12/10/2013 01:28 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2014

Why Aren't Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron Projected to be Top of the 2014 NFL Draft?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Jason McDonald, The NFL Draft is what Christmas used to be. Time to unwrap our presents!

Manziel has a lot of the question marks you get with a spread-style QB. He doesn't take a lot of snaps under center, so his footwork will need some polishing. He tends to do a lot of quick-hit passes and improvisation outside the pocket, so there will be questions about whether he can hang in the pocket and go through his reads the way an NFL QB needs to. His arm strength is decent, but not elite. He's also battling the prejudice against short QBs, though Seattle's success with Russell Wilson in particular ought to be changing some minds on that front. And he's got those "character issues" -- if you're drafting a multi-million dollar face of your franchise, you want to know he'll be reliable.

McCarron's issues are almost the opposite of Manziel's. Manziel is the lottery ticket -- if he can harness the raw talent, he can be Russell Wilson/RG3 (rookie year) good. If he doesn't, he could be a huge waste of a pick. McCarron is more reliable, but he's arguably not as high-ceiling, and I think a lot of teams would be happier sneaking him out in the second or third round instead of paying him first-round money. He doesn't have elite arm strength, he tends to hold the ball too long and take a few more sacks than you'd like, and he doesn't really light up the stats sheet, though some of that comes from Alabama playing such smothering defense that he's not asked to. Sometimes you get the feeling he's more of a "game manager" than a truly elite talent.


Answer by Aaron Ellis, X's and O's

Depending on which mock drafts you view, Johnny Manziel will be drafted somewhere in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, most likely the first round. I think he will go in the first round because NFL quarterbacks are in short supply this season and this draft class has several talented QBs, including Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois), Derek Carr (Fresno State), Brett Hundley (UCLA), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), and David Fales (San Jose State)

The upside to Johnny Manziel is that he is a frighteningly athletic quarterback who can run and throw well, sometimes doing both in the same play. He is a superb improviser, so whenever a play breaks down, he becomes a wild card who can still make things happen. He has natural playmaking ability, sometimes connecting passes that make me scratch my head and say "How the hell did he do that?" He also shows good patience, which is good for a young quarterback. He usually only runs after he has gone through his progressions: It is the last resort.

That said, I feel that Manziel has many downsides. Tops on the list is that he shows all the behavior patterns of a reckless person. The same gunslinger mentality he has on the field, where he makes ill-advised passes and runs, seems to be related to his off-the-field antics, such as the off-season autograph scandal. Some of the borderline passes he connects in college would be easily intercepted or deflected in the NFL. Many of the collisions he takes while going for the extra yards rather than sliding would result in concussions in the NFL. On and off the field, he seems impulsive to a fault.

His 6' 1" frame is under prototypical NFL height. While there are successful QBs around that same height, such as Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, those players succeed because they religiously study gamefilm and make precise reads. Manziel doesn't have a rep for being a hardcore student of the game. Also, he sometimes forgets the fundamentals, particularly in his footwork (not uncommon for guys who like to pass on the run).

AJ McCarron is expected to go in the second or third round. He is a polarizing player. He has strong supporters and equally strong critics. His supporters are quick to proclaim that he is a winner who has all of the essentials. His critics say he has a weak arm and only wins because he is surrounded by talented teammates.

I fall into the support camp. I think he is a winner, a leader, and a great player. He is a traditional pocket passer who makes good decisions, gets rid of the ball quickly and connects all of his passes. He has competent arm strength and great accuracy.

However, he has one flaw. Unfortunately, it's a big flaw for an NFL prospect. When the pocket is stable, he looks invincible. However, in the few occasions when the pocket breaks down, he struggles. His normally accurate passes become inaccurate or outright errant. He does not throw well when the pressure is on, and in the NFL, the pressure will always be on.

I think Manziel and McCarron are right where they should be. Manziel will be one of the top five QBs taken in the draft and McCarron will be one of the top ten. Neither one is overvalued or undervalued at the moment.


Answer by Brad Wolff, VIP Writer at FanVsFan

First off, I think your question is inherently flawed: both Manziel and McCarron are considered to be amongst the top quarterbacks in this year's draft (if Manziel goes pro). ESPN currently has the two ranked within the top 60 (1st and 2nd rounds), with Manziel as the 3rd ranked QB and McCarron the 6th ranked QB. With the way the NFL Draft has gone in years prior (excluding last year), mid-level quarterbacks easily jump up the draft boards. This year, the market for quarterbacks could be pretty strong. Not only could bad teams be looking for a franchise quarterback, including Minnesota, St. Louis, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, and Tennessee (may very well sign Jay Cutler, which would put the Bears in the mix), but a team like Pittsburgh or even Arizona could be looking for a backup to develop under their aging, experiencing quarterback.

Breaking down Johnny Manziel's flaws:

  • Off-the-field: Johnny Football's off-the-field "issues" have been well documented by sports gossipy sites. Teams may view his poor behavior as a liability.
  • He's a gunslinger, and a wild one in that. He threw more interceptions this season, which doesn't bode well with his ...
  • Size: 6'1" is a generous measurement for this little guy. Plus, his weight doesn't compare too much to a possible comparison in Tim Tebow (200 lbs vs 236 lbs).
  • This tough guy takes a bit too many hits for my liking. I wouldn't want to watch my franchise quarterback get murdered the way a franchise QB with a bad O-Line could easily be. You can't dodge every tackle, especially since the NFL is still far superior to the SEC. I would have to expect a lot of fumbles from this guy.

All in all, Manziel's a leader, has a bit of that clutch gene, but I saw a guy struggle this season, regardless of what the numbers said. I wouldn't be too shocked if he returned back to school for another season, but his health may be too much of a risk.

Breaking down AJ McCarron's flaws (I struggle to see too many):

  • Arm strength and accuracy: It isn't easy to succeed in the league without these skills, but I see McCarron as just as crisp a thrower as anyone in college. He will definitely need to throw the long ball a bit better in workouts to show pro scouts that he could be more than a guy who averages 150-200 yards a game.
  • Supporting cast: McCarron chose Bama. Bama didn't exactly choose McCarron. So with that, he took on the knock of having a top offensive line, top running backs (Richardson, Lacy, Yeldon), and top receivers. With that, as well as a great defense and a legendary coach, McCarrron has taken heat for "not being that good." I can't argue with numbers that show three straight undefeated seasons minus one historic kick return. I'm sure, that with his work ethic, McCarron would've pulled a Mike Tomlin on Chris Davis if he could have.

Other than that, I am reaching for straws. I see McCarron as a competent winner. Plus, it can't hurt that, at the pace he is at, AJ has Joe Willie potential with the ladies.

Both guys should be 1st round picks, but I'd think McCarron has more longevity and success than JFF.

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