Draft Lessons: Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel was one of the most polarizing prospects in the last decade.  The most electric quarterback in the NCAA since Tim Tebow, Manziel won the Heisman and dominated college football from the quarterback position.

What made him so polarizing… He had already become a celebrity and was known to embrace the partying lifestyle, but continued to win throughout his career.  Manziel was also barely 6ft, which even after the success of Russell Wilson raised some concern.  He also played in a spread system, which means he would have to transition and learn to play under-centre.  The final concern is actually what made Manziel successful in college, he made huge plays the play broke-down.  He seemed to be almost  too comfortable outside of the pocket and under-pressure.

Manziel was drafted late in the first round by the Cleveland Browns (one of the worst places he could have landed).  Few organizations are more dysfunctional and less talented than the Browns.  This was the first problem, next Johnny was put in a quarterback competition and the coaches said he clearly wasn’t ready.  If there was one thing that you didn’t want to give Manziel, it was free time to party.  Inevitably, that is what happened he was again drawn to the party scene, and played little his first year.  It was the next year where he hit rock bottom and then finally went for treatment of his achololism.

Enter this year, where the organization brought in Josh McCown to be a mentor to Manziel and provide a veteran to play if he wasn’t ready.  Manziel narrowly lost the competition to McCown and McCown performed admirably until he was injured.  Then Manziel had to step in and he was given a by week to prepare… over this time everyone feared he would take the week off and hit the party scene, which he did and lost his starting gig because of it.

What should we learn from this Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns?  Players that are dysfunctional should not be drafted by dysfunctional teams.  If a player that is rough around the edges is going to succeed it is more likely with a stable organization and locker room culture.  You see teams like Cincinatti, New England and Baltimore have success drafting talented players who have had issues in the past because they have the veterans to teach them.  These players will also have a better chance to succeed in a winning organization, this is because they will be surrounded by more talent and be able to take time to develop before being pushed into action.  Teams also need to have a plan to develop and protect the player from their previous issues once they draft a player like Manziel.

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