Johnny Manziel to Second Round of NFL Draft?

johnny-manziel-nflTrying to predict where Johnny Manziel is going in the 2014 NFL Draft is like trying to predict which numbers will win the lottery. Every mock draft that comes out has the Texas A&M star heading to a different team, with the Houston Texans (#1 pick), Jacksonville Jaguars (#3), Cleveland Browns (#4) and Oakland Raiders (#5) often coming up in the discussion. But former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King has a different take on the matter:..

In a recent mock draft of the first round that King did, he doesn’t even have Manziel going in the first round. This is pretty shocking when you consider how mesmerized some teams like the Browns have been with Johnny Football’s duel-threat ability. So what’s the deal here? Has King bought into all of the insults that Barry Switzer hurled Manziel’s way? Is he turned off by how the Heisman Trophy winner measured just under six feet at the Combine?

Actually, King just thinks that the unpredictability that Manziel brings is enough to make head coaches and general managers worry about risking their jobs to draft him. Here’s an excerpt from King’s Yahoo post:

shaun-king-footballThe Johnny Manziel conundrum is one the more interesting evaluation dilemmas to hit NFL evaluators in a long time. I don’t have him being drafted in the first round. Not because I don’t think he has a chance to be a good player, but because I don’t think teams will be able to come to an internal consensus on him.

When a team takes a quarterback in Round 1, a lot of jobs are on the line. If that player doesn’t pan out the general manger and head coach generally aren’t there to choose a second one. Jacksonville, Cleveland and Minnesota all need QBs now, yet they all drafted one in the first round in the last three years. Only Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is left standing; the rest, including all three head coaches, are gone.

Nobody is going to take Shaun King’s mock-draft advice over Mel Kiper Jr’s. However, his reasoning for not putting Manziel does bring up a legitimate point in that Johnny Football may be too risky for one of the top five teams to bet their jobs on a running QB who’s not even six feet tall. There’s a good chance that Manziel comes out and plays like RG III did in his rookie campaign, however, there’s also the chance that he becomes the next Christian Ponder/Blaine Gabbert/Brandon Weeden.

Going back to King, he believes that Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is the “most complete NFL ready QB since Andrew Luck,” and he has the Texans grabbing Bridgewater with the top overall pick. Predictably, Auburn OT Greg Robinson goes to the Rams at number two, while South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney goes to the Jaguars at number three. King also sends Clemson WR Sammy Watson to Cleveland with the fourth pick and Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald to the Raiders at number five.

We doubt that UCF quarterback Blake Bortles falls out of the top-5 range, especially with four teams who could really use a QB sitting there. But it’s still interesting to see a mock draft that doesn’t think teams will still be desperately reaching for the next Luck.

What Impact will Josh Freeman have on the Minnesota Vikings?

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikingsEver since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him last week, Josh Freeman had been a hot commodity among teams seeking a reliable quarterback. Maybe “reliable” isn’t the word here, given how tumultuous Freeman’s last days in Tampa Bay ended. But several desperate NFL clubs were willing to take a chance on him if it means salvaging their season.

The Minnesota Vikings proved to be the most attractive destination since Freeman signed with them today. The deal is a one-year, $3 million contract, with the 25-year-old reportedly wanting to only sign for one season instead of two. He picked Minnesota over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

The obvious thought that comes to mind here is how the Vikings quarterback situation will play out. Coming off of a rib injury, Christian Ponder is the incumbent starter and the supposed QB of the future. But since being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Florida State product has never been truly impressive. 2013 has been especially bad since he’s thrown for 691 yards, 2 TD’s, 5 INT”s, and fumbled twice in three starts.

Matt Cassel is the other option, and he led the Vikings to their first win of the year just before Minnesota’s bye week. He racked up 248 yards and 2 touchdowns after completing 16-of-25 passes. Most importantly, he didn’t have any turnovers, which is something that’s plagued Ponder.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayEnter Freeman, who compiled very good numbers with the Buccaneers in the first four years of his career. He had 12,090 yards, 76 TD’s, 54 INT’s and a 59.1 completion percentage. But as mentioned before, things fell apart since he missed important team functions and didn’t get along with second-year head coach Greg Schiano. One week after losing his starting job to rookie Mike Glennon, Freeman was cut loose by the Bucs.

Now in Minnesota, Freeman doesn’t figure to start right away. Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that either Ponder or Cassel will start against the Carolina Panthers. But the Vikings certainly aren’t paying Freeman $3 million for three-quarters of a season to be a bench warmer. He’s been brought in to compete for the starting job and take over if Ponder continues to falter.

