There are plenty of intriguing story lines entering this weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine. Most notably, the play of Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and the rest of the top quarterback prospects. It is likely that one of those three QBs will be the first overall pick in May’s draft, with the Houston Texans holding the number one pick and in need of a franchise quarterback. There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about Johnny Manziel shooting up draft boards and being the front runner to be the number one pick. The Heisman Trophy winner from 2012, was born and raised in Texas, attended Texas A&M, and has been outspoken in his confidence that he is the best player in this year’s draft. Manziel was quoted in the Houston Chronicle saying,
It would be the worst decision they’ve (the Texans) ever made. I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.
That confidence is part of what separates Manziel from the competition. Sure, you assume the other guys vying for that top spot are confident in their abilities, but they don’t carry even close to the same swagger that Manziel does. Manziel has perhaps the coolest nickname in the draft, “Johnny Football”, and has already proven he can perform on the big stage, playing in the SEC and winning the Heisman Trophy.
Manziel’s main competition for the best QB in the draft is Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. Bortles, a relative unknown before the 2013 season began, shot up draft boards after leading the Knights to a 12-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory. Bridgewater was projected for some time to be the number one overall selection in the draft, but has seen his stock fall a bit in recent weeks and is now viewed by many to be the third best quarterback in this group.
This is easily the best story line going into the weekend. After Manziel’s comments, the pressure will be on for him to back up his words, and put his money where is mouth is (pun intended). If his past performances are any indication, Johnny Football should have no problem wowing scouts with his athleticism and arm strength under the bright lights.
Outside of those three top quarterbacks, there are plenty of other big names hoping to be drafted in the early rounds come May. Fresno State’s Derek Carr, the brother of former number one overall pick David Carr, is one of those names. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is yet another. McCarron, a three time National Champion under Nick Saban, twice as the starting quarterback, is one of the more intriguing guys to keep an eye on. He was widely considered a “game manager” at Alabama and was said to have benefited from the Tide’s stellar defense and running game. Clearly McCarron is a winner, but it will be interesting to see if he can make all of the throws that pro scouts are looking for. One final name to keep on eye on is Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. Boyd set pretty much every offensive record imaginable while at Clemson, is the ACC’s all time leader in touchdowns, and ranks second to Philip Rivers in ACC history in career passing yards. Despite all of those accomplishments, there is a lot of doubt surrounding Boyd as he enters the scouting combine. There are questions about his size (he stands just 6’1″) and his ability to read defenses, as he made some questionable throws in his Clemson career, including one late in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State in January that led to an interception, a game which the Tigers later held on to win. Luckily for Boyd and other smaller quarterbacks (including the 6’1″ Manziel), the likes of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have shed some of the negative feelings towards small quarterbacks in the NFL. Boyd will have to perform well in Indianapolis to assure a draft spot in one of the higher rounds.
So there you have it. Sure, everyone wants to know how fast Sammy Watkins will run, or how Michael Sam and Jadeveon Clowney will perform, but I think that the best story line in Indy will be how the quarterbacks perform. No matter what, the scouting combine is always a fun watch, and should provide us with plenty of entertainment as well start to feel the pain of football withdrawal.