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Johnny Football not clear No. 1

| Friday, February 28, 2014

The draft may still be nine weeks away, but with the NFL combine all over the media, you can’t help but wonder who will be the No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft.

There’s one player no one can ignore — whether that be for better or worse. Johnny Manziel. Everyone knows “Johnny Football” — either for his performance on the football field or his performance in the party scene. The first-ever freshman Heisman trophy winner in 2012 had quite the college career. But is that all there is to him? Will Manziel only be remembered as a college legend, or will he become a hero in the NFL as well?

Recently, ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski said he would not pick Manziel in the first three rounds of the draft. Jaworski is not giving him the credit to be the No. 1 pick — fair enough. But he’s dumping him into the third round, or even later. With all the hype that has surrounded Manziel since his first season as Texas A&M’s starting quarterback, this projection adds quite the twist to Manziel’s NFL future.

Those like Jaworski don’t see Manziel’s style of playing making it at the NFL level. Yes, they admit that he had an incredible college career and was a star on the field. No one can deny that. He is a pocket dynamite, and anyone knows from watching him that he can create unbelievable plays out of nothing. However, this doesn’t account for his misjudgment on the field and number of interceptions characteristic of his style of play.

In his last game of his collegiate career, the 6-1, 207-pound quarterback led his team back to defeat Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. He had an incredible performance with 382 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, 73 yards rushing and a score on the ground. Clearly, he’s got the talent.

Will his improvised approach and unique mechanics make it at the next level? That’s what NFL coaches want to know.

As Manziel tries to fight this image of being the improvise player, his bravado remains unfaltering through all this combine speculation and attention. His trademark audacity has aided him in maneuvering through these combine press conferences — similar to how they assist him in swiftly avoiding pass rushers and completing that pass downfield. I can’t think of another college athlete that would dare a professional team to pass on him. Manziel actually said the Houston Texans, who hold the top draft choice, would be making the “worst decision they’ve ever made” if they fail to draft him with the No. 1 pick.

Clearly, Manziel knows who should be the No. 1 NFL Draft pick, but I think I speak fairly when I say that the Houston Texans and the rest of us are still left a little uncertain. With his height and size, party-scene character and style of play all under scrutiny, it’s really difficult to say with any certainty that Manziel will be selected as the No. 1 pick.

He can play the game, no doubt. But can he excel at the professional level? We will see how Manziel’s selfish demeanor along with his agility and improvised (sometimes misjudged) execution come into play at the combine.

Only the first round of the draft on May 8 will tell if Manziel truly is the No. 1 pick.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kit Loughran

My name is Kit Loughran, and I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame. I am a Marketing major and Journalism minor. I write for the Sports Department of The Observer and cover Men's Soccer, Lacrosse, and Golf.

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