Discuss 61
January 09, 2014
Why the Texans' first pick should be obvious
photo: Brandon Jones, TexAgs.com
 
The Houston Texans are on the clock.

They’re also on the spot.

The Texans own the first selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. They need a quarterback. Coincidentally, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the most exciting player in college football, has declared for early entry into the draft.

Yet, most draft analysts rate Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who also has declared for the draft, as the most desirable option.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images Bridgewater is popularly viewed as the overwhelming favorite to earn the No. 1 selection, but Manziel provides many factors he lacks. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Bridgewater is popularly viewed as the overwhelming favorite to earn the No. 1 selection, but Manziel provides many factors he lacks.","MediaItemID":34167}
Also, lately the draft stock has soared for Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, who also declared for early entry.

So who will the Texans select with the first pick on May 8? Or will they even have the first selection? Some have suggested the Texans will trade down, pick up another draft choice or two and still be in a position to take another quarterback.

There are a lot of quarterbacks. But there is only one Johnny Manziel.

Yes, the word is that Bridgewater is the most NFL-ready among the quarterbacks. He is indeed a fine quarterback who passed for nearly 4,000 yards last season. But he doesn’t have the running ability or the uncanny knack for making plays off schedule that Manziel does.

Some think Bortles would be a fitter fit for the offense of new Texans coach Bill O’Brien. Also, Mike Huguenin of NFL.com told Gabe Bock and myself on TexAgs Radio that O’Brien has a close relationship with UCF coach George O’Leary, who will surely give Bortles a glowing recommendation.

Might that influence the Texans’ decision?

It should not.

The Texans should just announce Manziel as their selection now and let the St. Louis Rams, who have the second pick, go on the clock. By the way, there’s a great chance the Rams would select A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the second pick.

Yes, the Aggies could have the first two players selected. But, of course, that would require producing the first selection. No Aggie has ever been the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Of course, no freshman had ever won the Heisman Trophy until Manziel did, so he has a way of breaking new ground.

There are a number of reasons why Texans general manager Rick Smith should select Manziel. He’s a much better pocket passer than many realize. He’s extremely smart and has the ability to read defenses. Manziel also has more than adequate arm strength, which he demonstrated in the Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over Duke with an NFL-type deep sideline throw to Malcome Kennedy and a 44-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker.

TexAgs Most of the knocks on Manziel seem to have little actual study of his style of play behind them and ignore his unique natural talents. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Most of the knocks on Manziel seem to have little actual study of his style of play behind them and ignore his unique natural talents.","MediaItemID":36932}
He obviously has great running ability, too. Don’t forget he rushed for 1,410 yards in 2012 to lead the vaunted SEC. He also has the leadership skills to make players around him better and rally his team for come-from-behind victories, which he did against Duke and twice against Ole Miss.

Manziel has a great ability to sense pressure and avoid tacklers in the pocket. I wonder if a study might reveal he has greater peripheral vision than most people. That would explain it.

Still, there are knocks against him. Most seem to enter around his size, which is listed at 6-feet-1, 200-pounds. In actuality, players about his size — Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Doug Flutie, Michael Vick — have been successful in the NFL.

Yet, some remain skeptical about Manziel’s durability because they seem to see him as frail.

First of all, bigger guys get hurt, too. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed several games this season. Secondly, even at his slight size Manziel’s elusiveness makes him less likely to be injured than a big guy who cannot move and avoid blitzing linebackers.

That shouldn’t be an issue.

Another reason the Texans should select Manziel is that his presence would increase their popularity. The only period of my lifetime when a Houston franchise came close to rivaling the Dallas Cowboys for popularity in Texas was the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when Earl Campbell was starring for the Oilers.

Texas fans like to see Texas players playing in Texas. Manziel, like Campbell a legendary state figure, could have the same impact and draw more fans away from the Cowboys to the Texans.

True, the Texans were in a similar situation in 2006 when they could have drafted Texas quarterback Vince Young, but instead (and correctly) selected North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams. However, Young’s passing motion was a concern. So was the fact he might struggle with the mental aspect of playing quarterback in the NFL.

TexAgs The Texans face a sizeable risk of missing out on a superstar made in their own state and forever regretting it. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"The Texans face a sizeable risk of missing out on a superstar made in their own state and forever regretting it.","MediaItemID":35708}
Neither of those are issues for Manziel.

But perhaps the main reason the Texans should take Manziel is that it may be a greater risk not to select him.

All is well if they select Bridgewater or Bortles and they become great players. But what if they are merely average, while Manziel develops into a star for the Jaguars, Browns or Vikings?

Then, you become the NFL’s version of Stu Inman, the old Portland Trailblazers general manager who selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan.

The Texans are in a position to take perhaps the most spectacular quarterback of all time to fill their primary need. And he’s playing in their own back yard. 

If the Texans pass him up and Manziel becomes a star, then they’ll be viewed as knuckleheads or blockheads — or some other kind of creative description.
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