We are now a few days away from the 2014 NFL draft, and the crescendo is now at its peak: Who should the Cleveland Browns pick at Number Four?
Sammy Watkins? Johnny Manziel? Khalil Mack? Greg Robinson?
Many fans are hoping for Sammy Watkins, while ready to jump off a cliff should the Browns draft Johnny Football – but why?
I am not going to be harsh on Watkins, nor am I implying he isn’t a gifted football player…but, in a draft that is Wide Receiver deep – perhaps even into the mid-third round, is Watkins an absolute must-have?
Watkins can be shut-down, and has shown some flaws in his route-running. Once the NFL defenses pick up on his flaws – and they will, can he truly be an A.J. Green, or a Calvin Johnson? It’s not like he played against some of the nation’s best defenses. Maybe Watkins improves his skills in the NFL, and I will give that benefit of doubt, however, struggling to be a play-maker when being pressed isn’t something that can be a fixed, that is a limitation. Getting open in the NFL is much more difficult in the NFL, and certainly more challenging then the weak opposition Watkins faced in college.
“I’ve become a pretty good route runner, but there are areas I can still improve in with getting out of my routes,” he said. “What I’m really focused on is my curl routes and my comebacks. I’ve got to get my transitions, and know when to run full speed or not, and sync my hips and get out of my routes.” – these are the words of Watkins after being asked about some of his poor route running.
Cris Hill and Nick Waisome (to name a couple) shut Watkins down by playing him “close”. Watkins jumps out at me as an “open field” wide receiver – meaning he needs open space to operate. Not that he can’t be successful, because he has…but I also think he stands out having played on a talented offense against weak competition. Again, I’m not taking anything away from Watkins, who is a talented football player – just don’t pretend his gaudy stats came while playing the defenses of the Alabama’s, LSU’s, and Michigan State’s of the world..while being shut down by some names no one has even heard of.
While fans fly high on Watkins, they are equally as passionate in their criticism of Manziel. Manziel was a player teams had to game plan against, because he made a difference, because he was the difference. Manziel beat the nation’s top defense in Alabama in 2012, and when Alabama faced them again in 2013, Nick Saban (the nation’s top defense again.) was determined to force Manziel to stay in the pocket and beat him – and he did..but, the Texas A & M defense couldn’t secure the game and give up the big play to Alabama’s offense. Manziel won the game, but the defense lost it.
When Manziel had to face another one of the nation’s top defense in LSU, Manziel again found himself the subject of attention. LSU’s question was the same as Alabama’s; how do you stop Manziel? While Alabama’s approach was to force Manziel to stay in the pocket and beat them, LSU’s approach was a little more scientific: Keep Manziel off the field, and when he is on the field, take away his weapons.
And they did. LSU pounded the ball against a weak Texas A&M defense, keeping the ball for more than forty minutes and limiting Mike Evans to only four catches on the day. While LSU wasn’t able to entirely shut-down Manziel, the Texas defense was powerless to stop LSU – and that was the difference. They attacked Manziel indirectly, by attacking the weak Texas A&M defense.
I am baffled why Browns fans are so adamant in their distaste for someone who has done nothing but win, and when he lost, it was because of defense, not anything Manziel did or didn’t do himself. His career stats are awesome and the praise he earned by his foes is nothing short of impressive. When some of the nation’s top defenses stay awake at night figuring out how to stop you – that should go a long way with fans, but it doesn’t – for they’d rather hang their hat on a guy who’s college numbers and level of play was so bad he was ignored in the draft by all 32 NFL teams. A guy by the name of Brian Hoyer, who has only won a couple of NFL games in five seasons of play.
Some believe because Hoyer sat behind Tom Brady that somehow “magic” happened, and some of Brady’s magic dust made Hoyer better than he is. Training with an Olympic Gold athlete doesn’t make you one, and sitting behind Brady won’t make Hoyer a quality starting quarterback.
Which brings me to the player who I personally would draft at No. Four – Khalil Mack.
He is a difference maker, regardless what team he plays against – weak, strong, average – it doesn’t matter to Mack, he will dominate you every time. The Browns haven’t had a widow-maker linebacker since Chip Banks. As defenses stayed up at night game-planning against Manziel, offenses stayed up at night game-planning for Mack. Mack is one who consistently improved every year…whether in playing ability, or the mental aspect of the game. And for the Ohio State fans, I’m certain you remember Mack!
Some question Clowney..some question Anthony Barr…maybe even Watkins, but none question Mack.
In my non-professional opinion, Khalil Mack and Greg Robinson are the two choices at the No. four spot. For as risky as Manziel is, so is Sammy Watkins. If average talent can shut down Watkins simply by playing him tight – how much better the NFL talent Watkins will face?
If there is a quarterback in this draft that can take the job away from Brian Hoyer, that guy is Aaron Murray. He is rarely mentioned in any conversation – be it social or sports media. He doesn’t bend nor break, and the bigger the moment, the better he is. I would draft Murray at a moments notice, and without hesitation.
