June 30, 2013; Beaverton, OR, USA; Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, of Texas A

Can Johnny Manziel Be a Franchise NFL Quarterback?

One of the hottest topics of the offseason has been Texas A&M Heisman quarterback and redshirt sophomore Johnny Manziel. Between missing part of the Manning Passing Academy due to ‘illness’ and facing a ton of scrutiny from every angle of the media, it’s easy to see that Manziel is going to be under more pressure than any college football figure in 2013.

The biggest problem for me is, Manziel has been in the news too much for the wrong reasons. I have read less and less about his progression on the football field as opposed to his partying, appearances, a reported 2012 suspension that nearly caused him to transfer, and the fact that he said he ‘can’t wait’ to leave College Station.

There’s certainly nothing earth shattering here. Manziel is a college student, doing what probably 90 percent or more of college students do. He is an active Tweeter, he is active on the party scene, and he treats himself to the occasional courtside seat at NBA games.

At one point, I read someone’s tweet that said we were about 20 minutes away from Manziel’s father saying he sold his scholarship rights to the Aggies for $275K. Obviously a little tongue in cheek, but Manziel’s headlines this offseason have been less about his NFL prospects and ability to repeat winning the Heisman trophy than you would like to see.

Manziel definitely has his critics, and I am starting to grow into one, but I am willing to see if he can eliminate these distractions on the field in 2013. He certainly has a ton of ability, enough to account for over 5,000 yards of offense last season, but does he have what it takes to be a franchise NFL quarterback?

In my opinion, that’s still a very gray area. We have only one year of games to see from Manziel, and he had such a magical run last year it’s hard to think he could possibly duplicate that, especially now that everyone is out to get him rather than pumping him as the greatest thing ever.

One scout compared Manziel to Tony Romo for his ability to improvise, and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network ranked Manziel as his fourth best pro prospect at the QB position in all of college football. He also ranked Manziel in the top 25 of all NFL prospects heading into the season, which is really saying something.

Former NFL executive Greg Gabriel believes Manziel has a chance to be a high first round selection whenever he comes out, but that the biggest concern will be for his size.

I think for me, Manziel has a chance to be a great NFL player. His ability to make plays on the run and improvise are second to none, and I see no reason why his size will be an issue if he can learn to play from the pocket and not just be a Houdini out there on the field all the time. That will only work for so long.

Of course, Manziel is a great college player. He will likely be really good again this year, though I certainly don’t expect him to repeat as a Heisman winner. I think that if he wants to be a franchise QB, Manziel is going to have to stop being a “20 year old kid” and start preparing for the job he wants.

After all, Manziel has said himself that he can’t wait to get off campus. Maybe that was taken out of context or just a moment of weakness for him, but he’s obviously frustrated a little bit with all the pressure and the celebrity that he has achieved is so unbearable for him that he signed up for strictly online classes this semester at Texas A&M.

Right now, what it looks like is Manziel wants to have the best of both worlds, and that’s completely understandable. He wants to live his life as a 20 year old kid, and he also wants to be a star quarterback. The only problem is, if he is just one year away from leaving TAMU and heading off to the NFL, he’s going to have to start dedicating more of his time to honing his craft in the film room, eliminating off-field distractions and getting better and better every single day so he CAN be a first round NFL quarterback.

If that’s what Manziel really wants, you’d think he’d be preparing for it. Maybe I’m overreacting here, and I’m okay with it. I don’t think Manziel needs to live anyone else’s life but I never heard about Andrew Luck or RG3 saying they couldn’t wait until they got off campus. In fact, both of them stayed longer than they should have. I also never heard about them missing meetings or important camps for any reason whatsoever. Even Tim Tebow, probably the last star college player other than Manziel to receive this kind of hype, stuck it out at the Senior Bowl despite a grueling illness and the public spotlight all over him.

Either way, Manziel’s mental toughness is not mine to question. The question is, can he be a franchise NFL quarterback? Right now, I think he is a lot further away than he wants to believe.

Tags: Franchise QB Johnny Manziel NFL Draft Offseason Texas A&M Football

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