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Browns Potential NFL Draft Target - Johnny Manziel

DBN's Mike Krupka breaks down one of the most polarizing and dynamic QB prospects in this years' NFL Draft - Johnny Manziel. Mike aims to provide insight from the data he's collected in hopes to better depict who JFF really was at Texas A&M and perhaps how he can translate his game to the next level.

It's that time of year again for Browns' fans - it's our "Super Bowl". The NFL Draft season is underway and if you're anything like me you already miss football on Sundays. With the NFL Combine approaching next week, the narrative and debate about many players is building.

One of the most highly debated players in this years NFL Draft is Texas A&M Quarterback, Johnny Manziel. Those in the draft community are enamored with his combination of skills but also wary of his size and some of the traits with which he plays. Many fans and draftniks want to throw out casual observations and assign them value and significance in regards to Johnny Manziel. But I will provide my grade for Manziel while also providing important data and context into Maniel's 2013 season that I believe will help set the record straight.

Build / Vitals

Johnny Manziel is not your prototypical sized NFL QB.  Questions surround just how tall he is and at next weeks' NFL Combine we will get our official answer. In my estimation, Manziel could measure anywhere between 5'11" - 6'1"  and could weigh anywhere between 200lb - 215lbs.  Manziel's frame does have with room for growth, and provided his coaches don't call as many designed runs as they did last season, he should be able to protect himself against unnecessary hits from NFL defenses. When he does tuck the ball and run, Manziel doesn't look like a QB. His vision and ability to accelerate / change direction can make players miss and he is extremely sudden with his movement and cuts such that he often reminds me of a running back. That can be both good and bad at next level but that depends on decision making.

Manziel has large hands which certainly helps any QB handle the ball, especially in inclement weather. Johnny is a fluid athlete with quick feet, great coordination, excellent vision, great timing and placement on his routes at all levels, with good accuracy and great poise in the pocket under pressure. Manziel is able to throw from multiple arm angles and platforms if needed, and his mechanics have improved tremendously over the last year.  One of the most impressive parts of his game is his ability to throw the ball along the sideline (boundary to numbers) - often where only his WR can make the catch. He has a great follow through and quick release.

One mechanical note - Manziel appears to have an awkward finish at times when he isn't able to set his feet. He almost seems to lean back and away from the throw, this can hinder him from  getting weight across to  his front foot and finishing throw from his back foot. That said, he' has enough arm strength to stilldrive the ball on target. When he doesn't, it can lead to him missing his target, often high or long. While the 50/50 ball is a tremendous weapon, he likes to float the ball up into coverage on occasion - a trait that he can't afford to initially rely on / carry over.

It's important to remember that Johnny is a redshirt sophomore, so his development isn't quite finished in comparison to other QB's who elect to go back to college for another year or two. The developments in his game will be made at the next level with NFL coaches and NFL players surrounding him. I think that's a plus for a guy who has the skill set Johnny possess and already exudes confidence and play making ability.


It's hard to forget the memorable and record setting season Johnny Manziel had as a freshman that helped hi become the first Freshman in NCAA history to earn the Heisman Trophy.  And as a red shirt Sophomore this season, he once again put up great production.

You will see my interpretation of these numbers below based on the 10 games available from the 2013 season at


In numerous games this season, "Johnny Football" helped to rally his team in the second half, often in the 4th quarter, to come back at win the game. This is something special considering the level of talent he was playing against. The SEC is arguably the best conference in all of NCAA football.  While I don't' like the phrase, "he's a leader" or "he's a winner", the fact remains that he has had to put his team on his shoulders in numerous occasions, on the biggest stages in NCAA football, and he was able to carry them to victory and elevate the level of both himself and his teammates when it really mattered. To me, that is an impressive trait that can't be discounted. You want a "win at all costs" / strong willed QB leading your team. Whether it's a quiet leader like Peyton Manning, or a loud one like Manziel, just having it can change a teams' confidence.

Projection and Fit with Browns

I project Johnny Manziel to be gone very early in this draft. If he's on the board at 4 and Teddy Bridgewater is also gone, I think it's a no brainer for Ray Farmer and the Browns to make him the face of the Browns. If Kyle Shanahan's past use of his quarterbacks is an indicator, Manziel would fit right into the scheme we've seen him use in the past.  Manziel's "dual threat" ability also causes nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators who will have to plan and account for an extra an at all times.

