The Oakland Raiders should be thinking one player heading into this May’s draft, Johnny Manziel. There is only one bona fide franchise changing draft pick this year and his name is Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel. With Manziel we are talking about a player who shattered Cam Newton’s SEC total yardage record as a freshman. I know you might be thinking to yourself what about Bridgewater? Bortles? Watkins? For god’s sake what about Clowney? My answer to all those players is no. Just no. Don’t get me wrong they are all great players and all are high upside picks but they are not Johnny Football.
First let me say that this years draft class, while substantially more talented than last years, does not have any clear cut NFL ready talent out there. What it does provide are a lot of young talented players that have high upside and will still be able to give solid production their rookie seasons. To me the most NFL ready prospect is South Carolina’s defensive end Jadaveon Clowney. Low motor and bad cardio have hurt his draft stock slightly. Defensive prospects rarely, if ever, change the course of a franchise the way a Quarterback does. Clowney is a special player but you can get similar production from later in the draft, ie: Trent Murphy, Dee Ford or Anthony Barr. While Clowney certainly has great upside he does not have enough potential impact for the Raiders to take him fifth overall.
Another interesting prospect in this draft is Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. There are pundits out there that think Bridgewater is the logical pick for the Raiders. While that wouldn’t be a terrible pick I just do not see Bridgewater being the kind of impact player others believe he will become. To me I think Bridgewater has a ceiling somewhere around a late Eagles Donovan McNabb. I see him struggling his first year the way Geno Smith did this year. No doubt he has all the tools to surprise me and be more of “in the prime” McNabb but from the film I have watched I just don’t think he has it. The Raiders need a superstar not an average quarterback.
The second quarterback prospect that is at the top of the draft boards is UCF’s Blake Bortles. The UCF product is a very intriguing prospect because he was nowhere to be found before the season. The more scouts watched him play the more impressed they have become of Bortles. Obviously Bortles is highly talented, he even beat Bridgewater head to head, but while I was evaluating him I saw inconsistency in his deep balls and a tendency to take unnecessary risks over the middle of the field. The best pro comparison I can make with him is Jake Locker of the Tennessee Titans. Both players have plus arms and both can make plays happen when the pocket breaks down. With that being said Locker hasn’t been that transcendent player Tennessee hoped he would become. Bortles has the tools to one day develop into a great quarterback but for a head coach and general manager in a prove it year, Bortles is not the immediate answer.
The best wide receiver in this draft is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins without a doubt. Watkins’ skill set is impressive to say the least, a big receiver with the ability to gain substantial yards after the catch. While he is a pretty good bet to turn into an impact player, teams should not draft wide receivers this early in the draft. The greatest receiver of my generation, Calvin Johnson, has been to the playoffs once in his entire 8 year career. Like it or not receivers do not impact the game as much as they think they do. Having solid receivers is important but you can find solid value later in the first rd and later in the draft, ie; Jordan Matthews, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Having a great receiver means nothing if you have an average quarterback like McGloin or Pryor on the other end of the passes. Sammy Watkins is going to be a star in this league but with the depth at receiver in this draft class, Oakland would be wise to pass on Watkins.
Now that we’ve broken down the rest of the potential top prospects that leaves us with the coveted Johnny Football. If you don’t know by now Johnny Football played at Texas A&M and won the Heisman trophy in 2012. Manziel is best described as a playmaker. He is extremely adept at making plays with his feet and as we saw this year he is equally as dangerous in the pocket. He is a day one starter for whatever team he ends up on. I have never seen a player as impressive as Johnny Football, his ability to escape pressure and keep his eyes down field is second to none. He has that kind of jaw dropping ability you only see every couple of years. Manziel shredded SEC defenses to the tune of 93 touchdowns and over 9,000 total yards in two seasons. The attribute I love the most about Johnny Football is the kid is a winner. He won 20 games at Texas A&M despite having one of the worst defenses in the country, 118th out of 123 FBS teams in total ypg. Manziel would bring a winning attitude to a team that for so long has become content with mediocrity. There is no question that he would lead the Raiders to the postseason for the first time in over a decade. If he is still on the board at #5 it should be a no brainer in my opinion. I personally don’t think he will last until the fifth pick and if the Raiders want a chance at drafting him they will need to trade up to at least the second pick, maybe even number one overall. Because of his unique playmaking skills I think the Raiders should take a chance and trade up in the draft to land Johnny Football.
To the Oakland Raiders it should be Johnny Manziel or trade the fifth overall pick. If they are not able to land Manziel they should trade down and gather as many value picks as possible. Those are the only two options the Raiders have to ensure improvement in 2014 in my eyes. Reggie McKenzie should be thinking one thing going into this April’s draft, Johnny Football or bust.