Johnny Manziel exploded onto the college football scene in 2012 at Texas A&M University, dazzling football fans with his electrifying style of play. The A&M quarterback went on to win a variety of awards, most notably the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best player in college football. In 2013, Manziel continued his dominant performance while leading his team to a 9-4 season in the hyper-competitive South Eastern Conference and finished his season as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
After deciding to go to the NFL after just his sophomore season in college, the 21-year-old college superstar was projected to be a likely top five pick in the NFL Draft on May 8. However, for a variety of reasons, NFL General Managers passed on Manziel repeatedly, leaving him to be selected 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. Many thought Manziel was lucky to have such a great team around him, that he partied too much instead of focusing on the game and that his fan base helped him a lot. But those naysayers are wrong. Here is the case for Johnny Manziel.
To start off, yes, Manziel had an incredibly talented team around him at A&M. Offensive linemen such as Luke Joekel and Jake Matthews gave Manziel the time and room to make his jaw-dropping, SportsCenter-making highlight plays. Manziel also had Mike Evans, a freakishly tall yet fast wide receiver always open for the deep pass. Additionally, Ryan Swope seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to make a spectacular Manziel-led play complete. While all of these A&M players have moved on to be NFL stars, the Browns also have players that will complement Manziel greatly.
While the Browns are notorious for being a terrible team all around, they have a solid offensive line and a strong receiving core, allowing Manziel to keep making spectacular plays. Alex Mack and Joe Thomas are perennial Pro Bowlers who have been accompanied by young breakout star Mitchell Schwartz to complete an offensive line that can compete with the best of the NFL and confidently protect Manziel in the pocket.
To even further bolster the offensive line, the Browns drafted solid offensive lineman Joel Bitonio out of Nevada University. With time to make good reads, Manziel will find it easy to scramble for long yardage and to throw the deep ball to Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon, Miles Austin and several other decent receivers. Cameron, the Browns’ tight end, has proven to be a great blocker, as well as a receiving threat with a great pair of hands. Gordon, the Browns’ number one receiver, has the height and speed to replace Evans for Manziel.
On May 15, the Browns added star receiver from the Dallas Cowboys, Miles Austin. Austin will be a third speedy set of hands who will prove to be a great match for Manziel. To round out the receiving core, the Browns also have Greg Little and Travis Benjamin who respectively bring height and speed.
In addition to their talented, maturing offense, the Browns have a defense that is adding depth and will look to put the ball in Manziel’s hands. Star cornerback Joe Haden was just signed to a five year deal, and the Browns just drafted elite cornerback Justin Gilbert eight overall in the Draft. The Browns also added Donte Whitner to be their strong safety, pairing him with Tashaun Gipson, their free safety. Paul Kruger will continue to be a menace at linebacker, along with linebacker Barkevious Mingo. This offseason, the Browns also signed linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was a leader on Arizona’s star-studded season last year. While the Browns may not have depth at defensive line, they have great linebackers and a great secondary, which will support Manziel immensely. Overall, the Browns have been a terrible team but now seem to show promise with their new, excellent young players.
In addition to having a great team around him, many cold-hearted critics believe that Manziel was too much of a partier and that he needed to focus on the game more. Obviously, Johnny Football has shown that he likes to have a good time. I mean, what college football star doesn’t want to be the life of every party? Yes, he has gotten into some trouble with the law. But unlike many other college football players, his encounters were simply about speeding and fake IDs, not violence and drug abuse.
There is no doubt that these run-ins with the law are foolish, but he is maturing and will embrace the NFL as an adult. Also, to those that said his off field activities detracted from his play, how the heck did he still win the Heisman trophy and then be a finalist for it the next year? Answer me that. He likes to have a good time but will keep it in check and will focus on football. Yes, the Browns have been awful in recent years. But there are very few NFL fan groups that can challenge the ravenous fandom of the Dawg Pound in Cleveland. These fans are reminiscent of Manziel’s beloved 12th Man fan group at A&M. To add onto that, Johnny Manziel has been a shot in the arm to the city. Within 24 hours of being drafted, the Browns sold 1,500 season tickets and hundreds of Manziel jerseys. People of Cleveland were walking up to the Browns owner on the street, thanking him for drafting Manziel. This crazy fan base will pair well with Manziel and might be just what the Browns need to get back to the top of the NFL.
As much as I hate to say it, Johnny Manziel is not perfect. But he’s pretty damn close. The man will be surrounded in Cleveland with just as many if not more offensive and defensive threats as there were at Texas A&M, and Manziel’s electrifying athleticism will be unleashed. Manziel has made stupid mistakes with the law but has learned from them and has never taken his focus off the game of football.
Manziel will slow down in Cleveland and really dive into the game. The Cleveland fan base is ecstatic to have Manziel and will loyally obsess over and root for the Browns. Manziel has a massive chip on his shoulder for not being selected earlier in the draft. Manziel will face many of the teams that passed on him next season. Johnny Manziel will be the next LeBron James for Cleveland.