NFL Draft Round 1: Cleveland selects Johnny Manziel - Fantasy Impact
Cleveland Browns - #22 overall selection QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The Dog Pound will be hoping this pick works out better than the other most recent #22 overall QB selections (Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden). His smallish frame and improvising style could lead to major injury risk but the true dual threat will bring excitement to Cleveland and his fantasy upside should not be discounted based on his solid surrounding cast. The Browns had the #11 overall passing attack last season under Norv Turner (now in Minnesota) despite major shortcomings under center (Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden dominated the workload after Brian Hoyer suffered season ending knee injury). First year head coach Mike Pettine expects to start Brian Hoyer in week 1 against Pittsburgh but one has to think Manziel could change that with an impressive preseason. Hoyer is seven months removed from the ACL injury (averaged 205 YPG with 5 TDs and 3 INTs over three games in 2013) and tentatively sits atop the depth chart. New OC Kyle Shanahan worked wonders with another mobile signal caller in RG3 during his rookie season (2013 was a different story) which should bode well for Johnny football's fantasy upside once he gains the starting job.
Over 25 starts (two seasons), Manziel (5-foot-11 3/4, 207) completed 69% of passes with an impressive TD: INT ratio (63:22). His athleticism (4.7 forty) was on display throughout his career as he averaged 6.3 yards per carry while scoring 30 rushing TDs. He reminds some of Brett Favre based on the gunslinger mentality but will need to learn a better pocket presence to survive at the next level. It's worth noting that he was surrounded by one of the better O-lines in the NCAA led by top 10 selections Jake Mathews (#6 selection by Atlanta this season) and Luke Joeckel (2nd pick by Jacksonville last season). He also benefitted from having jump ball specialist Mike Evans (#7 overall pick by Tampa) at his disposal. Manziel falls into a similar situation in the pros as Cleveland's O-line was ranked 12th by Pro Football Focus led by LT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack. He'll also be blessed with a talented duo of pass catchers in breakout WR Josh Gordon (1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013) and TE Jordan Cameron (917 yards and 7 touchdowns last season).
Fantasy Impact: It's unlikely that Johnny Football enjoys the same level of success as RG3 in his rookie season (finished as the 6th overall fantasy QB in 2012) but Manziel's dual threat ability makes him an intriguing QB2 for fantasy purposes provided he learns to slide better than Mike Vick. Manziel is a true boom or bust pick worth considering after Matt Ryan for dynasty league risk takers (Matt Ice is our current #12 dynasty league QB). http://www.fftoolbox.com/football/2014/fantasy-football-dynasty-rankings.cfm?pos=QB.
Regardless of whether Hoyer or Manziel are under center, WR Josh Gordon should remain a WR1 and top 5 dynasty league target as the 23 year-old looks to defend is position as the top fantasy wide receiver (tied with Demaryius Thomas for the top spot in 2013). UPDATE: Josh Gordon may miss then entire season due to violating the league's substance (we're hearing marijuana) abuse policy.
On the downside, Manziel's presence under center could hurt Ben Tate's fantasy prospects (ADP – RB19) as the rookie is sure to vulture some red zone rushing touchdowns.