Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Case for Johnny Manziel in the NFL

There was no one I enjoyed watching more the last two seasons of college football than Johnny Manziel.  He would make wild and unpredictable plays that you normally see on a basketball court or a soccer pitch, not on the football field, and in the SEC at that!  That is why so many people, myself included, would love to see him perform well at the next level… and he can.  However, it is certainly a risk, something that most GM’s and draft analysts already know. However, I have hope for the dude.

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Yes, it’s good to be Johnny Football.

If I were a GM, and I had a top 16 pick, I would take Bridgewater or Bortles as the first or second quarterbacks respectfully.  The reason being Bridgewater is a beast.  Watch him throw a few times (granted he needs gloves) and you can see the arm strength.  That is so important at the next level because you have to zip throws between premier Linebackers and Cornerbacks, and floaters will be picked and lead to 6 the other way more times than not.  Watch him throw on the run, and there is a “wow” factor to his precision.  He is not perfect yet, but you can see the talent.  He looks like a potential Pro Bowler within his first four seasons.

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Bortles is simply a prototype quarterback.  He certainly has the “look” of a quarterback, tall and able to make all the throws.  Detractors might point to his weak conference in college, but that really does not matter too much.  Joe Flacco went to Delaware, Colin Kaepernick was at Nevada Reno, Romo is from Eastern Illinois, etc.  He will certainly be a career starter.  Not great, but solid and reliable.  He might need a year or two to develop.

Johnny Football is rougher around the edges.  His main drawbacks are not necessarily his height, but rather is slender frame, his arm strength, and his ability to read defenses and play the cerebral game.  In college, even in the SEC, he can slice and dice around linebackers and secondary defenders with smooth style.  In the NFL, as we have seen with so many quarterbacks, most recently RG3, you get a big hit from an NFL linebacker, and lights out.  People make the comparison to Russell Wilson, but he is much stronger than Manziel, and can take the big hits.  Additionally, Wilson knows how to avoid contact as much as possible, whereas Manziel has not displayed such ability.  It makes for exciting football, but leads to disaster in the pros.  However, a good coaching staff can help him develop that ability to avoid the big hits.  Putting on a few pounds of muscle wouldn’t hurt either.

The arm strength is an issue because you need a rifle for an arm in the NFL.  It’s not just about making the tough throws to the sidelines, every throw needs to have some juice on it or it will be picked, even by linemen!  One must never forget that every NFL player is an elite athlete, something Manziel only faced a handful of times in his college career: a team stacked with pros.  He did okay in those games, particularly against Alabama, but facing them every week will present a challenge.  He made far too many hail mary throws in college that will not work at the next level.

Scrambling quarterbacks like Romo and Roethlisberger have found much success in the NFL playing out of the pocket, but the difference between them and Manziel is they have proven they can play in the pocket as well.  That is why they are dangerous; because they have the threat to do both.  NFL defenses are too smart and fast to let Manziel get to the edge, so they will make him prove he can throw from the pocket, and over the top of 6’ 6” defensive linemen.  Wilson can do it because he has a rifle arm and is a great decision maker.  Brees can do it with his deft movement in the pocket, footwork, and anticipation of his targets.  Manziel has exhibited none of these traits.

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What overrides everything is the ability for Johnny Football to do what he does.  He makes plays.  He wins.  Vick made it work at the next level, but he was way faster than Manziel.  Coaching will make all the difference, as well as the question if Manziel is willing to be coached.  I don’t think that is an issue.  Sure he is a diva, but he’s not stupid.  He will have the best coaching around, and whatever team drafts him will do everything possible to make him comfortable and develop him into a great player.  That is what he will be, it will just take about three seasons, and that is fine.

Aaron Rodgers is the perfect example of a team showing patience and smarts with a quarterback.  Who knows if Rodgers would be as good had he been thrown into the fire right away, and I guarantee that if Manziel is forced into starting right away, it will be a disaster.  I would take him mid to late first round, be patient, and let time show how good a player he will be.  I would take a position player with a higher first round pick, as there are some great corners and defensive players available this year.  With the right handling, he can be a Pro Bowler down the road, and lead a team to the playoffs.  Not as the focal point, but as part of a solid team.  He is not Cam Newton.  But he could be in the ballpark of Joe Flacco or Russell Wilson: a championship quarterback that “manages” a solid team that also has a great defense.   

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Bridgewater will be taken number 1 overall by Houston, Bortles by Minnesota at 8, and Manziel will be taken by Arizona at number 20.  This would be great for him to sit and learn from Carson Palmer.  Plus, this is a solid team that is built on defense.  Not the sexiest team or location, but that would work out very well for him. Personally, I would love to see him juking and spinning around NFL linemen and linebackers on highlight reels, and I think he can do it.  Just give it a few seasons.

 

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Top NBA Players by Position

Just because I feel like it, and injured players don’t count!

Point Guard

So many to choose from, this is the deepest position in the league right now.  If you are a starting PG, you are practically an all star.  So there are a lot of Honorable Mentions: Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, Monta Ellis, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Ty Lawson, and Mike Conley.

