The wild and wonderful Johnny Manziel era has come to an end. The redshirt sophomore and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner formally announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft on Wednesday and also sent a thank you letter to "The 12th Man" on TexAgs.com.
Manziel discussed his decision with Bruce Feldman from CBS, saying:
"I feel very relieved. It's a weight off my shoulders. I'm ready to become a professional and dedicate myself to making my dream a reality of becoming the best quarterback I can be."
ESPN's Darren Rovell first reported on Tuesday that Manziel had decided to sign with Select Sports Agency and Maverick Carter, who also represents LeBron James.
In 2012, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. That year, he led Texas A&M to an 11-2 record, including victories over Alabama, the eventual national champion, and Oklahoma, in the Cotton Bowl. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting this season, during which he passed for 4,114 yards, rushed for 759 more and had a hand in 46 total touchdowns (37 passing, nine rushing).
The quarterback closed his college career with a 52-48 win over Duke on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, when he helped the Aggies overcome a 21-point halftime deficit. Manziel rolled up 455 yards of total offense and accounted for five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) against the Blue Devils.
However, Texas A&M (9-4) was unable to replicate its 2012 success. The Aggies struggled defensively and had a hard time establishing a consistent running game. Still, the school saw enough from coach Kevin Sumlin to give him a new six-year contract worth $5 million per season on Dec. 10, which effectively squelched rumors that he might leave for open positions at USC or Texas.
Sumlin said of Manziel's departure:
“In all of my years of coaching, Johnny Manziel is the most exciting football player I have ever seen. We appreciate everything he has done for Texas A&M and Aggie football and wish him nothing but the best.”
The always-polarizing Manziel has spent his share of time in the headlines for reasons other than football over the past two seasons. Every move he makes is scrutinized, whether he is signing autographs, wearing a Tim Tebow jersey, hanging out with his friends -- including the rapper, Drake -- or making on-field hand gestures.
All of the distractions have taken away somewhat from what Manziel has been able to do with the ball in his hand in two years as the starting quarterback for A&M. He has consistently been one of the most electric and entertaining players in college football, and has almost single-handedly help ease the Aggies' transition into the SEC.
Manziel’s talent alone should land him in the first round of the draft, although he will inevitably have to deal with questions about his character.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has Manziel at No. 14 on his Big Board, the second-highest quarterback aside from Teddy Bridgewater.
SI.com’s Chris Burke has Manziel as the third pick overall, going to the Jaguars, in his newly-debuted Mock Draft 4.0. Says Burke:
An admission: I was all over the place with Manziel before settling on him here, bumping out Khalil Mack. I do not think it’s out of the question that the Jaguars aim for someone like Mack or Anthony Barr to give Gus Bradley a dynamic defender. But doing so would likely force them to settle on a second-tier QB later, dragging out the rebuilding project.
Manziel will make mistakes (possibly off the field as well as on). He’ll also make the Jaguars a far more dangerous team from Day 1.
Wherever Manziel lands, his ability to make something out of nothing when a play breaks down and his competitive streak will be considerable assets. The teams with quarterback needs will have to decide if the Aggie fits with their coaching scheme and offensive philosophy, but at this point it's probably Bridgewater first and a take your pick of Fresno State's Derek Carr, UCF's Blake Bortles and Manziel. If he doesn't go to the Jaguars, it's hard to see Cleveland passing on him at No. 4.
In the meantime, let’s all just enjoy what we got from Johnny Football at the college level for a little bit longer.