Back in 2010, Johnny Manziel was a quarterback at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, outside of San Antonio. Although Manziel enjoyed plenty of success, he was not the type of high school player that attracted wide-spread notoriety. He eventually migrated to College Station, home of the Texas A&M Aggies. And then, the legend of Johnny Football was born. The hard-throwing, hard-running, hard-partying Manziel first took on the SEC, upsetting powerful Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and then conquered the college football world, winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Now Johnny Football is expected to turn around the fortunes of the browbeaten Cleveland Browns. If Manziel can pull that off, many fantasy owners will be along for the ride. When will the ride begin, and will there be a long wait for the ride?
Fantasy football will always value mobile quarterbacks. During his two-year stay in Aggieland, Manziel threw for 7,438 yards and 59 touchdowns while rushing for 2,096 yards and 29 scores. He is not afraid to take off and run when he feels the time is right. New Cleveland offense coordinator Kyle Shanahan, formerly of the Washington Redskins, knows how to play to the strengths of a mobile quarterback. Two years ago, before he suffered a knee injury, Robert Griffin III was dynamic as a runner as Shanahan instituted a zone-read system, with RG3 frequently lining up in Pistol formations. Manziel was used in the Pistol some during the preseason.
Johnny’s getting pages out of New Jersey from Courtney B, telling him about a party up in NYC. Can he make it? Damn right, he’ll be on the next flight, payin’ cash, first class, sittin’ next to Vanna White. Hey must be the money! Does this guy really want to be a great quarterback, or does he just want to party? Perhaps because of a lack of preparation, Manziel looked worse than fellow rookies Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr during the preseason. He needs polish as a passer and definitely needs more poise, as he shot the finger at Washington defenders who were taunting him and his foolish money sign. In defense of Johnny, part of Manziel’s struggles can be attributed to a terrible supporting cast, as the Browns lost Josh Gordon to a suspension and didn’t seem to care. That supporting cast will continue to be a problem, but it was Manziel’s overall uneven preseason that led to the Browns picking Brian Hoyer as their opening day starter. As long as Hoyer starts, Manziel will have no fantasy value.
While dynasty league owners need to stash Manziel and hope he puts it all together, he is no sure thing, both in reality in fantasy. He is one of the biggest boom-or-bust players in recent memory. Redraft owners have no reason to draft Manziel, but Johnny Football needs to remain on your mind as a possible free agent acquisition and streaming option. Given the media’s fascination with him, it will be impossible to forget about him.