Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl in his sophomore campaign, masterfully led a Seahawks offense to clutch scores all season and we thought he laid to rest any caution NFL execs may have about drafting QBs under 6-feet tall. Wilson’s diminutive size, which initially dropped him to the third-round, became a non-factor as he exhibited the attributes of a top flight NFL QB. Plus his leg game is sicker than that of a 6-foot French model.
Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine’s measurements on Friday morning no one really questioned whether or not Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel was 6-feet. The kid balls like he’s 7-foot-5 so his diminutive size was never really a huge issue. Besides, he was listed as 6-1 in the Aggies media guide so as far as QB prejudices go, he was super safe.
In fact, before the combines, the garrulous Manziel had this to say to the Houston Chronicle when inevitable questions about his height arose: “I’m going to measure 6 feet—I’m 72 inches on the dot. If they want to try to jump on my shoulders and squish me down, it’s not going to be any less than that.”
Welcome to the NFL Combines where great becomes good and bad becomes valuable. Many a prospect has been listed as a first-rounder prior to the combines, and by the time they get to draft day they have plummeted without taking a snap, making a tackle, catching a ball or running a pattern. Something as simple as an inch or two in height can be the difference between a team considering you garbage or gold.
The 5-11 Wilson was a victim of the NFL Scouting Combine crunch and the NFL talent scouts who often throw away four years of film on a kid and base his worth on some drills, measurements and psyche evaluations, often overlooking the intangibles - leadership, calm under pressure and ability to motivate teammates – that make him a gem.
These are some of the same intangibles that also make Johnny Manziel a projected Top 5 pick – and possibly the first QB selected overall - in the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8th. Manziel’s college career was legendary. He was the first freshman to ever win the Heisman and made HC Kevin Sumlin the toast of the college coaching scene and the top African-American NFL coaching candidate. He was also a lightening rod of suspicion for every possible NCAA rule infraction in the book. In that way, he significantly differs from Wilson, but he does give the Seahawks champ his props as a trend-setter. "I think [Wilson] has kicked the door wide open,” Manziel said. "You're seeing more guys being successful avoiding that first wave of pressure — get out and do things outside the pocket. Wilson does some things he's not asked to do, when things don't go exactly as scripted.
"He's able to extend the play. One reason they were so successful early in the Super Bowl was that he was four-of-five on third down and was able to continue to push the ball down the field and get them where they needed to be."
As dope as both QBs put it down in college, neither is invincible to the deconstructive way that the NFL analyzes players – especially top-flight QBs. The combine is designed to highlight a player’s warts rather than their strengths and when a trash-talking, brash-balling dude like Manziel says that he’s 6-feet tall and then he measures at 5’-11 ¾” as he did on Friday, you know that’s going to be a hot topic within the social media and sports radio moshpits.
Maybe the "Wilson Effect" has already taken place in the fact that Manziel is even considered a potential “top pick” of the Houston Texans. He definitely isn’t the prototypical coach’s dream; a 6-5 pocket-passer. He’s magic on the pigskin mic though and I doubt Manziel is stressing whether or not he can ball at the next level. But it’s still enough of a concern for him to put out a statement about his height that he knew was false. C’mon. Like they weren’t going to measure you Johnny? Don’t think Manziel isn’t a numbers man. There are odds working against him that most people don’t realize. Losing those props as a 6-footer—as as silly as it may seem—puts Manziel on the losing side of history.
As I mentioned in my Jan. 28th story, Russell Wilson Gives It Up For The Shorties, “It’s been 60 years since a QB under 6’0” has been drafted in the first two rounds. The 5’10” Ted Marchibroda went No. 5 overall to Pittsburgh in 1953.”
That’s a telling stat right there. It’s not like Johnny Football isn’t used to breaking barriers, but the height revelation was also a big enough deal for ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen to debate how much, if at all, that quarter-of-an-inch really effects Manziel’s draft stock. Schefter says he’s still a top four pick. Mortensen used Wilson’s cautionary tale as possible reason for concern.
Noted college football gurus, such as our in-house brain DJ Dunson say Teddy Bridgewater is that dude anyway. He’s taller (listed at 6-3 )and unlike other QB's in this year's draft, Bridgewater professionally goes through his progressions, manipulating the defense with his eyes and tossing the ball on target while making all of the tough throws.
One thing is certain, the analysis of Manziel leading up to the NFL Draft will wobble back and forth like Gabrielle Union riding an electrical bull. If he doesn’t say or do something crazy over the next few months to lower his draft stock, then the realities of his physical portfolio and the swelling discussions about his stature, has at least reality-checked him for the time being.