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Earlier this week SI's Peter King reported that some NFL teams have deemed Johnny Manziel "undraftable" because of off-field concerns involving his drinking and partying.
But when you take away the non-football issues, NFL people are starting to come around on Johnny Football as a player.
Scouts and commentators who were skeptical on Manziel last year now think he can make it in the pros.
The consensus on Manziel is that his instincts are so good that his weaknesses don't matter as much. He is calm and elusive against the pass rush, he's as fast as Colin Kaepernick, and he has such good balance on the run that he can turn negative plays into positive plays.
He's a natural, to put it another way. Ex-Browns GM Phil Savage told SI this week, "He has eight eyeballs."
The weakest parts of Manziel's game are his height and his arm strength. But there's now a precedent for small QBs succeeding in the NFL (Russell Wilson, Drew Brees), and scouts say his arm strength improved dramatically over the summer.
Here's a sampling of what NFL guys are saying about him.
Nick Saban, who coached the Dolphins before returning to Alabama (via SI):
“I think Johnny’s a unique player. Many people have said about these guys, like [Robert Griffin III], that they’re not really NFL-style quarterbacks. But yet they’re all doing pretty well in the NFL.
“I think when somebody’s as instinctive as [Manziel] is, and as fast as he is, and as athletic as he is, and he’s developing into a pretty good passer—I mean last year he really developed as a passer—I do think he has an NFL future.”
Dave Rang, NFLDraftScout.com analyst (via CBS):
"He's a hair under 6-feet with a narrow body type and only average arm strength, but he is able to be successful due to his athleticism, natural instincts and foot quickness to create on the move. Manziel's best quality is a trait that's tough to quantify: his improvisational skills to keep plays alive and find a way to extend drives."
Another NFL scout (via SI):
"If he’s 6 feet or over, I think he’s definitely going to be a guy who’s draftable, and with the success and production he’s had, shoot, he could be a high pick. I never would have thought that before this season. I thought he was like a 5-10 guy just running around."
Ex-player Bucky Brooks (via NFL.com):
"Manziel is throwing the ball with more zip and velocity this season, while also displaying better accuracy and ball placement on his throws. While he is still at his best when playing in a "sandlot" fashion, he is definitely capable of making enough plays from the pocket to pick apart defenses intent on keeping him within the tackle box. Manziel's ability to string together completions, particularly on pass plays from empty formations, makes him nearly indefensible as a dual-threat playmaker."
An unnamed NFL assistant scouting director (via SI):
"He’s in the toughest conference in the nation, and the production that he’s had in that conference and against the best team in the country [Alabama]—he just dices them up—he made it look easy. That definitely has to be in the equation."
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