, we are taking a look at how the three QBs fared in key categories with the help of ESPN Stats & Information's Sharon Katz, explaining the cases in which the stats do or don't back up what I've seen on tape from these three passers.

Downfield passing

Katz: Bortles had the shortest average pass distance (7.8 yards past the line) of these three last season. However, when he attempted a pass downfield, Bortles was extremely accurate. Among automatic qualifier conference quarterbacks, only Tajh Boyd (54.7 percent) had a higher completion percentage than Bortles on passes thrown 20 yards or longer downfield (minimum 30 attempts). It is important to note that even though he ranks third of three in this category, Bridgewater was among the nation's top quarterbacks on intermediate passes. On passes between 6 and 14 yards downfield, Bridgewater had the highest completion percentage of any AQ quarterback (75.5 percent) and did not throw an interception in 151 attempts. About half of his passes of this distance were to the left or right sidelines (often regarded as more difficult intermediate passes), and he completed an AQ-high 74.3 percent of those sideline passes.

McShay: These results are dead-on compared to what I see on tape from all three of these guys.

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Examining the what-if QB question

April, 14, 2014
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Only one team in the last 40 years has drafted a quarterback in the first round the year after picking one within the first two rounds -- the Carolina Panthers, who chose Cam Newton in 2011 to replace Jimmy Clausen, a second-rounder.

Could the New York Jets become the second team?

Unlikely, but it's a good talking point because of the uncertainty regarding the top three quarterbacks -- Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated's Peter King notes that four quarterback-needy teams in the top six are thinking hard about waiting until after their first pick to address the position. The teams: The Houston Texans (No. 1), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3), Cleveland Browns (No. 4) and Oakland Raiders (No. 5). The Minnesota Vikings (No. 8) didn't make the list, but they're also looking for a quarterback.

If one of the top three quarterbacks gets past the Vikings, it's possible he could fall all the way to the Jets at No. 18. What, then? It certainly would add to the drama at Radio City. Would the Jets, only one year removed from choosing Geno Smith in the second round, take another quarterback?

First of all, this isn't a Carolina situation for two reasons: Unlike Clausen, Smith showed some promise as a rookie. In addition, the Panthers owned the No. 1 pick when they drafted Newton, who was deemed a legitimate franchise quarterback. Most talent evaluators agree there are no quarterbacks of that ilk in this year's draft, just a group of intriguing prospects that fall into the good-not-great category.

Some believe the most likely to fall is Bridgewater, once considered a top-five pick. (Sound familiar, Geno?) If he slips to the Jets, they'd have to ask themselves: Is he better than Smith and could he be our starting quarterback in 2015? Personally, I'd pull the trigger if it were Manziel.

The organization is hopeful that Smith can become their long-term starter, but it's not sold on him. If that were the case, Michael Vick wouldn't be here. If the Jets have a strong conviction on Bridgewater (or any others), and he's clearly the best player on their board, they should take him. This is a quarterback-driven league, and you can't have sustainable success (where have we heard that before?) without a good quarterback.

That said, it would an upset if the Jets go in that direction. They have too many other needs and they're not ready to abandon Smith after only one season. If they picked a quarterback, the Smith trade rumors would begin about 30 seconds after the selection. Could you imagine Rex Ryan's reaction if his general manager picks a player that probably wouldn't be able to help until 2015? He'd have to pull a Sir Laurence Olivier to convince the fans he's on board with that one.

A similar situation played out in 2006, when the Jets were looking to move on from Chad Pennington. With the fourth pick, they resisted the quarterback temptation, passing on Matt Leinart to take tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. They later looked into trading up for Leinart as he began to slide, but they wisely made no deal, walking out of the first round with Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.

In the end, this could all be a moot point because you know how teams react around draft time: When they're desperate for a quarterback, they panic and reach. If it turns out that Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel are picked in the top 17, it would benefit the Jets, as it would push a "need" player or two down to them.

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Jaguars 

April, 10, 2014
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft after finishing 4-12 in 2013. With a roster in need of a significant upgrade, the Jaguars can take a best-available-player approach and still fill an area of need.

Todd McShay's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft Insider is out on ESPN Insider on Thursday and his choice means the Jaguars will fill one of their biggest needs.


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Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Vikings 

April, 10, 2014
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ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay's latest mock draft spans two rounds, and like Mel Kiper Jr. did last week in his Grade A mock draft, McShay has the Vikings addressing perhaps their biggest need on each side of the ball with their first two picks.

The Vikings will have a number of different directions they could pursue at quarterback and cornerback with the eighth and 40th overall picks, and it's conceivable they could draft a quarterback and cornerback in either order in the first two rounds. If the draft falls the way McShay predicts it will, however, the Vikings will have an interesting choice on their hands at N0. 8.


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Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Texans 

April, 10, 2014
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With the first overall pick in this year's NFL draft, the Texans could take a quarterback. Whether they will, and which quarterback that would be if one is selected, is yet unknown.

ESPN's Todd McShay took a shot at projecting which player the Texans will take with his latest mock draft Insider -- and the player he chose is a spark plug.


