Just when it seemed Johnny Manziel had built himself into a more attractive draft prospect by saying the right things to the media and having a strong pro-day performance, he seemingly brought up the same nagging questions about his focus that have dogged him thanks to the revelation of his efforts to trademark the phrase, "The House That Johnny Built." How about taking one NFL snap before addressing the potential financial benefit of the mark you plan on leaving in the league? Such house-building conversations don't tend to occur until well into a player's career, as was the case with Peyton Manning and Lucas Oil Stadium. And, for the record, the Colts did end up parting ways with the "builder" of their house after neck problems caused him to miss the 2011 season. Manning has done just fine with the Denver Broncos, of course, but it still serves as a reminder of the unforgiving nature of this football business.
There has been far more talk about the pro days of NFL college prospects this week than at any time I can recall in 35 years of covering the league. Most of the spark for the conversation has been the notable absence of the Browns' top football decision-makers, general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine, from pro-day workouts involving some of the more high-profile prospects such as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. I think, at best, it makes for decent radio-talk fodder. Nothing a player does during postseason workouts, whether at a pro day or the NFL Scouting Combine, comes remotely close to mattering as much as what shows up on videotape of his games.
I think Fresno State's Derek Carr should be regarded as the second-best quarterback prospect in the draft after Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Carr's strong passing arm shows up clearly in all of the video review I've done of his games. He has some rough spots, but that's true with every rookie quarterback. And I think the ones he has can be fixed through coaching and experience. Carr also helped himself with a strong pro day, and I'm hearing he's making a favorable impression on NFL teams that are visiting with him privately. That would include the Cleveland Browns, who met with and worked out Carr at Fresno State last Monday.
DeSean Jackson will be highly motivated to have a monster season with the Washington Redskins, whom he joined earlier this week after being dumped by the Philadelphia Eagles. The wide receiver undoubtedly has a massive chip on his shoulder after being dumped by the team for which he just had a career season. There were plenty of disturbing stories floating around about Jackson's off-field behavior just before and right after his release. There has been strong speculation that at least some of that information was leaked by the Eagles, giving Jackson even more reason to want to seek redemption when he faces them twice next season. I think he'll take a similar approach to every game. And it wouldn't shock me at all if Jackson ends up in the Pro Bowl, especially with new Redskins coach Jay Gruden focused on implementing the attack-oriented scheme he used as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I had a very cool assignment last week when I was sent to Hollywood for one-on-one video interviews with cast members and the producer/director of the movie, "Draft Day," which is based on the Browns, for ClevelandBrowns.com. It was a wonderful experience to be with a cross-section of journalists from sports, news, and entertainment, including several from Europe. It was even better to be the only one representing the team featured in the movie. I got a genuine sense that the movie's two stars, Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, enjoyed the several weeks they spent in Cleveland (much of it at the team's facility) last spring and formed a true connection with the team. Costner spent a few minutes of our session asking me about the many changes to the Browns' coaching staff and front office since the filming began, and we discussed the obvious parallels between the script – which focuses on the immense pressure that the Browns' general manager in the movie, Sonny Weaver, Jr. faces with the top overall pick of the draft – and real life. You can check out my conversations with Costner, Garner, producer/director Ivan Reitman, and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (who plays a running back draft prospect the Browns are targeting) on this website.
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