The cynics can sneer, and the insiders can quarrel, but we just had ourselves a draft. Judging by the raucous cheering and chanting from those within Radio City Music Hall last night, NFL fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Johnny Football and his gigantic money-flashing hands have a home. Johnny Manziel is headed to Cleveland after a highly anticipated first round of the NFL draft that featured the usual trades, slides, and shockers that we’ve become accustomed to. Chris Berman spewed his ubiquitous banter, providing a fractured segue between team analysis, followed by frantic imagining of new topics of conversation after the panel turned around and Commissioner Goodell was not, in fact, walking to the podium.
Don’t lie; you knew Jadaveon Clowney was going first. After all the smoke settled that was blown in the egregiously long weeks leading up to the draft, after the debating and speculating, after the infinite number of mock drafts, the single best player in this year’s draft was selected first. Praise convention! All the talking heads had a field day with this guy the past year in debating when he’ll be drafted and whether or not he’d be ready for the NFL, after his drop-off in production from 13 sacks in 2012 to just 3 last year as a Gamecock. None of it mattered. He is far and away the single best athlete in this year’s draft class, and will certainly prove it in a strong defensive system featuring J.J. Watt on the opposite side of the field. The Texans were a 12-4 division winner just two years ago, and despite their awful league-worst season last year, their issues didn’t lie with a 7th ranked defense, even with their lack of forcing turnovers. There will be those that criticize the Texans for not enhancing a cataclysmically horrible offense, but when you have a player that, according to Mel Kiper Jr., is “the highest ranked defensive player since Bruce Smith” in 1985, there isn’t much arguing adding that machine to your team. But Johnny Manziel did not get drafted first.
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 3/10
Jacksonville saw a clear opportunity to make up for the lost opportunity of giving their nonsensically devoted fan base what they had always hoped for. Yes, it’s Tim Tebow. They got their hometown guy! Raised in Florida, Blake Bortles brought the UCF Knights out of obscurity, taking them to a bowl game last year. He’s got the build of a Ben Roethlisberger with all the hometown bright-eyed sap of a Tim Tebow. He was definitely projected as a top-3 quarterback this year, and the Jags chose him over Manziel. Could’ve gone either way. Bortles is the reliable drop back passer that doesn’t choose to run out of the pocket. He does it when necessary. We all know Manziel is the opposite. He’s the explosive, dangerous quarterback that can make plays, but can also get crushed with his sub six-foot frame. But oh, his hands. Jacksonville went smart, but you could see the grip tighten on the water bottles at Manziel’s table. He wanted to be the first quarterback drafted. The color of his face told you so.
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 7/10
So next in line to nab Mr. Football would have to be Cleveland right? If only. Buffalo traded up for Cleveland’s fourth pick, selecting Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. The AFC East got a little more interesting, especially with the Bills’ free agent signing of Mike Williams. So that’s Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Stevie Johnson, and EJ Manuel. And CJ Spiller. Good thing the Patriots signed Revis, because the Jets certainly don’t have the personnel to cover these guys.
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 4/10
Tampa Bay just signed Josh McCown to a two-year deal, but after the Josh Freeman debacle you’d think they would want a little more stability at the quarterback position. Josh McCown is probably a safe bet, but he’s no franchise player. With an established running game with Muscle Hamster Doug Martin, an explosive player like Manziel would be ideal. Well, looks like the Bucs are going to put their faith in McCown for now and give him some huge weapons. Mike Evans is certainly that huge weapon that instantly makes a team better. Did it sting a little that Atlanta (Jake Matthews) and Tampa Bay consecutively selected two of Manziel’s teammates? Probably, but JMAN2 did a great job of hiding his disdain with a big bear hug for Evans as he made his way up to the podium.
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 5/10
NOW is Cleveland’s pick, and most are thinking they have to take Manziel. Jon Gruden is going ape shit trying to convince Kiper that Manziel should get picked before his value as the tenth overall best player. But alas, Mr. Football will have to wait a few more excruciating hours, because new head coach (and previous defensive coordinator) Mike Pettine has other plans. Instead of the quarterback they decide to go with defensive back Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, because they actually do need to build their defense. Pettine has built defenses revolving around two lockdown corners (see: Revis and Cromartie) and this was his opportunity to continue that system over in Cleveland. Definitely a smart move, but at the expense of Johnny Boy’s hope of landing in the top ten. It looks like the Cleveland Browns will have to stick with Brian Hoyer, after a long, long list of failed QBs.
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 6/10
There was some speculation of the Giants possibly choosing Manziel after an awful year from Eli Manning, but they’re not quite ready to quit on him yet. They did, however steal the Jets’ first choice away by drafting LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Solid pick. Poor Jets.
So at this point, after all the speculation, after all the hype, Johnny Manziel is still on the board at #16 and the Dallas Cowboys have the pick. It’s too perfect. A precise beckoning—a call to Jerry Jones from the heavens—a protrusion in the clouds with a ray of light beaming down on the star at the 50 yard line of AT&T Stadium in Arlington with Johnny’s arms spread, accepting the glory of God. But Jerry Jones is God in Dallas, and wouldn’t you know it, he actually made a smart football decision. The ‘Boys were decimated last year up front, not to mention their record setting piss-poor defense. The Texas boy wouldn’t remain in Texas. They’d go with lineman Zack Martin instead. It wasn’t meant to be. And a wonderful hashtag continued to grow. #beforemanzielgetsdrafted
Johnny Manziel Bummed Meter: 4/10
The Jets love controversy, it seems, but new management wasn’t having any of it. They tried Tebow, they drafted Geno and pushed Sanchez out (figuratively of course, Rex Ryan didn’t PHYSICALLY cause Sanchez’s labrum to tear…), and well, now they have Vick, but John Idzik is smart enough to know where to separate himself from the Tannenbaum regime. The Jets in turn got a great pick at number 18 in Calvin Pryor. Comparable it seems to Rodney Harrison, Pryor has gained a reputation of being the hardest hitter in the draft. He didn’t play a ton of man-to-man coverage at Louisville, but his mentality and Polamalu-esque flight to the ball should fit perfectly into Rex’s system.
Miami, Arizona, and Green Bay at this point are not in the market for Manziel, but Philly at 22? Eagles fans would lose their minds, and I think Chip Kelly was aware of that, I mean it’s all over Philly sports media. They’ve very clearly stated DO NOT DRAFT MANZIEL WE KIND OF LIKE NICK FOLES AFTER HE WENT 27-2. So, they traded back a bit and swapped places with Cleveland, who had the 26th overall pick from the Trent Richardson trade. You could say the stars aligned, you could say it was fate. Brady Quinn was drafted 22nd overall. Brandon Weeden was drafted 22nd overall. After a night when Cleveland Browns fans were disappointed like they always are on draft day, would Cleveland have yet another heartbreaking moment to bemoan and strengthen their belief in the curse that has laid ruin to their beloved city? Not this time. Fans in the building chanted “Johnny” as Goodell casually walked up to the podium.
Johnny Manziel was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. And Radio City went absolutely wild. Cleveland can lament no more. They have a quarterback that is actually valued. A quarterback, though raw, has substance that can be molded and effectively built into a starting quarterback in this league. He’s a hair less than six feet. But does that really matter? According to Jon Gruden it doesn’t, because he’s got the hands for it. Cleveland has hope; they have something to look forward to now. They may just have their franchise quarterback. And it was an excruciating journey. Johnny Manziel is not so bummed anymore. And it’s all because a homeless man looked up from the very ground he was sitting on, and told Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to draft Johnny Football.