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Texans' options with the No. 1 pick 

April, 2, 2014
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St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead and his Jacksonville Jaguars counterpart, David Caldwell, made small talk in a hotel lobby as the NFL owners meetings got going in Orlando last week. Their teams hold the second and third picks in the 2014 NFL draft, respectively, but without knowing the Houston Texans' plans for the No. 1 overall choice, there was nothing concrete for them to discuss.

Will the Texans select a quarterback such as Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel? Or, will the sheer talent that Jadeveon Clowney possesses compel them to select the South Carolina defensive end despite concerns about scheme fit? What about Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack? ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. listed Mack atop his latest mock draft after going with Manziel in each of his previous two. Colleague Todd McShay has sent Clowney and Bortles to Houston in his past two mocks after penciling in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater way back in December.

The uncertainty at the top of this draft runs counter to recent years when quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (2009), Sam Bradford (2010), Cam Newton (2011) and Andrew Luck (2012) became near-consensus top choices. There wasn't much consensus atop the 2013 draft, but that stemmed mostly from a perceived lack of elite prospects, which certainly isn't the case this year.

With these dynamics in mind, I used the league meetings in Orlando to poll coaches and executives for their thoughts on how the Texans might be most likely to proceed. Clowney was their overwhelming choice despite some notable dissenting opinions. What are league insiders thinking? Let's run through each of the leading possibilities.

1. Clowney is viewed as the likeliest choice

Ten of the 15 people I polled at the meetings thought the Texans would select Clowney first overall even though Houston badly needs a quarterback.

"You've gotta take Clowney, because he's the most talented guy and none of the quarterbacks are good enough to go that early," an offensive-minded head coach said. "This is the 2011 draft revisited."

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Before Thursday I had never seen a quarterback’s pro-day workout performed in full pads and a helmet, and I hadn’t seen one attended by a former president and first lady of the United States, either. But setting the arrival of President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush aside for a moment, what really stood out about Johnny Manziel’s pro day was how well he performed. This was a “wow” workout, as he emptied the bag and showed everything he could do and the progress that he was making on the areas of his game in which he needs to improve.

However, even though he deserves an A for Thursday’s workout, there are still several key questions about his game and whether he can succeed long-term at the NFL level. Let’s take a look at what he did well on Thursday, what concerns still remain and which teams appear to be the likeliest landing spots for him in the 2014 NFL draft.

What he did well

What I was able to confirm by watching Manziel on Thursday is that of the three QBs I have stamped with first-round grades -- UCF’s Blake Bortles, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Manziel -- Manziel has the strongest arm and the quickest release. I also thought he looked the most naturally accurate throwing the ball down the field in the workout setting.

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Gruden impressed with Manziel

March, 27, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Johnny Manziel aced his pro day workout on Thursday. He completed 64 of 66 passes, showed the ability to make a variety of throws, and was under control when throwing on the run.

Most of those watching -- including ESPN's Ron Jaworski, who has said he wouldn't take Manziel in the first three rounds -- came away impressed.

But we all know that being an NFL quarterback is more than just having the physical ability. The mental part of the game is just as important, and Manziel apparently nailed that, too.

Jon Gruden ran Manziel through his quarterback camp and had a lot of praise as well as some criticisms. Insider He said Manziel reminds him of Steve Young and can energize whichever franchise drafts him in May, whether it's Houston at No. 1 or Jacksonville at No. 3 or any of the other teams that need quarterbacks. Gruden also said Manziel has to learn to be satisfied with a checkdown instead of trying to make a big play on every snap.

Johnny Manziel's pro day a hit on Twitter

March, 27, 2014
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From Michael Vick to LeBron James to former president George H. W. Bush, it seems like everyone had something to say about potential No. 1 overall pick Johnny Manziel's pro day workout.

The Texas A&M signal-caller and former Heisman Trophy winner garnered a major crowd at the event and the attention was even more robust across social media. Here's a sampling of what the Twitterverse had to say about Johnny Football's pro day.
 

Manziel's risk-reward scouting report 

March, 26, 2014
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I don’t know that I’ve ever spent more time on a scouting report than I did with Johnny Manziel’s this offseason. (His, Cam Newton’s and Tim Tebow’s are among the longest I’ve ever written.) I wound up watching 10 of his game tapes from this season (Sam Houston State, SMU and UTEP games were the only omissions), in addition to six from 2012, and spent way more time than normal looking at his NFL comparisons, studying his background by talking to scouts, coaches and players, and rewriting and condensing the report.

It is difficult to explain Manziel’s unique strengths and weaknesses. He is the face of this year’s draft class for a reason, and not just because of the fascination many have had with his life off the field. It’s unusual for there to be such a wide range of opinions about one player. When I talk to people in the league, some love him and some wouldn’t even think about drafting him in the first round.

Ahead of his pro day on March 27, I decided to break out the scouting report (which you can find in its entirety in our Draft Tracker) and go section by section on how he grades out in the traits I evaluate for every QB prospect, along with my conclusion at the end.

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