Until Thursday arrives, and Roger Goodell takes to the podium to say: The Cleveland Browns are now on the clock…we can still only speculate…and hope.
My mock here.
Will the Cleveland Browns select Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr with the fourth over-all pick, or the twenty-sixth pick? Will they draft Carr at all? Many draft prognosticators believe the Browns to be “in love” with him.
I don’t scout in the same venue as most others do, because many focus on the good rather than the bad. I suppose that is why so many men end up a bundle of frayed nerves drooling over the voluptuous blond with full lips and 36 DD’s…but not the psychotic personality behind those visual traits.
Just what are the negative qualities embedded in Carr that turns me off? First, let’s review what I look for in a quarterback.
The qualities I look for are:
- Rises to the occasion.
- Handles pressure easily.
- A leader.
- Handles the blitz.
- Accuracy versus the blitz.
- Pocket presence.
- Extends plays.
- Deep ball accuracy.
- Short pass accuracy.
- Good passer [timing, touch-pass, quick delivery].
The weaknesses/negatives Derek Carr brings to the table with him are as follows:
CBS Sports says: ” Played primarily out of the shotgun, and must show the ability to take snaps from under center and read defenses while dropping back. Struggled against better competition, including a poor career finale as USC constantly harassed Carr, who was unable to move the ball consistently in the face of pressure. Will rush passes when blitzed, frequently starting down and overthrowing targets. Stats inflated by Fresno State’s pass-happy offense. Accuracy was inconsistent on critical plays in several of Fresno State’s biggest games in 2013.”
From WalterFootball: “anxiety issues; can get flustered by a pass rush; level of competition; lacks mobility; not a running threat; small hands. Against good defenses, Carr could get flustered by a heavy pass rush. That is a legitimate concern considering that problem is what led to his older brother being a bust. Derek Carr beat up on weak competition and will need to get better in his ability to handle pressure. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Carr has some anxiety issues that will have to be ironed out with his NFL coaching staff. Those could be seen in the fourth quarter against San Jose State and the bowl game against USC.”
FootballOutsiders: “He’s a quarterback capable of quick decisions, high velocity throws with tight-window accuracy, and the skill to make positive plays under pressure. He also has an impulsive streak that can lead to inaccurate throws, poor ball placement, and bad decisions.”
RotoWorld NBC Sports: “As the draft process drags into the home stretch, reality and theoretical possibility have been discussed so interchangeably that the definition of certain players begins to change in a way that makes it difficult to remember who they actually are. Derek Carr is a good example of using statistics – to give the illusion he is better than he really is. During the season, he was an efficient quarterback in an extremely QB-friendly system who posted great numbers but didn’t necessarily demand attention. Since the season has ended, he’s been mythologized into a cannon-wielding West Coast disciple (due to one season under Pat Hill as the starter) with NFL bloodlines. The reality and fantasy of the situation distort the prospect. Yes, Carr has a strong arm, but it is of equal note that either Tim DeRuyter was misusing him at FSU or Carr’s weaknesses were being intelligently shielded. It’s one or the other. And if the latter is true, it wouldn’t much matter if Carr could throw 200 yards from his knees.”
InsideTheFilmRoom: “…yet, like his brother, Derek is easily rattled by pressure. Gets easily flustered in the pocket, makes poor decisions under duress, footwork/accuracy goes to hell under pressure and generally ineffective when teams blitzed him. Played in a One-Read option spread offense where he didn’t have to progression read, a lot of his throws were bubble screens, played in the Mountain West against lesser competition and struggled against the bigger teams he faced. The most alarming example of this for Derek was his final game against USC where the Trojans consistently and relentless blitzed Fresno State forcing Carr to make quick decision in a ‘dirty’ pocket. It was by far Carr’s worst game of the season.”
Obviously, many would rather focus on the smoke and mirrors of stats that make Carr look better than he actually is, and while he has a big-arm, that alone isn’t the critical skill needed to be successful at the next level. The intangibles I look for, as noted above, are the intelligent and critical skills needed to provide the best chance of success in the NFL. Too many fail to throw those skills into the boiling pot when considering who to draft.
I may not be known to many as a draft “guru”, but a dozen years of “drafting” for very real money makes one astute at what to look for in a college prospect, because it meant winning a lot of money, or losing a lot of money – and quarterbacks have been my bread and butter. If I were the Browns General Manager, Derek Carr is someone I’ll leave on the board for some other team to risk their future on – pass on Carr.
Some Johnny Manziel critics say his ego is too big – but Carr fans ignore his larger-than-life ego? Carr has been quoted by many sources as saying he is by far the best quarterback in the draft, and will be drafted first, before any other quarterback. Sure, Derek.
From the Bleacher Report, scouting Logan Thomas: “…It’s easy to hate on Logan Thomas after his struggles the past two seasons at Virginia Tech. He struggled with his ball placement, his footwork hadn’t substantially improved, and his overall confidence seemed to fade over the past two years.
