Buyer Beware: Johnny Manziel
If you haven’t heard of the quarterback known as “Johnny Football” you probably don’t own a TV, Facebook account, Twitter, Instagram, or leave your house on days that end in “y”. Former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has had the nations attention since he stepped onto the field as a Redshirt Freshman for the Aggies in 2012. Known for his highlight reel plays and his love of attention and partying, Johnny headed up North to Cleveland after being drafted 22nd overall in this years NFL draft. There is plenty of hype that surrounds Manziel on and off the field, but is it deserved? Is a rookie QB playing for the lackluster Cleveland Browns worth a high draft pick in your fantasy league? Or even a draft pick at all? I’ll break down why or why not to draft Johnny Football below:
1. He’s Not Even the Starter Yet:
The Cleveland Browns’ management is trying to bring Manziel around very slowly. Coach Mike Pettine doesn’t want to give too much too soon to Johnny. When the Browns first drafted Manziel they listed him third on the depth chart and said “Johnny will have to earn every rep in practice.” While this sounded good, rarely does it ever stay that way. Well, Manziel has moved up to the No.2 QB on the depth chart. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll be No. 1 when the season starts. According to everyone in the Browns front office and coaching staff Brian Hoyer will be the Browns starting quarterback to begin the season. The casual fan might say Brian Who? Hoyer took over the starting job in Cleveland last season and played very well in the two games he started and finished (not a huge sample size). An ACL injury against the Buffalo Bills in early October cost Hoyer the rest of his season. But for now, Hoyer is the starting QB for the Browns, and I expect that to continue. While Hoyer doesn’t have the athletic ability that Johnny Football possesses, Hoyer prepares very well and has the mental makeup to give the Browns a chance to win every week.
2. The Browns don’t want to “Break” Manziel Early
When I say Cleveland doesn’t want to “break” Manziel, I’m talking about the early season schedule. The first three weeks of the season the Browns play at Pittsburgh, then home against the Saints, followed by the Ravens. Not exactly a cakewalk for any QB especially a rookie as highly scrutinized as Manziel. The Browns drafted Manziel with an eye towards the future, not the first three weeks of his rookie season. With Hoyer starting the season, not only does Cleveland get to really see what they have in Hoyer, but if they lose those games the fans and front office can still remain positive they have Johnny Football waiting in the wings. Cleveland doesn’t have a reason to rush Manziel, the team will not be competing for a championship this season, and especially if he is not ready with the pro system right away.
3. The Cleveland Browns Play the Toughest Pass Defense Schedule in the NFL
The NFL did not make too many happy fans in Cleveland when the schedule came out. The Browns play against the most difficult pass defense in the NFL this season. Cleveland’s opponents only gave up an average of 223 yards per game last season through the air. Not something that makes a coach happy to see when sending a rookie QB on the field. If Manziel does start this season, there will surely be some growing pains along the way.
4. Who Will Johnny Throw to?
Heading into the offseason wide receiver was not the biggest concern for Cleveland; they employ the NFL receiving yardage leader, Josh Gordon. Gordon has all the talent in the world, and is still coming into his prime at age 23. Only one problem, Gordon loves the wacky tobacky just as much. He is currently facing a one year drug suspension (after already serving a two game ban in 2013) from the NFL. Taking away Gordon, who would Manziel throw the ball to? Tight end Jordan Cameron is an easy answer, but Cameron struggled down the stretch last season when defenses started to gameplan against him. Cameron would be demanding double teams if Gordon is suspended. The Browns brought in a lot of veterans in free agency this offeseason to fill their WR need. Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, and Andrew Hawkins are, definitely not unproven wide receivers, but they all something in common, they spend more time with the medical trainer treating their injuries than they do on the field. Also, the trio of Hawkins, Austin, and Burleson aren’t getting any younger as they are 28, 30, and 32 respectively. Can Cleveland count on these three to fill the void left by Gordon? If this was 2009 I would say yes, but sadly Cleveland’s time machine is out of order. No one on the Browns roster will be able to fill the void from the Gordon suspension (if it happens).
5. Give Me Johnny! In a Keeper League
If you are a fantasy football player that is lucky enough to take part in a keeper or dynasty league, I would say YES draft Manziel. If Johnny Football can do what he did in college, and make it work in the pros then you will be able to compete for championships annually. However, it will take time. Manziel’s dual threat ability to run and pass will surely put up points in any fantasy league, but there is no guarantee it will happen, especially right away. But if you can stash Manziel on your roster for a year or two, you could have a lethal weapon waiting to explode.
If you were dead set on drafting Manziel, don’t make the mistake on using an early round pick on him. The earliest I would take him in a keeper league would be Round 10. The depth of the quarterback position allows you to choose your main starters at running back and wide receiver along with building depth on your roster before taking a risk that could impact your entire fantasy season.