  1. Chris Paul – CP3 is the best facilitator in the game.  He is the biggest reason why Griffin and Jordan are having such great seasons.  Noone runs a team like Paul.   chrispaul2
  2. Russell Westbrook – Health and rust are holding him back a bit right now, but his athleticism is off the charts.  His defensive intensity and presence changes games, and although he is hurting Durant’s stats, OKC definitely needs him to get to the Finals.  russ-richkidsbrand
  3. Tony Parker – Maybe it’s because he’s French or on the Spurs, but people forget about Parker.  He’s not flashy, but just gets it done every night.
  4. Kyrie Irving – His offensive game is stupid good, he just needs to improve his defensive intensity.  If he were on a decent team, he’d be a superstar right now.
  5. Steph Curry – The best shooter in the league, but needs to improve his defense.  This might be tough considering his slender frame, so maybe he can put on some muscle.  However, becoming stronger could affect his shooting, so this might be what he is, a specialist at scoring.  A great one at that.

Shooting Guard

This is the weakest position in the league, which is strange considering it was once the deepest, especially after MJ’s reign.  Honorable Mentions: Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward maybe… Manu Ginobli kind of… very weak position.

  1. James Harden – His game can be annoying at times because of his proclivity for flailing and drawing fouls, but he gets it done.  He is a great shooter, and is the primary focus on a rising team in the West.imagesCAS03WKF
  2. Dwyane Wade –  Might have been #1 a year or two ago, but you can see Wade has lost a step.  He isn’t Flash anymore, but can still score, facilitate, and defend with the best in the league when called upon.  A devastating second option to Lebron.
  3. Joe Johnson – Doesn’t make a lot of waves and doesn’t rock the rim, but is amongst the best shooters and scorers in the league, and is a clutch performer.  Defense leaves much to be desired.
  4. Klay Thompson – Has risen to be the best long range shooter in this group next to Harden, and plays very good defense every night against premier wing players in the West.  In a few years, he might top this list.
  5. Jamal Crawford – Perennial 6th Man of the Year contender, is the best weapon off the bench in the league.  Does not defend much, but can score from anywhere on the floor.  Makes crazy perimeter jumpers on a consistent basis.

Small Forward

A close second to Point Guard as the strongest position in the league, with some young guns who will move up the list in the years to come.  Honorable Mentions: Paul Pierce, Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Josh Smith, Kawhi Leanord, Rudy Gay, and Chandler Parsons.

  1. Lebron James – Not only the best Small Forward, but also the best player in the league, this one’s pretty obvious.     Kevin_Durant_Lebron_James_20120615073543_640_480
  2. Kevin Durant – The second best player in the league behind Lebron, KD is the best scorer in the league due to his size and shooting, and is a greatly improved defender.  Lebron gets the nod because of his rings, and his defensive presence is the stuff of legends; the guy covers every position!
  3. Carmelo Anthony – Next to Durant the most versatile scorer in the game, and is even stronger than Durant with his ability to score on the block.  The terrible season by the Knicks has overshadowed what might be Carmelo’s best season as a pro.
  4. Paul George – Has risen to become the second best defender in the league next to Lebron, and has amazing skills and athleticism.  When he becomes a more consistent scorer, he will be right up there as a top player in the league.
  5. Demar DeRozan – Relatively unknown by non-NBA fans, has freakish athleticism and has really improved his scoring ability.  Leading a surprisingly solid Toronto team that can make waves in the Playoffs.

Power Forward

Garnett and Nowitzki changed the needs of this position and in many ways the look of the league, making the “stretch 4” and the ability to guard them a primary focus of GM’s across the league. Power Forwards now must rebound and make long range jumpers.  Honorable Mentions: Anthony Davis, Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, David West, David Lee and Paul Millsap.

  1. Kevin Love – The most versatile big in the game right now as both a top flight rebounder and 3 point shooter.  Is a solid defender and the best outlet passer in the game.   KevinLoveShooting640
  2. Blake Griffin – Will be #1 when he develops a more consistent jumper, which is already improved this year.  The most entertaining player to watch in the league.
  3. Lamarcus Aldridge – Quietly has built himself into one of the top offensive big men in the game.  Also is a solid defender and is constantly improving his game.
  4. Chris Bosh – Bosh gets lost in the stardom of Wade and Lebron, but his defensive versatility is excellent and is a great spot up shooter, a perfect fit for Lebron’s constant double teams.
  5. Dirk Nowitzki – He is getting up there in age, but still has that soft shooting touch that has made him one of the best shooting big men of all time.

Center

It might not be the premier position it once was, but there are still some very good Centers in the league right now.  I still find it odd that the Center was eliminated as an official starting position in the All Star Game… Honorable Mentions: Pau Gasol, Deandre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, Andre Drummond, and Tyson Chandler.

  1. Dwight Howard – Remains the premier defensive big man in the game.  His offensive game and free throw shooting are not elite, but he is still an invaluable piece of a great Houston team.   Dwight+Howard+Houston+Rockets+v+Washington+ZpPtxC1Y4Osl
  2. Joakim Noah – Has shot up the rankings of big men in recent years, and is now the best passing big in the game.  Also is one of the most entertaining interviews in pro sports! 
  3. Roy Hibbert – Under the radar until last year’s playoff run, Hibbert is a huge physical presence and has a great soft shooting touch.  Just needs to become more consistent night to night.
  4. Al Jefferson – One of the top offensive big men in the game, and leads the way for a Bobcats team set to make the playoffs, albeit in the East…
  5. Marc Gasol – Has missed much of the 2013-2014 season, but his mere presence on the court makes such a difference to his Grizzlies.  The reigning Defensive Player of the Year as well as a great passer and shooter, would be higher on the list if he was at 100% health.