Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch|
By Mike Beacom
Rookie Watch – Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
You love him. You hate him. Love him. Hate him. Johnny Manziel may be the most polarizing figure to enter the NFL in a half century, and that’s saying a lot. There is the alter ego (Johnny Football) and the money-flipping gestures that he does to mock his 2013 offseason investigation. He’s cocky and a bit of a ladies man. He’s everything you wish you were in college.
But, is he worth a roster spot on your fantasy team?
It’s difficult to answer for a number of reasons: (1) Manziel enters camp as the Browns backup (see below) which puts his 2014 fantasy season in doubt; (2) his size and playing type scare scouts, so both should scare fantasy owners, and (3) his in-your-face lifestyle clashes with everything we known about how the NFL conducts business.
Dissecting the depth chart: The Browns have gone to great lengths to trim Manziel down a few pegs since taking him with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The team issued a statement saying Brian Hoyer was still the starting quarterback. Hoyer guided the club to a pair of 2013 wins before he was lost to a season-ending injury. But no one buys the Hoyer line, or the Browns’ apparent restraint. It seems clear that Cleveland needs something to spark its fanbase and Manziel is someone eager to light a fire. Trivia buffs point to how the team’s last first round pick struggled. Brandon Weeden was also the 22nd pick and never really got his career started in Cleveland. Perhaps waiting is the best thing for Manziel, but this is a city that lacks patience.
Just the stats: Hard to argue with Manziel’s greatness when you measure him by numbers alone. In two seasons for Texas A&M he passed for 7,820 yards, 63 touchdowns and only 22 interceptions. He gained 2,169 rushing yards and scored another 30 touchdowns on the ground. All this in two seasons. But what makes him all the more charming is that he did this against some of the best teams in the country. The Aggies were the only team to beat Alabama in 2012 on a day Manziel passed for 253 yards and rushed for 92. After becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman, Manziel again was brilliant against Alabama (loss) and tested eventual national runner-up Auburn. Against Ole Miss he passed for 346 yards and rushed for 124.
2014 Projection: 1,846 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs; 101 carries, 485 yards, 5 TDs
2013 rookie comparison: Geno Smith, New York Jets
Smith was given the bulk of the Jets snaps last season but struggled (55.8 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions). The comparison is more about what the two passers are able to do with their feet. Smith was the Jets’ third-leading rusher, and his team-leading six rushing touchdowns were more than twice as many as Chris Ivory tallied.
Interesting fact that won’t help you: Manziel comes from the same hometown (Tyler, Texas) as fellow Heisman winner Earl Campbell and Packers backup QB Matt Flynn.
What he’s worth: He’s a flier near the back end of your draft. Anyone looking to Manziel as a starter is taking a huge risk because rookie quarterbacks rarely do well, and Manziel has little talent around him to succeed. But Manziel can work as a backup to a No. 1 fantasy quarterback with a strong record of health.
Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom