2014 NFL Draft: Analyzing LSU vs Texas A&M for Johnny Manziel


Nov 23, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) walks off the field following a loss to the LSU Tigers in a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Texas A&M 34-10. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

What’s up guys. Happy Combine Weekend to you all; I hope you’ve been enjoying it as much as I have. (I’ve been sick in bed all weekend but the plus side is I get to do football stuff, right?) Anyway, I heard a lot of analysts and people in general talking about how Manziel’s LSU tape was an example of why he’s going to struggle in the NFL. Now, I saw it live, but I didn’t bother to break it down since I first and foremost am a fan (as opposed to what? The definitive arm-chair quarterback? 😀 haha ) I used the awesome resource that is draftbreakdown.com to watch him, they’re great, and here is the link. Let’s get to it, shall we?

LSU Background: Long renowned for pouring great talent into the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers played to their potential in this game. Fast, hard-hitting, skilled, and well-coached…everything you expect out of an SEC defense. It’s hard for me to name all of their recent pro prospects, because there’s been so many, but off the top of my head… Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, and some guy named Patrick Peterson. For my money, LSU is one of the best NFL factories out there, if not the best. Regardless, they played well today. In this game, they developed a specific gameplan to stop Manziel. They had their D-Line not bend the edge, which basically means a flat frontal pressure as opposed to a surrounding pressure, if that makes any sense.

TAMU Background: The Aggies have been a team at the forefront of college football for the past two seasons, probably because of their (now former) quarterback, Johnny Manziel, who played there for two years, won two bowls and a Heisman trophy. They run a spread offense, relying on short and long passes with few routes over the middle. They have a solid offensive line, anchored by potential top-5 pick Jake Matthews at the left tackle spot. They have a dominant wide-receiver named Mike Evans who specializes in jump balls. Some think he makes Johnny Manziel, and not the other way around (more on that later). Their defense, however, is absolutely atrocious. They might as well not have taken the field. Johnny Manziel was used to that, though, and usually carried his team through it – not this time, however.

It would be unfair not to mention the adverse weather conditions that plagued the field during this game. Strong winds and rains caused balls to fly where they shouldn’t have, and receivers to drop easy receptions. I believe that a Franchise Quarterback must be able to play in adverse weather, though, so it doesn’t mean much in terms of evaluation. That being said, it affects the statistics, not the traits. And that’s fine with us, cause that’s how we scout.

Now, I know what you all are saying… “The chart! We want the chart!” Your wish is my command. * = Miscommunications, T = Throwaways, D = Drops, @ = Interceptions, ! = INT off a miscommunication, $ = Touchdown

Yardage RankLeftCenterRightTotal with Raw Percent (%Adjusted)
1 to 51 of 2, *1 of 14 of 6, T6 of 9, 66%(86%) *T
5 to 100 of 2, D1 of 21 of 7, DD2 of 11, 18% (25%) DDD
10 to 203 of 52 of 4, @D2 of 4, !7 of 13, 54%(64%) @D!
20+2 of 4, $0 of 13 of 45 of 9, 56%, $
Totals6 of 11, $D*4 of 8, @D10 of 21, TDD!
55% (66%)50%(57%)48%(59%)

Manziel’s total stats for the day were 16 of 41 for 221 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. That is a 39% raw, 44% adjusted accuracy rating. He also ran nine times (2 designed runs) and was sacked twice.

Not pretty numbers, eh? But by the same precept which precludes us from pushing up a prospect because of production, I propose we perceive this performance with platitude. (+1 For deliberate alliteration! Yeah!)

Sorry about that, I don’t know what came over me. Now, before we move any further, I wanted to acknowledge a criticism of his and try to refute it (I try to be positive with all prospects). People say Mike Evans bails out Johnny Manziel, seemingly all the time, and that without Evans Manziel wouldn’t be worth the ink I’m using to write this. I counted the number of targets Evans had in this game – 12. Of those 12 targets, he caught 4 and dropped one. Even for a number 1 receiver like Evans, that’s not a lot of targets. If Manziel was throwing to him half the game, I’d understand, but barely more than a quarter? Please. There’s plenty to critique about Manziel’s game, believe me, but his throw dispersion isn’t one of them. (Interesting note, all of Evans’ targets today were on the right side of the field)

Starting with his positives: He displays all the accuracy, arm strength, and athleticism to play in the NFL. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either not watching the man or buying into the media hype. He can throw the ball anywhere on the field. This wasn’t really a question for me going in, but it helped to see him throw well in bad weather. What I was really trying to watch for in this game was mental traits. It was difficult to see through the adverse conditions, but I liked what I saw. His anticipation has improved dramatically on shorter routes, even compared to earlier in the year. Whereas before he was floating curls, now he threw them on point with velocity. His progressions were also much improved. He would move from first read to second and third, and used his incredible scrambling ability to gain time instead of yards. He uses what I call the “Russell Wilson”, kind of a back eject out of the blind side of the pocket, when an unblocked defender comes bearing down on him. This gives the offensive line more flexibility. Overall, he just seemed to improve so much on the little things like his throwing platform (throwing the ball with different bodily contortions), and vertical pocket movement(stepping up in the pocket instead of to either side)… Another thing, people have knocked him throughout his career for being a “one read and go” type QB. The game says otherwise. If he’s not under pressure, he will use his pocket mobility to buy time for receivers. If he is under pressure, he’ll use his mobility to escape the pocket, try to make a throw, and run if all else fails. Isn’t that what you want from a mobile quarterback, or any quarterback for that matter? The biggest thing that jumped out at me during this game compared to his Alabama tape was improvement. And you know what? That’s what you look for above all else in a prospect, and especially a Franchise QB.

Alright, now for the negatives. I was really surprised, but he didn’t play nearly as bad his stats would indicate. It seems as though he was pressing throughout the majority of the game due to his defense’s general inadequacy. There are still some stand-alone negatives that deserve mention, however. He puts a ton of confidence in his throws, which can come back to bite him. There was one throw in LSU’s red zone where he made a single read on a suspected double coverage and thought he had a touchdown on the other side. Instead, the safety he thought was doubling a receiver dropped into a mid-half zone. The safety read the play, jumped the route, and made the interception. People say that he doesn’t understand coverages; I don’t think that’s it, or at least not to the purported extent. I think he seizes every opportunity he sees, and sometimes he doesn’t see a deceptive coverage. That could be a weakness in the NFL. But that wasn’t the main thing I learned about Manziel in this game. Here it is: He’s not used to playing normally. He can perform the most unlikely feats on the field, seemingly at will, but when he’s forced to simply take what the defense is giving him, he can get frustrated. This is evidenced by his tendency at times to leave the pocket when he shouldn’t. Overall, his confidence in himself is greatest strength and greatest weakness.

Johnny Manziel is either going to be great or terrible. If his game translates into the NFL, I think he could be one of the greatest we’ve seen in a long time. If it doesn’t… I hope he isn’t injured. There’s no middle ground with this guy. He’s not someone I would take on a QB-needy team with the first pick. At the same time, though, I don’t want my division rival to take him. That makes me question whether we shouldn’t take him. But, as it is, I cannot say whether we should take him at #3 overall. For one, he might not be there. For two, we might not be there on draft day. And, honestly, choosing a Franchise QB comes down to so much more than gameplay. If we take him, though, I guarantee you every fan in Duval won’t want to miss a second.

Thanks for reading, guys. Leave your comments and your thoughts. Be blessed, everyone. – Zach