Evaluating the Bucs’ Pre-Draft Visits: QB Johnny Manziel

With less than a month until the NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have brought in four quarterbacks (that we know of), including former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. In this multi-part series, I examine each of the quarterbacks and how they may fit into Jeff Tedford’s offense.

By all accounts, Manziel’s pro day was a slam dunk. Unlike Teddy Bridgewater, who appeared shaky and missed a couple crucial throws, Manziel wowed under the bright lights, just like he did in college. Who can forget the way he carved up Alabama’s top-rated defense twice, including a 29-24 upset en route to winning the Heisman Trophy?

In Manziel’s first meeting with the Crimson Tide in 2012, he threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 92 additional yards. That next year, Bama won 49-42, but Manziel threw a career-best 464 passing yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 98 yards on the ground.

In the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma in 2012, he accounted for 516 yards total offense and four touchdowns — 2 passing and 2 rushing — absolutely destroying Bob Stoops’ Sooners 41-13. He capped off his college career with a five-touchdown performance against Duke in a come-from-behind win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Of course there are dozens and dozens of highlights of Manziel’s illustrious college career that stats won’t do any justice. He was human pinball machine, bouncing off defenders. He was a one-man circus, moving out of a quickly-collapsing pocket, and buying his receivers time before making big throws downfield. Few players in the history of the game have possessed Manziel’s fire, his elusiveness and his knack for keeping plays alive.

Of course there are concerns about Manziel, including the partying that has been well-documented on social media, although his Twitter account has been on hiatus for months while he prepares for the draft.  There was also the autograph broker fiasco that forced him to miss half a game last year, but did little to impact his season overall.

Then there are all of the celebrity friends in his entourage, including former presidents and rappers, and the courtside seats to NBA games and throwing out the first pitch at MLB games — this guy has already has had his taste of stardom, so will the NFL matter much? By all accounts, yes. And if you sit down and talk to Manziel, you can sense the desire and the competitiveness and the fact that it would be devastating if his home-state Houston Texans didn’t believe in him enough to take him with the first overall pick.

Another concern with him is how he’d fare if a defense shut down his running lanes and forced him to be a pocket passer — could he win games with his arm alone? Could he be effective in that style of offense, especially when so much of what he does is unscripted? He’d need to be paired with the right offensive coordinator that would allow him to have this type of flexibility. And lastly, how will his smaller frame hold up if he maintains this style of play at the next level?

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