With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the speculations, evaluations, mock drafts, and expert analysis is nearly impossible to avoid. The Buccaneers are sitting at the 7th overall pick this year, to which they can take the best fit for them that is available. They addressed all their major needs in free agency to avoid being “forced” to focus on one particular position. But the question on everyone’s mind is simple; where will Johnny Manziel go? Manziel is by far the most interesting prospect in this draft. He is far from a “sure thing”, but could potentially be the type of quarterback that makes defenses cringe. Not in the same ways that the likes of Manning, Brees, Brady, or Rodgers do. More like the way Michael Vick did in his early Falcons days. He is elusive, athletic, improvisational, and has a cannon for an arm. But should the Buccaneers take that risk if he falls to them?
There are equal arguments to both sides, but at this point, it’s hard to argue against it. Manziel’s best opportunity to succeed may very well be in the Bay area. With the signing of Josh McCown, the Bucs have their starter for 2014. It’s hard to say Manziel wouldn’t start right away just because of the sheer star power associated with him, but all the quarterbacks in this draft class are best suited to sit a year and develop, especially Johnny. But there are a lot of reasons he would succeed in Tampa. He will have a great offensive line in front of him that will give him the kind of time he needs, a solid running game with Pro Bowler Doug Martin, and a veteran receiver in Vincent Jackson who many analysts have used to compare Manziel’s favorite A&M target, Mike Evans, to. Lovie Smith was very impressed at the Texas A&M pro day after Manziel’s workout, saying “”Johnny had a good workout. You know, the same way he’s played throughout his college career. He’s a great football player. He almost had a flawless workout. And I know it’s choreographed and all that. But he had to complete passes, and he was sharp.” One of the most impressive things about his workout was his arm strength. Manziel hit WR Mike Evans in stride on a 60-yard bomb. If the Bucs can also grab a speedy receiver that can take the top off a defense, the long-ball from Manziel can create a lot of points for this team.
However, there are still some flags when evaluating Manziel. He had his offseason issues last year with the money-for-autographs scandal and was a well documented partier. With Mike Williams current issues with partying, that may be something the Bucs are a little weary of. You can make the argument that he’s a college kid and what college kids don’t party? But when you are the superstar Manziel is, no matter the age, there is a certain amount of maturity and responsibility that comes with it. The social scene may not be a problem at all for Johnny or the Bucs, but some of the measurables might. He isn’t the prototypical height for a quarterback, measuring in at a shade under 6-feet tall at the NFL combine. Many people point to guys like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson as small quarterbacks who succeed, but they tend to be the exception, not the rule. There’s no doubt that taking a quarterback that small is a risk in itself. Manziel will have to work very diligently on creating throwing lanes for himself the way Brees has in order to succeed, since he can’t run plays out of the shotgun every down. This shouldn’t be difficult for a guy of Manziel’s athletic ability, but it will take a lot of work with the offensive line to get it right.
Come draft day, the Bucs will have a lot of options. It’s hard to fathom a scenario where the coveted Sammy Watkins falls to them to provide a speedy playmaker. It’s not difficult to think that they may very well end up on the clock with Johnny Manziel sitting in the green room. Manziel is the player that you draft and if he’s a bust, you’re out of a job. He’s also the player that you can justify passing on, but if he lives up to the hype, not taking him will get you fired. The Buccaneers have been all about re-branding this year. New coach, new GM, new uniforms, new era. The best way to kick off a new era is by drafting the first franchise quarterback in the history of the Buccaneers. And Johnny Manziel could very well be that guy.
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