Johnny Manziel's Pro Day won't change opinions formed by watching games

Posted Mar 27, 2014

With all of the top quarterback prospects in the draft having had their pro days, senior editor Vic Carucci offers his Cleveland Browns-related quarterback thoughts.

Now that all of the so-called top-tier quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft have had their respective pro days, it’s time to assess where they figure into the conversation for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the league, for that matter.

Here are some Browns-related quarterback thoughts:

>I believe the Browns see quarterback as a huge priority, and will select one early in the draft. I don’t know if early means the fourth overall pick or the 26th overall choice or something in between or something deeper in the first round or something in the second or third rounds. But they will pick a quarterback, and it won’t be done with a mid- or late-round “flier-type” choice. When the Browns cut Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell on the same day, they made a loud statement about what they intend to do at the quarterback position. And the statement was not, “We’re all set with Brian Hoyer as our starter.” Hoyer is very much in the mix, but having avoided acquiring a quarterback in free agency or via trade (and with no truly accomplished quarterbacks available in those avenues), the Browns have clearly established that they intend to find their long-term solution at the position in the draft. Period!

>By most accounts, Johnny Manziel had a solid pro day. He demonstrated that he could make all of the throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make. And that is the minimum that is expected from the antiseptic environment of an indoor pro-day quarterback workout. There is no inclement weather. There is no pass rush. There is no third-and-long conversion to make with the game on the line. The receivers and surroundings are familiar, so chances are the results will reflect as much.

>Manziel’s workout wasn’t going to tell NFL player-personnel evaluators how he will or won’t be able to overcome his relative lack of size. It won’t tell them how his game, which is primarily based on run-around-and-throw or run-around-and-keep-running improvisation, will translate to the NFL, where all of that running is likely to pose a problem because defenders are far more likely to catch him than they were at the collegiate level. It won’t tell them if he is going to rely on frequently heaving passes up for grabs, as was the case the past two seasons at Texas A&M, where he had a talented and towering receiver such as Mike Evans to bring them down. If the videotape of what Manziel did for the Aggies didn’t convince an NFL club that he is their answer at quarterback, his pro-day workout won’t change that. If the tape made a strong case for him, the pro-day workout – good, bad or somewhere in between – wouldn’t have impacted that, either.

I don’t see Manziel as a top-five choice, which means I wouldn’t select him in the fourth overall spot. That is my own opinion and no reflection at all on what general manager Ray Farmer or coach Mike Pettine are thinking, collectively or individually. I am guessing about their draft intentions as much as anyone else. But if it were my call, I would not invest a choice that high in someone who I think presents far too much risk because of his reckless style of play and limitations that come from being a smaller quarterback. I also am not sure what kind of a teammate he is, whether he has the capacity to get everyone to follow him. Because in order to be a great leader, you first need to be a great teammate, and for his entire collegiate career, Manziel, I think, has been pretty much been an entity unto himself.

>I read nothing into the fact that neither Farmer nor Pettine attended Manziel’s pro day, just as I read nothing into their absence from other pro days. They will get the information they need from watching tape and from the pre-draft visits that the quarterbacks (and other players) make to the Browns’ facility. The bulk of the information used in the draft comes from the grades that scouting staffs establish through watching countless hours of videotape. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it has always been.

>I think Blake Bortles is the best of this year’s quarterback class. He has everything you could want from the position: size, strength, pocket presence, confidence, leadership. He throws the ball well, and will continue to improve on his mechanics and accuracy with coaching. Bortles did a smart thing by throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, because it gave him a clear leg up on the other so-called top quarterback prospects. He continued to enhance his status with a strong pro day, and might very well have made a strong enough case to become Houston’s choice with the top overall pick of the draft. If that’s true, the only part of that that disappoints me is he wouldn’t be available for the Browns.

>The notion that the Browns can always wait until next year to draft the quarterback they like is foolish. Having a high enough choice to draft that guy likely means another poor finish, and the men running this team aren’t interested in going down that road. What they know is that they have this offseason to get as much fixed as they possibly can. They have no idea if they will get a second crack at that.

I don’t see Teddy Bridgewater as an elite quarterback, but I felt that way before his less-than-sterling pro day. He doesn’t have a large enough frame to succeed as a pocket passer in the NFL as he did at Louisville. He also showed, during his pro day, that he has some developing to do when it comes to making the kinds of throws he needs to make in the NFL. I am inclined to think he had a certain comfort level with the type of passing he did on the way to showing exceptional accuracy in college, and was pushed out of that to some degree during his pro day. The discussion about Bridgewater making mistake by not wearing his customary glove on his throwing hand during his pro day sounded too much like a convenient excuse. Either you throw the ball well or you don’t.

>Derek Carr needs to be watched closely. He could very well be the best quarterback of the entire bunch, and few, if any media draft analysts, have him as a top-five selection. Some have come around to that thinking since his highly impressive pro day, but not many. I think he has superb talent on top of being a smart, mature individual who has a good deal of the intangibles you want to see in an NFL quarterback.

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