2014 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Alabama vs. Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel is the biggest name playing in Saturday’s clash between Texas A&M and Alabama, but he is only one of many top prospects who will play in the game. (Photo: John David Mercer — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino

There will be no shortage of NFL talent on the field in Saturday’s college football matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M. Alabama has been an NFL factory in recent years, while Texas A&M features perhaps the most notable college football player in the world in Johnny Manziel, one of the many big-time prospects in this game.

Note: All listed heights and weights are courtesy of Texas A&M’s official athletics website and Alabama’s official athletics website.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, RS So. (6’1’’, 210 lbs)

On the football field in 2012, Manziel had one of the most prolific seasons in college football history, including becoming the first-ever (redshirt) freshman to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy. Off the field, however, character concerns keep mounting and it’s very much in question if an NFL team will be willing to use a high draft selection on Manziel and make him the face of their franchise.

From an ability perspective only, the dynamic playmaking skills that Manziel possesses are obvious. He is an incredible athlete who can escape the pocket and be a dual threat as a runner and passer. His numbers speak volumes, as he broke the SEC single-season record for total offense with 5,116 yards (3,706 passing, 1,140 rushing) last season.

My concerns come with envisioning the plays he made in college translating to the NFL, and I just don’t see it happening. Manziel runs a very gimmicky offense that is not seen in the NFL. He rarely comes off his first read and doesn’t show the consistent ability to throw with anticipation. Like Tim Tebow at Florida, Manziel generally throws to wide open targets. On film, I don’t consistently see him drop back, survey the defense and go through his reads.

While you can point to Russell Wilson as an exception, there is reason to be concerned about Manziel’s undersized frame when projecting him as an NFL quarterback. His arm strength and accuracy are both average.

When you couple my concerns about whether his skill set will translate with his demeanor and off-the-field issues, Manziel is somebody who I would cautiously use a draft pick on. That said, he has talent that someone will likely try and tap into. It would have to be the right scenario for me to draft Manziel, but it will only take one team to fall in love with him for him to be a high draft pick.

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama, Sr. (6’4’’, 214lbs)

McCarron has been the definition of a winner in his career with Alabama. He has compiled a 25-2 record in two years as the starting quarterback, and is in search of his third consecutive national championship this year.

McCarron is a very intelligent football player. His fundamentals are sound, he is smart with the football and he is a solid decision-maker. Impressively, he had a span of 291 passing attempts between 2011-12 without throwing an interception. McCarron goes through his progressions methodically and understands how to read defenses.

From a physical standpoint, McCarron is not extremely athletic. He has good movement within the pocket and can avoid pressure, but is not much of a threat to run with the ball.

One area to watch is how well McCarron develops as a passer outside the pocket this season. Inconsistency with his deep ball accuracy and overall velocity are other areas of his game that need attention.

McCarron has the makeup of a very solid backup quarterback in the NFL, but I can envision him doing things similar to that of Matt Schaub with Houston Texans. Do not overlook value in having a quarterback who is a proven winner that is smart with the football.

Go to page 2 for more on the non-quarterback prospects in Saturday’s game.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, AJ McCarron, Alabama, C.J. Mosley, Cyrus Kouandjio, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jake Matthews, Johnny Manziel, Prospect Previews, Prospects to Watch, SEC, Texas A&M

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