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Now before anyone takes the title the wrong way, I am insinuating that Manziel reminds me of the Disney character “Puss-in-Boots”. They both are swashbucklers and are light on their feet.jfoot Some people are huge fans of these characters and others are pure haters. I would say I fall in between those two camps. When he is on, Manziel is one of the most dangerous play makers that college football has ever seen, but when he is off, dreadful comes to mind. I watched five of his 2013 Texas A&M games to get a good idea of what skills he brings into the NFL. In two of those games (LSU and Missouri), the quarterback faced good disciplined, attacking defenses. The other three games (Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas) were not as challenging for him.

Since I view him as a Jekyll and Hyde type of player, let’s start with his less challenging games first (Jekyll side). Manziel is an explosive, fearless player who doesn’t seem to be phased by much. He may hurdle a defender or use juke moves to make them miss when he decides to run with the ball or extend the play in the pocket. His bouncy feet in the pocket make him hard to hit against less than aggressive defense. On designed runs, the quarterback follows his blockers and opens up his hips showing off his wiggle. It is quite concerning the way he holds the ball like a loaf of bread, just begging for someone to knock it away from him. Manziel keeps the play going more often than not with his quick feet and cat-like balance. Perhaps he can single-handedly bring back the Weebles aka weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. When Manziel runs the ball, he does not do a good job protecting himself from unnecessary hits with his head first dives, although he uses spin moves and stiff-arms. This free-wheeling style does open up things down the field for his receivers; however, the NFL defenses will be nastier than what faced of the three As (Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas).

It’s his competitive nature that sets him apart. Once he throws an interception, Manziel is the first guy to run down who caught the ball. There was a game that he forced two fumbles on the same run back, you don’t find that fight very often. Don’t undersell his chemistry with Mike Evans, either. The young quarterback has great chemistry and trust with his receiver. Manziel would many times just throw the ball up in the end zone or near the sidelines and Evans would fight his way to the ball, making it look easy. When Manziel anchors with his lower body, he can throw the ball accurately 60 yards down the field. The problem is he rarely sets his feet before he throws and those off-balance tosses are not very accurate and kind of wobbly. These are more things an NFL defense will take him to task about.

He plays his best versus zone coverage as the quarterback can find soft spots to expose. When Manziel has plenty of time in the pocket, he can throw tight passes between defenders within five to fifteen yards downfield or choose quick dump-off options. I charted him throwing 60% of his passes in the flat or near the sidelines as those did not need to travel over the line of scrimmage versus his over the middle, deeper throws. His 6’ height gets in the way, which forces him to roll out more often. This doesn’t mean he can’t connect. Manziel seemed to average at least one beautiful downfield bucket catch a game with Evans.

Now to the somewhat scary Hyde side. LSU and Missouri brought the wood aka pressure like he rarely saw. Both defenses did a good job of containing him in the pocket for the most part. His awkward footwork while throwing off-balance got exposed as he struggled to connect with his receivers, especially Evans who saw significantly less targets than usual. Manziel appeared overly concerned with the disciplined defensive front mounted against him. He took what the defense gave him in the run game. Manziel had a spy on him most of the time that keyed strictly on him, following him everywhere. Both front sevens did a good job of getting their arms up and knocked down plenty of passes, forcing him to arch the ball more or roll out to become more accurate. They also maintained lane discipline, which kept him in the pocket.

Once the defenses were in his head, Manziel could not get them out. He rarely set his feet before launching the ball. When he did fire the ball, the quarterback did not protect his receivers, exposing them to the same pain Manziel received. His timing was off and he was obviously rattled. Even when he made the first defender miss, the quarterback exposed his ribs to more punishment which made it harder for him to throw and breathe. Manziel got very emotional and frustrated that the games weren’t going his way. He would try to throw even more dangerous ill-advised passes. Even with no lower body support, Manziel can toss the pigskin 40 yards down the field. That is good for a man his size.

Bottom line is that the Jekyll and Hyde aspects of his game work with each other. It’s up to him to be creative, but not risk too much on one play. If he gets drafted by a strong defensive team, Manziel should excel and start right away making his dynasty owners happy. He will be able to take fewer risks. On the other hand, if Manziel gets drafted by a team with a weak defense, he will be forced to win games by himself. That may cause him to write more checks than his body can cash at 6’ and 207 lbs. Remember soon to be Hall of Famer Bret Favre had Mike Holmgren to guide him, “Johnny Football” is not a one man army. I’m going to try to look at him like the suave Puss-in-Boots, making your dynasty team a little more fun to watch.

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