For all the negative narrative and connotations that were created on account of his off the field incidents this past off-season, he has the skill set to become a game changing NFL QB. I feel he will mature under the wings of NFL coaches and teammates and that they will help him transition and make smart decisions. It's imperative that he does  because his ability to lead will be one of the biggest questions he will face and have to answer at the combine. Can he lead a locker room of grown men through challenges and through victory? Can he put the team on his back and win? If his college results are any indication, then my answer is ‘yes' and if you're a Browns fan and the team take Manziel, we would be lucky to finally have a QB with this trait. That being said, scouts and coaches will need to come to their own conclusions during interviews at next weeks NFL Combine. They'll put his personality, decision making, reaction to stress + pressure, past behaviors, and emotional intelligence under the radar.  They'll gather and discuss input and feedback from coaches, friends, family members and fellow players.

Johnny is not the prototypical QB. He's not 6'3" or taller and doesn't have a howitzer for an arm. But, he does have an uncanny pocket presence and the prototypical ability to sense pressure, escape and extend the play. While his size may worry some out there, I think a decent comparison in this regard is Drew Brees. While Brees has a stronger arm and while they may be entirely different QB's, Manziel and Brees both possess a similar frame and size. I think Manziel can thrive in the NFL if he protects his body and plays smart. He'll need a team and an offensive coordinator that can develop the playbook around his strengths and keep him as safe as possible from unnecessary contact.

As mentioned earlier, Manziel does a superb job of "dropping the ball in the bucket" along the sidelines - in stride with his receivers, often over their shoulder. He also does an excellent job locating 50/50 balls both in the red zone as well as along the boundary.  Part of what helps him acheive this is timing. Manziel does well to read the defense; anticipate the throw; and locate the ball. With the Browns sporting both Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon; and a potential rebuild of the offensive line, having an athletic and mobile quarterback is a good idea, and Manziel could be a defining and very dynamic pick for the Browns at 4. While I usually wouldn't advocate this, the Browns need a QB and given our assets, I am in the camp that would be just fine if we moved up to grab our QB before somebody else does.

Draft Grade

I rank my QB's on 18 different skills, and then assign weights to each skill based on how important I feel the skill is to the success of a QB. I then take the grade I have given for each skill, multiple it by the weighted percent, to give me the score for each skill. I then add up the weighted scores and divide by 9 ( the scale I use for grading ). That final score should give you're the draft grade that you place on a player and what type of expectations you have for them as a player.

In evaluating Manziel, here was my breakdown below. I see Johnny Manziel as a First Round grade and I feel that he can become a special player at the next level. I feel that his poise and confidence in the pocket, coupled with his mobility and athleticism, will allow him to quickly adjust to taking snaps under center, reading defenses, and moving in the pocket to avoid pressure and create throwing lanes.Manziel's biggest concern is if he will be able to stay in the pocket and make good decisions. On occasion Manziel appears to toss the ball up in hope that his WR will bail him out and it turned out that they most the time. But in the NFL, some of those throws are going to be INT's and if he abandons the pocket too early and too consistently, the fear is if his body can hold up and take the beating that NFL defenses will undoubtedly put on him. All that being said, Johnny Manziel has plenty of arm strength , zip, accuracy, timing, placement, and vision to excel at the next level. His mechanics are improving and I would imagine will only get better with NFL coaching.

A big thanks to Kyle Crabbs of NDTscouting for helping me evolve my draft grading process and understanding. I hope to continue to elaborate and adjust my technique as required.

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Manziel is a very creative QB and has an excellent ability to feel pressure and escape the pocket when needed, he can make accurate throws while on the run. Manziel has excellent vision both in the pocket and while on the move. Manziel's arm isn't a rocket, but he is effective and can place the ball in all the levels. He shows the ability to adjust his arm angles and deliver the ball from various platforms. The biggest concerns I have for him are his size and his aggressive running style. While you'll see below that nearly 49% of his running plays last season were designed runs, he will need to be more aware of protecting his body at the next level. Decision making and accuracy are some concerns that I also have, especially on some intermediate routes and particularly routes along the right sideline between 8 and 34 yards.

