Even if former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel isn’t the number one pick in the May 8 NFL draft, he is still the top conversation piece at this weekend’s NFL scouting combine. The combine is staged by the National Football League each year as a way to bring aspiring players together to be tested, timed, probed, and interviewed in preparation for the upcoming draft.
Manziel, also known as Johnny Football, won the Heisman Trophy in 2013 and is projected to be a top ten pick in this year’s draft. He has openly expressed his desire to be taken by the Houston Texans, who have the number one pick this year following a disappointing 2-14 record last season. In fact, Manziel said publicly last week that if the Texans do not choose him it would be the worst decision they have ever made.
Events at the combine, which is televised live by NFL Network, include the bench press, 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, shuttle run, and 3-cone drill. In addition, Sunday will be the day for prospective quarterbacks to show off their throwing skills, but Manziel has said that he will not be throwing at the combine. He will instead wait to throw at his personal pro day on March 27.
Refusing to throw at the combine isn’t expected to hurt Manziel’s draft status. Right now, according to the website NFL Draft Scout, he is the number-3 quarterback prospect behind Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. Those rankings tend to fluctuate often in the days and weeks before the draft and Manziel could be in any of those spots by draft day. Bortles will be throwing for the scouts during the combine, while Bridgewater has not decided yet.
As far as becoming the first pick for the Houston Texans, the team is playing it close to the vest, as all teams do during draft season. Manziel measured in at 5-foot-11 ¾ and 207 pounds at the combine Friday morning, and many experts think he lacks the size to be an effective pocket passer in the NFL. In the case of the Texans, it all depends on what kind of offense first-year head coach Bill O’Brien wants to install.
On the surface, it seems Manziel would be a logical pick for Houston. He grew up in Texas and played his college football at College Station, less than 100 miles from Houston. He would certainly be a popular pick for the Texans and bring many fans to the stadium on Sunday, but the same could be said for any of the 32 NFL teams who might draft him. If the Texans pass on him the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are in the same division as Houston, certainly have a need for a quarterback.
For all of his talent on the field, Manziel has had some problems off the field, and those are things that the teams interested in Manziel will examine. His social life and partying reputation is the stuff of legends like Broadway Joe Namath and Babe Ruth, and he has taken the heat for it in the media. That is why, for all of his talents on display at the NFL combine this weekend, the most important tests administered by football’s elite might happen behind closed doors. That is where team representatives will get a chance to meet the real Johnny Manziel in one-on-one interviews. There is no physical measurement for it, but the factor that decides Johnny Football’s future in the NFL will undoubtedly be gut feeling.
By Chuck Podhaisky