Manziel elicits wide-ranging, strong opinions

From "top-five pick" to not being worth the hassle in the first round, scouts and analysts have a wide range of convictions on QB Johnny Manziel. See what two scouts and a former Viking who has seen all of Manziel's games had to say about the QB possibility for the Vikings.

It appears NFL scouts are having about as hard of a time putting their arms around Johnny Manziel as defensive linemen were during Manziel's electrifying college career.

Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has created some wildly divergent opinions among evaluators trying to determine his worth in the NFL and his value in May's draft.

One of college's most exciting playmakers in over the last two seasons, Manziel's measurables (6 feet, 210 pounds) are cause for concern, as are his sometimes questionable decisions off the field. But, somehow, he kept making plays for Texas A&M, putting his value truly in the eye of the evaluator.

"A few (scouts) have told me they feel he is the best quarterback in the draft, which is high praise indeed. But on the other hand, others have actually said they would not draft him," former NFL scout Russ Lande wrote in his evaluation of Manziel for "Needless to say, opinions split that drastically on a player are rare."

But Lande is right. Opinions vary wildly on Manziel.

Dave-Te' Thomas, whose scouting work is commissioned by the NFL and disseminated to NFL teams, pulls no punches with his evaluation of the controversial quarterback.

"Go back and look at another one of the ESPN starlings of many years ago, Tommy Maddox out of UCLA. I see Manziel probably the same route. This is not Russell Wilson. This is a kid that is a me-first type," Thomas told "He's not going to sell himself well in the locker room. What does that do? My best feeling is put him on a team with Richie Incognito as his offensive guard. Let him piss off some of the veterans and see the revolving door that opens up in front of him. I do not see Johnny Manziel making any impact in the National Football League whatsoever."

For the quarterback-hungry Vikings, who have the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, Manziel has to, at the very least, be a consideration – if he is even available eight picks into the first round of the draft on May 8.

Hunter Goodwin, the former Vikings tight end who lives in College Station and discusses his alma mater, Texas A&M, frequently on the radio, believes Manziel can be a star in the league.

"If you don't take him, you're going to be like the 10 or 12 guys who didn't take Randy Moss," Goodwin, who played with Moss in 1998 and 2022-03, told Viking Update for an upcoming magazine article. "You better get ready to be lit up by him. He's special."

He certainly was at Texas A&M.

There he accumulated 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns passing, and 2,169 yards and 30 more touchdowns rushing in his two seasons as a starter for the Aggies. Goodwin saw all 26 of Manziel's games and studied him on film, too.

Lande, who has been a scout for the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams, has also studied Manziel extensively.

"After evaluating film, I was shocked by how good Manziel is as a passer, but that's often not what people associate with him when his name comes up," Lande wrote. "Despite the media reports, nearly everything I have been able to dig up on Manziel's character has been positive. (Having worked for two NFL teams, I completely understand that scouts lie to media all the time to deceive and hide intentions, but I have tremendous confidence in my sources on this subject.) No one I spoke to will deny that Manziel can act like a spoiled kid who is still maturing as a young man, but none expressed great concern about his true character, with the consensus being that football is very important to Manziel and that he consistently does more than is asked to make sure he is successful."

Lande is confident Manziel will be a top-five pick in the draft. While Thomas wasn't projecting where he thought Manziel would go, he said the only quarterback he thought was worthy of a first-round pick is Central Florida's Blake Bortles. He sees too much inconsistency with Teddy Bridgewater and too much of David Carr in Derek Carr.

Lande wrote that Manziel has a "plus arm," a quick release, is "outstanding" at connecting on passes downfield whether he's on the move or not, and "remarkable" with his timing on back-shoulder passes. The lack of big mistakes also stands out, according to Lande.

Despite passing and running for a combined 93 touchdowns over the last two years, Manziel threw only 22 interceptions.

Still, there are on-field areas he needs to improve, according to Lande.

"High on that list is Manziel's tendency to over-stride when trying to put extra zip on the ball, which leads to passes sailing on him. When he goes through progressions in the pocket and tries to make short (5- to 15-yard) throws quickly, his accuracy is inconsistent and too often his passes dip in front of the receiver," Lande wrote. "One issue that I found very concerning on film and addressed with NFL people is Manziel's tendency to vacate the pocket out the back, which rarely works in the NFL and can lead to major errors. He will need to become much more consistent stepping up in the pocket to avoid deep pressure if he hopes to become a successful NFL passer."

As for the crazy throws that Manziel is able to make while either jumping around in the pocket or escaping it, Lande has been told Manziel practices those.

The measurables won't change much, but some of the off-the-field behavior might have to improve. Before he ever played a game for the Aggies, Manziel was arrested for disorderly conduct, failure to identify, and possession of a fictitious driver's license following a fight in College Station, Texas. He pled guilty to failure to identify for presenting a fake I.D. and had the other two charges dropped.

He has also been in the news for leaving the Manning Passing Academy early last offseason after allegedly oversleeping, getting kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party and tweeting that he "can't wait to leave College Station" after he received a parking ticket.

Despite all those issues, Goodwin believes Manziel would be a great choice for the Vikings if available when they pick.

"You want an absolute shot of adrenalin in the arm of the franchise? You want to raise interest in the Minnesota Vikings brand? That kid is game-changing," Goodwin said. "He's electrifying, a competitor, and there is nobody who is more fun to watch."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

Viking Update Top Stories