Passing Charts

Much of the narrative surrounding Johnny Manziel states that he just abandons the pocket and runs all the time; he has a weak arm; and he's not able to make the NFL throws. You also hear that he can't roll one way or another, or that if you take one side of the field away, he's not that great of a QB. Some of that is proven true in my data that I collected from the 10 games available at I don't claim that this data is 101% accurate, I'm sure there are a few inaccuracies, but I can tell you that I calculated all this data by hand, and checked and re-checked my numbers. That being said, here's some of the summary

Complete 2013 Charting Analysis

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Above you can see my summary of Johnny Manziel's 2013 season per the film available at and while this data isn't complete, it does represent approximately 77% of the season's games and consists of mostly high caliber teams. Among the teams left out of the evaluation at the moment are - SMU, UTEP and Sam Houston State. 

I will summarize what we see from this data in the following paragraphs. You can see that the narrative that Johnny Manziel abandons the pocket and ‘just runs around' are false. I define abandoning the pocket as a QB that leaves the pocket while there is no pressure OR before 3 seconds have past. In the 154 instances where JFF scrambled out of the pocket from these 10 games charted, he abandoned the pocket just 21% of the time; meanwhile the play was a designed run 30% of the time; and the pocket collapsed or the blitz caused him to scramble nearly half the times he ran, or 49%.  Of these 154 plays where he scrambled, he made 65 clutch plays, meaning he ran or passed for a first down or touchdown - so 42% of the time he left the pocket, he made a clutch play, of which 35% where first downs and 7% were touchdowns.

When throwing to the sideline, something that Manziel likes to do and does well, he completed 63 of 98 passes - or 64% of his passes- in this area of the field. For the purposes of this data, a sideline throw is a throw between the boundary and the numbers. Of those 63 completions, 41 were clutch plays - 33 first downs, 8 TD and 4 interceptions.

When Johnny "rolled out" of the pocket, whether he was forced due to pressure or abandoned the pocket to extend the play, he was much more successful and effective rolling to his left vs. rolling to his right. When rolling to his right, Manziel was only 14 for 29, for 48% completion - of which he racked up 13 clutch plays, 10 first downs and 3 TDs. When rolling to his left, Manziel thrived statistically where he was 26 for 32, for 81% completion - of which he racked up 19 clutch plays, 13 first downs, 6 TDs and 1 interception. Statistically, you can also see that Manziel completed more passes to the left side of the field vs. the right side of the field.

The one concern from the charting above is that Manziel's deep and intermediate completion percentages leave a little to be desired. While his deep passes to the left and right of 35 or more yards were completed at 50%, his passes between 16 and 34 yards were often incomplete. His average completion percentage in this area of the field was only 54%.

Conversely, and as you might expect, his completion percentage from the LOS through the 15 yard line was very strong with the only exception being the right side of the field in the 8 - 15 yard range where he only posted a 39% completion rate. However, if you include all the areas of the field from the LOS to the 15 yard line, Manziel's total completion percentage was 78%.

You can conclude similar analytics and trends from the data I charted below for each of the 10 games available.

Johnny Manziel vs. LSU

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Manziel vs LSU - Red Zone INT. Poor read and decision to throw here; missed WR cutting inside in single coverage on left for TD

Manziel vs LSU - back shoulder throw on sidelines following scramble. Good arm, step through, finish (2 of 2)

Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama

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Manziel vs Alabama - in stride, bucket pass along sideline, over CB; appears to throw off back foot.

Manziel vs Alabama - extends play; rolls back to his right and heaves a floater into triple coverage. Never works at next level. Needs to just throw away.

Manziel vs Alabama - again, not the scene you want in the middle of an NFL Secondary. Clutch play all around.

Manziel vs Alabama - (Part 1 of 2) Great placement but a dangerous throw. Safeties have Dix's range+ at next level.

Manziel vs Alabama - (Part 2 of 2) great, in stride pass but in danger. Ultimately it's a penalty, but could be an INT in NFL.

Manziel vs Alabama - pocket collapses; rolls left and throws a perfect dime along left sideline. Squares shoulders, finishes across body.

Johnny Manziel vs. Arkansas

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Johnny Manziel vs. Vanderbilt

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Manziel vs Vanderbilt - you can almost count along as JFF goes through his progressions, adjusting his feet in rhythm, finding his WR for TD

Johnny Manziel vs. Mizzou

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Johnny Manziel vs. Duke

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Johnny Manziel vs Ole Miss

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Johnny Manziel vs. Rice

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Johnny Manziel vs. Auburn

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Johnny Manziel vs. Mississippi State

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