Fantasy Football, NFL Draft

Tua debate reminiscent of 2014 NFL draft critique of ‘Johnny Football’

The multiple debates on who should draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and with which pick in the NFL draft have preoccupied the minds of the football faithful for months.  In some ways, it is reminiscent of the pre-draft debate about Johnny Manziel in 2014.

His nickname was “Johnny Football” and he was  the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.  Official reports issued to the media claimed he was just one-quarter inch short of 6-feet tall.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a college football media favorite.  He was the cover boy on the 2014 Sports Illustrated (SI) NFL Draft Preview issue.  SI’s Peter King solicited the opinions of five quarterback experts to critique Manziel before the 2014 NFL draft.  Who would draft Johnny Touchdown and with which pick?

It began to sound similar to the current debates  about Tua Tagovailoa and the 2020 NFL draft.  Then my wife presented me with a copy of the May 5, 2014 draft issue of SI.  She has been cleaning my old office as I transition into a new office in our house.   Though my wife can live without football, she did ask me the magic question when she handed me the issue: “Whatever happened to this guy?”

“Nothing,” I said.  “He fizzled out like a firecracker.”  SI declared in a pre-draft article: “There is no more polarizing player in this NFL draft – maybe in the last few drafts – than Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.  That much we know.”

It is interesting that SI invested so much ink on Manziel, when their experts didn’t expect him to be selected higher than No. 4 in the draft.  They did agree with the Houston Texans, who made South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney the first pick of the 2014 NFL draft.

Reporter Peter King’s panel of experts included former NFL  quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Doug Flutie, former Packer and Seahawk head coach Mike Holmgren, former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and the Manning brothers’ quarterback mentor David Cutcliffe.

Unlike the health and physical toughness questions being raise about Tagovailoa, the SI panel cited problems with Manziel’s accuracy, footwork and mechanics.  He did get positive reviews on his improvisational skills and situational awareness.

“His instinctive play is phenomenal,” said Flutie.  But Holmgren was concerned about Manziel’s inability to throw the ball before the receiver completed his route.  Gannon said:  “You see a lot of these throws where he’s late.  It affects his rhythm, his accuracy. He’s got to be earlier.”

So where is Johnny Manziel now?  He is not playing football.

Instead of picking him No. 4 in the 2014 draft, the Cleveland Browns used the 22nd  pick in the first round to select Manziel. He was given a 4-year, $8.3 million contract with approximately $7.8 million guaranteed and a $4.3 million signing bonus.

He was the second quarterback selected in the 2014 draft.  Jacksonville used the No. 3 pick of the draft to select Blake Bortles.  Bortles set several team records while playing for the Jaguars, but in 2019 he joined the Los Angeles Rams to back up Jared Goff.

In 2014, Manziel played in five games for Cleveland and started two. He was 0-2 as a starter.  In 2015, he played in 10 games and started six.  The Browns were 2-4 when Manziel was the starting quarterback.  Manziel had seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in his two-year career with the Cleveland Browns.

Off-field controversies led to Manziel’s release after the 2015 season and then he spent two years away from football.  In 2018, he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and then was traded to the Montreal Alouettes.  He played in eight games for Montreal and threw five touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

In early 2019, Manziel was released by the CFL for violating the terms of his contract.  He was cited for missing prescribed medical appointments.

Next: AFC West fantasy football depth charts and preview

He signed and played for the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league in 2019 until the AAF ceased operations in early April of last year.

Manziel currently sells sports-related clothing and accessories on his combackszn web site.

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