Frazier even hinted at this by saying, “That’s part of the equation. That’s definitely on the table. We’ll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense.”

However, he also alluded to the fact that Ponder still has an opportunity to retain the job. “I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” he said. “It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional. He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back on the field and help our team win.”

As mentioned before, Ponder is/was supposed to be the future of this franchise. But with a talent like Adrian Peterson, Minnesota isn’t content to wait another year or two for him to catch on. The team is in a win-now mode since they arguably have the league’s most talented running back.

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikings-1Seeing as how Peterson is 28 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of prime years left. So this essentially becomes a question of whether or not the Vikings are willing to risk Peterson’s golden years on a chance that Ponder might turn things around. With Freeman now in town, odds are that Minnesota is, instead, betting on the guy who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.

So now we come to the question of what Freeman can do for the Vikings. With a 1-3 record, this team is already in the hole. And things won’t get any easier since they’re in an extremely tough division which includes Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

But Freeman at least provides a slightly better opportunity to win now than Ponder does. Sure the Vikings aren’t getting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees here; but they are getting a five-year veteran who has good arm strength and can put up decent numbers.

Now the big question will be if he can take advantage of having a threat like Peterson in the offense. Opponents constantly have to be aware of number 28 at all times. So this will take some of the pressure off Freeman, perhaps even more so than what Doug Martin did in Tampa Bay.

It’s still early enough in the year for Minnesota to make a turnaround. They are 1.5 games out of the NFC North lead and still have plenty of contests left against their division foes. But Freeman is going to have to play better than ever before to help the Vikings make a playoff run.

Reggie Bush to Lions, Wes Welker out in New England

reggie-bushThe NFL offeseason continues to be action-packed as a number of big-name stars are finding their way to new teams. Earlier this week, Percy Harvin found a new home in Seattle after the Minnesota Vikings traded away the fourth-year player. Apparently, Minnesota had grown tired of his antics, contract demands, and insistence that QB Christian Ponder stinks. In exchange, the Seahawks will receive the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, along with a seventh round pick (2013) and third round pick (2014).

The Harvin news is already a bit old, but a brand new story has veteran running back Reggie Bush going to the Detroit Lions. The exact dollar figures haven’t been released yet, but the deal is for four years. Considering that Bush had a two-year, $9.75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins and played his best football there, it’s likely that he could be earning more than the annual $4.88 million from the old contract. Bush has run for 4,162 yards and 29 touchdowns, and caught 372 passes for 2,730 yards and 15 touchdowns in his seven-year career.

After being selected by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Bush was largely viewed as a disappointment during his time in New Orleans. However, he experienced something of a career revival with the Dolphins by rushing for 2,072 yards and 12 touchdowns, and adding 78 catches for 588 yards.

During this time, Bush proved that he can be an every-down back – something which definitely wasn’t apparent in New Orleans. Of course, the USC product won’t have to carry the full load in Detroit since the Lions also have Mike LeShoure. After missing the first two games of the 2012 season with an injury, LeShoure ran for 788 yards, which ranked 23rd in the NFL last year.

Bush should fill the gaping void left by Jahvid Best, who Detroit hoped would be a speedy, explosive back after using their 2010 first round pick on the California star. However, Best dealt with serious concussion issues before being released by the Lions in 2012.

Reggie Bush signing with the Detroit Lions isn’t the only big news from today, so here’s a look at what else is currently happening in the NFL.

wes-welkerWes Welker unhappy with New England Offer

Following another fine year in which he caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns, Wes Welker was hoping to get a nice fat contract renewal from the New England Patriots. But what he got instead was a “laughably low” first offer that has the 10-year veteran ready to test the free agency market.

Apparently, the Patriots are going after Cleveland do-it-all receiver Josh Cribbs and don’t consider Welker a top priority – despite his incredible route running skills and impressive yards-after-the catch stats. It’s unclear where Welker will fit in elsewhere, but Philadelphia would be a nice spot since new head coach Chip Kelly loves to run screen routes.

rashard-mendenhallRashard Mendenhall signs with Arizona Cardinals

Two years ago, this would have been much bigger news. However, Mendenhall suffered through a dismal, injury-plagued season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and only rushed for 182 yards in 2012. Nevertheless, this one-year deal could definitely benefit both sides because Mendenhall can immediately step into the starting role for Arizona.

After all, the Cardinals were terrible at running the football since they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry; their leading rusher was third-down back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had 356 yards on 110 carries. Beanie Wells (234 RYDS in 2012) was expected to be a full-time starter last year, but suffered a turf toe injury and was released this offseason.

