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January 17, 2014

Manziel's draft potential rises as he proves his NFL worth

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was the most exciting player in the 2013 college football season. You never knew what he was going to do, but Aggie fans and viewers across the country could be certain that it would be special.

Manziel could hunker down in the pocket and wing a pass to a receiver far down the field. Or he could scramble away and find running room where none appeared available.

That will be the frozen image of Manziel as a college player – elusive, carefree, dynamic, spur of the moment.

So how will his style translate to the National Football League – the same game but played a different way? It depends upon whom you ask.

Those who like Manziel – they seem to be the majority – point to his improved play at Texas A&M during his sophomore season and his dedication to improving as a quarterback.

Manziel increased his touchdown passes from his freshman to his sophomore years, from 26 to 37. He threw for a higher percentage of completions (68 to 70 percent), and took fewer sacks (22 to 19). He didn’t beat Alabama last year, as he did during his Heisman Trophy-winning freshman season, but he did riddle the Crimson Tide defense with five touchdown passes.

Manziel's two-year statistics at A&M should be enough to silence any doubters: 7,820 passing yards, 2,169 rushing yards and 93 total touchdowns.

But some observers raise other questions. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is Manziel big and strong enough to survive a brutal 16-game schedule, plus exhibition and possible post-season play? Manziel thrived in A&M’s wide-open system, but will his style adapt to a more conventional offense?

Then there's the matter of maturity. "Johnny Football" liked the carefree lifestyle most college students enjoy. But a pro quarterback is the face of the franchise, and that carries responsibility and scrutiny. Good times are limited to watching film about the other team’s defense, especially for someone new to the league.

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