“But when teams draft quarterbacks after the first round, they’re looking for passers with the upside to develop into potential starters. Thomas has plenty of negatives on his scouting report, but his 6’6” size, ideal body type, strong arm and flashes on film that remind one of Cam Newton should be enough to intrigue teams in the first two rounds. Thomas has been the forgotten man in the media after a lackluster Senior Bowl.“
We see this report far too often and many NFL franchises have followed this blue-print; Ignore the negative intangibles while allowing their eyes to salivate over the qualities that really mean very little, if any, to the success or potential failure of a draft prospect. Man still believes bigger is better, despite the nano-technology that makes life easier.
So what are the critical skills needed that provide a prospect the best chance to succeed? The qualities I scout are:
- Rises to the occasion.
- Handles pressure easily.
- A leader.
- Handles the blitz extremely well.
- Accuracy versus the blitz.
- Pocket presence.
- Extends plays.
- Deep ball accuracy.
- Short pass accuracy.
- Good Passer [timing, touch-pass, quick delivery, over-all accuracy].
The first thing I look for is, how does that quarterback perform when the game is on the line? Should he stumble and falter I just move onto the next quarterback. The quarterback I look for must always rise to the occasion, playing bigger than the moment. My next question is how does he handle the pressure. He must handle the pressure like a master teaching a student. He must be a leader.
Does he do the little things right? That requires intelligence and an agile mind. Does he check down? Does he lead the defense? Does he smartly throw the ball away? How often has he over-looked his open receiver? Is he quick to find his passing lanes? Does he take too many risks into tight windows? How many interceptions were his fault versus the receiver?
How is his ability to move the pocket? Stand in the pocket? Does he make his receivers better or do they make him better? That question can only be answered by his receivers; Do they adjust often to the pass? Do they often come back to the ball?, etc..If yes to any, then the receivers make him better.
Johnny Manziel possess all of these traits and skills. I have tried to find reasons to not like Johnny “Football”, but the more negatives I try to find the more I like him. If Manziel were several inches taller, I’m confident he’d have more fans demanding their team take a chance.
The two generic reasons why so many fans are in distaste of this kid, is his height and pocket presence. His height is something that can not be fixed, nor does that guarantee his failure. His perceived lack of pocket presence is a lazy excuse at best for ridiculing him, because that just isn’t true. [click here for pocket passing video].
Many fans would love to have seen Nick Saban gracing the sidelines, however, many down-play his praises for Manziel – a quarterback Saban had two face more than he would have liked, calling Manziel one of the greatest competitors in his 40 years of coaching.
The USAToday said: “But at No. 1-ranked Alabama, which has the most legitimate reason of all to dislike Manziel, the praise this week has been so effusive, it almost seems orchestrated. ‘He deserves the hype he’s gotten because of what he’s done and how he’s played,” safety HaHa Clinton-Dix said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. He’s one of a kind, if you ask me’.”
“We just weren’t used to a player like Johnny Manziel,” safety Vinnie Sunseri said. “We know what he’s capable of doing now.”
The Alabama football paper said this: “Prior to this game, Nick Saban said that preparing for Johnny Manziel was extremely difficult because he does so many things “off schedule”. This means that Johnny Football basically ad libs most of the time and he can use his legs as well as his arm to suck the life right out of your defense. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart devised a game plan that was intent on making Manziel stay in the pocket and prove he has the ability to be a pocket passer. Well, guess what? He damn sure proved it by hitting on 28 of his 39 passes, most of which emanated from the pocket.“
“Meanwhile, the Bama defense blitzed. They played zone. They played zone and man. They played bump and run (mostly whiff and run). They changed their front from a 4-2 to a 4-1 and then to a 3-2 and a 3-1. They did everything they could possibly do to Johnny Football but, in the end, nothing worked. And, in the rare instance that Alabama actually got some pressure on Manziel, he simply lofted up a pass to 6’5 Mike Evans and suddenly things got much better for the Aggies. In the pocket, Manziel was a nightmare but down the field the Tide had no answers for Evans, either. Between the two of them, Alabama nearly suffered an agonizing defeat. But, as it is, the Tide survived the A&M onslaught and they can be thankful that they won’t see the likes of Johnny Football ever again. Whew.”
Apache Warrior legend Geronimo was said he never had to tell his story, his enemies wrote his story for him.
I can’t say Johnny Manziel will be an NFL legend, but he has made his name known among his foes while earning their respect, There are no accurate barometers to indicate he will not perform at the next level and one’s opinion simply doesn’t influence the outcome.
There is no need to cite the scouting reports, that wasn’t my objective with my own scouting report…I simply wanted to touch on the grey areas surrounding Manziel and answer his critics.
Love him, hate him – there’s no denying Manziel is special. How much, well, that remains to be seen., but I doubt he will disappoint his fans.