With the draft just over a month away, draft boards are going to fluctuate and change, right up until draft day. With the ebb and flow of the top of the board, the number eight pick for the Vikings could be any one of five or six guys, depending how the draft unfolds.
So with that in mind, I'm going to spend the next week or so making the case for several possible first round picks the Vikings could take. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know whether or not any of these guys will be available when the Vikings pick; heck for all I know they'll all be gone.
But with all that said, I circle back to the 'still over one month until the draft' part, so we've still got plenty to talk about until draft day. So we'll start off with probably the most polarizing player in the 2014 draft, Johnny Manziel.
Why Johnny Football? Why? Are you kidding me? Oh, you're not. Well, Manziel is probably the one guy in the draft that has one distractor for every supporter. For every guy that thinks he'll be a superduperstar, there's another one who thinks he'll be a colossal bust. His game seems straight off the playground in some respects, but he's also one of the most accurate passers in the draft. He's won a lot on every level he's played at, and will bring a level of excitement and buzz at the quarterback position the Vikings haven't had since Brett Favre in 2009.
Why he'd be perfect in Minnesota: The Vikings are desperate for a quarterback, and in the NFC North, they have been lapped in that position by Detroit, Chicago, and Green Bay. Manziel has the potential to being the Vikings up to 'even' in the quarterback sweepstakes. Consider his two years at Texas A and M:
He also ran for over 2,100 yards and 30 TD's in his two seasons at A and M. As a passer and a quarterback, he got better between his freshman and sophomore year, and he won the Heisman trophy...as a freshman. Those are some eye popping numbers, and while you can't really use comparative stats between college quarterbacks as a definitive 'this guy is better than that guy' argument, Manziel's stand out. Why is that? Well, he played in the toughest conference in America, the SEC, and he routinely made some of the best defenses in the SEC look downright silly.
His detractors point out that a lot of his throws were short ones, and a good chunk of his yards were YAC, accomplished by his receivers after a short dump off. And in this study done by Rotoworld, they may have a point:
Almost 47% of Manziel's throws were within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Almost 63% were within 10 yards. But if you take a closer look, Manziel also had the highest percentage of deep balls, almost 19%, at least four percentage points clear of the next highest player, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.
'But Ted', you say, 'none of this matters until you factor in accuracy'.
Well, you're right. So how accurate was Manziel in each range? Let's take a look:
His worst completion accuracy range was from 6-10 yards, but the biggest knock on his game, the 'NFL throws' from 11 yards up, Manziel has the best completion percentage of the current 'Big Four' of him, Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr. When you factor that in along with the fact he was playing against some of the best competition college football has to offer, it seems that Manziel, from a pure talent perspective, has the ability and potential to play well in the NFL.
Manziel also brings with him a buzz, and that buzz cuts both ways. He's electric on the football field, and he can be a circus sideshow off of it. From rumors of heavy partying (wait, a college kid parties? NO WAY) to getting dismissed from a football camp, to having a current governor and former president attend his pro day, Manziel moves the needle, both positively and negatively. And when he gets drafted, the team that selects him is going to have to be prepared for that media onslaught.
But could he be worth it? Oh, yeah:
He has an uncanny ability to avoid the rush and make a throw, or tuck it and run. When he does run, folks that aren't Manziel fans say he'll get killed doing that in the NFL, but when you look at his film, he never takes a direct hit. Yes, I'll be the first to admit some of the throws he made at College Station would have been interceptions in the NFL, but his deep throws were very accurate and seldom underthrown.
As to his size, the tall guy with a big arm has been a myth for far too long in the NFL. Guys like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have gone a long way in dispelling the notion that to be successful in the NFL, you have to be at least 6'3". You don't, and you can even win a Super Bowl if your starting QB isn't that tall.
The Vikings need an answer at quarterback, and as Paul Charchian on KFAN pointed out (H/T to DN poster Dan Stambaugh for this nugget), if you go to the playoffs, chances are your QB is a first rounder:
Playoff Appearances from QBs in the last decade
7th round: 0
6th round: 1 (Joe Webb RIP)
5th round: 1 (Matt Cassel)
4th Round: 0
3rd Round: 8 (WIlson, Schaub, Foles, Kaepernick)
2nd Round: 10 (Dalton, T-JACK)
1st Round: 82.
That's a stunning number, so it would seem that if the Vikings are going to get a QB that can consistently get them to the post-season, they're going to have to get him in the first round.
The answer wasn't Tarvaris Jackson, it wasn't Christian Ponder, and it won't be Matt Cassel, long term. Could it be Johnny Manziel?
If he is on the board when the Vikings pick, I hope so..