It's hardly surprising news, but according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, it's official -- Texas A&M will lose quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans to the 2014 NFL draft. The two Aggies stars will play their last collegiate game on New Year's Eve in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke.
Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy after a 2012 season in which he completed 295 passes in 434 attempts for 3,706 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added 1,410 yards rushing on 201 attempts, scoring an amazing 21 touchdowns on the ground. His second collegiate season wasn't quite as impressive, but the numbers were still fairly staggering -- 270 completions in 391 attempts for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, with 686 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns for good measure.
In addition, Manziel started to develop the aspects of the game that will best serve him in the NFL -- running to throw, focusing on second and third reads and understanding the complexities of the position. He's not all the way there yet, but in an NFL that has learned to adapt to his type of quarterback, it's time for Manziel to strike while the iron is hot. And the recent success of Russell Wilson will keep more scouts and personnel executives from being too averse to Manziel's 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame.
“You take everything into account,” Manziel said earlier this month about that decision. “More than anything, are you ready for the next level? You don’t want to go be unprepared for the National Football League or leave two years on the table. In the grand scheme, it all comes down to making the best decision for you.”
There should be no such hesitation for Evans, who is precisely the kind of multi-tooled, big receiver the NFL always covets. Evans has 4.6 speed at 6-5 and 225 pounds, and he's been impressively productive in his two seasons under head coach Kevin Sumlin and as Manziel's favorite target. Evans caught 147 passes for 2,427 yards and 17 touchdowns in those two campaigns, and his 20.3 yards per catch average in 2013 ranked eighth in the NCAA. Evans' track speed doesn't always show up on tape, but he's a strong receiver who is learning route concepts, and he's a real bear to deal with after the catch. There were questions about Evans after Ryan Swope departed following the 2012 season and Evans became the primary point of focus for enemy defenses, but he eradicated those concerns this season. With his two main stars leaving, one wonders if Sumlin, who recently signed a lucrative contract extension, will be more inclined to test the NFL waters as well.