As for Mendenhall, he has 3,549 rushing yards in five seasons, including a 2010 campaign where he ran for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns.

mike-goodsonMike Goodson visits Cincinnati Bengals

One more piece of recent NFL offseason news worth reporting is that former Oakland Raiders running back Mike Goodson is visiting the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s also being pursued by the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, but appears closest to signing with the Bengals.

Cincinnati already has BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who ran for 1,094 yards and 6 touchdowns last year; however, Green-Ellis isn’t a great receiver or breakaway back, which makes Goodson a perfect compliment. In five years, Goodson has ran for 722 yards, caught 78 passes for 524 yards, and scored four touchdowns in a third-down role.

Minnesota Vikings could solve Percy Harvin Dilemma with Mike Wallace

percy-harvinThere’s no question that the Minnesota Vikings are a better overall football team when Percy Harvin is on the field. After all, he’s one of the league’s most dynamic kickoff returners and slot receivers – plus he even plays some running back. But is Harvin worth the $16.5 million annually that he’s hoping to earn in free agency?

The Vikings can’t really seem to come up with an answer, and it appears as if they could be making preparations for life without Harvin. The 24-year-old has one more year left on his contract and wants to be re-signed before training camp opens later in 2013. Assuming he doesn’t get re-signed this offseason, it’s very possible that he will hold out and skip some regular season games.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh SteelersAs this headache inches closer and closer, the Vikings are out shopping for other wide receivers. And the biggest name to surface so far is Mike Wallace, who’s hoping for a fresh start following a down year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After serving as a legitimate number one wideout for the Steelers in 2010 (1,257 receiving YDS, 10 TD) and 2011 (1,193 receiving YDS, 8 TD), Wallace regressed with 836 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Of course, most people still see the talent as being there, which is why Minnesota is willing to enter a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins.

The way that some Vikings fans see it now, they could have two top receiving threats by signing Wallace. And this would certainly be a welcome thought for starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was relegated to a receiving quartet of Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright at the end of the year.

percy-harvin-1However, the reality is that it could just be Wallace boosting the receiving corps., with Percy Harvin playing the minimum to qualify for free agency next offseason. It’s ultimately up to the Vikings to decide if they want to pay Harvin the same kind of money that Calvin Johnson earns. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons that Minnesota will be weighing.

Pros

A Big Threat – Percy Harvin is a dangerous player who’s more valuable than his numbers indicate. His speed and mobility make Harvin somebody that commands extra attention any time he’s on the field. This in turn frees other players up for more production like Adrian Peterson, Jenkins and Rudolph.

Solid Numbers – In just nine games last year, Harvin managed to catch 62 balls for 677 yards, rushed for 96 yards, had a 105-yard kickoff return, and scored five total touchdowns.

Proven Winner – The Vikings had a pretty successful year after going 10-6 and making the playoffs. In the eight full games that Harvin played last season, the Vikings went 5-3 and looked good while doing so.

percy-harvin-2Christian Ponder needs Him – One of the biggest aids to Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-plus-yard rushing campaign was how badly Ponder performed in Harvin’s absence; in other words, Minnesota was forced to run Peterson over and over again. With his favorite target in the lineup, Ponder threw for over 200 yards five times in nine games; without Harvin, Ponder was only able to go over 200 yards twice passing in seven games.

Cons

Injury-Prone – In his first three seasons, Percy Harvin rarely missed any games. However, he did sit out plenty of snaps due to migraines and other nagging injury problems. But last year, things really bottomed-out when the Florida product was placed on the injured reserve mid-season with an ailing hip and ankle. Percy only managed to play in nine contests in 2012 because of this.

Bad Temperament – $16.5 million is a lot of money to pay annually for a guy who’s had run-ins with coaches dating back to his college days. He was seen yelling at coach Leslie Frazier last year during the Seattle game – most likely over wanting the ball more. He also threw a weight at former Vikings coach Brad Childress when Randy Moss was cut from the team.

Sulkiness/Immaturity – Nobody questions Percy Harvin’s desire to win. But when things don’t go his way, Harvin has the tendency to sulk and be immature. The screaming matches with coaches are a good example of this. He also demanded a trade when he was unhappy with the Vikings prospects last summer. This being said, it won’t be surprising if his heart isn’t into the team when/if a giant contract doesn’t come.

It certainly won’t be easy for Minnesota to hand Harvin anywhere in the neighborhood of $16.5 million per year based on the cons we discussed. However, they can’t exactly afford to let him walk without getting Wallace based on the pros we talked about. All we can say is that the Vikings’ front office is a tough place to be right now.