Family hoping Johnny Manziel doesn't go to Houston; more draft insight

Wednesday May 7th, 2014
Johnny Manziel has been linked to everyone from the Cleveland Browns down to the Dallas Cowboys.
Greg Nelson/SI

If the Vikings are able to deal down, maybe their intended target will be Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles in a lower slot, but new offensive coordinator Norv Turner is also known to think highly of Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Minnesota's second-round pick is No. 40, and that may be just beyond the range of where Garoppolo will be available.

• In what appears to be a unique and well-received move, the Seattle Seahawks sent out a recruiting email to the agents of potential undrafted collegiate free agents this week, trumpeting their track record in that job market, then forwarded the release along to some national media members as a way of underlining how much emphasis they put on the latter end of the personnel acquisition phase of the offseason.

I got the email sent to me by Seahawks director of pro personnel Trent Kirchner, and the first thing I wondered was whether other NFL teams put together such an infomercial on their own behalf.

One rival club executive I spoke to said he knew of no other team taking that approach with UDFAs, and called it a "cool idea'' that the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks had. A long-time agent told me no club had ever been so pro-active in early pursuit of players who will go undrafted in the league's seven-round pick-fest.

"It shows the Seahawks know it's an aspect of the draft that is fairly uncontrollable, so they're trying to do what they can do to have some control over it,'' the agent said. The extra two weeks built into this year's draft season, the agent said, has given clubs more time to invest in the pool of likely undrafted prospects.

Seattle's release details a statistical analysis of how they have developed collegiate free agents and consistently relied upon them as a source of talent. There are charts that show the Seahawks lead the league in offering free agents preseason playing time, have in the past cut draft picks to create roster space for free agents and had eight current Seahawks/former free agents contribute to Seattle's Super Bowl-winning 2013 season.

It's a smart and savvy move by an organization that has made more of them than anyone in the league in the past four years or so.

MORE: Texans' options at No. 1 | How media will cover draft | Team-by-team previews

• If there's anything in the top five I'm 100 percent certain about it's Manziel or any other quarterback not going to Oakland at No. 5. As I wrote in late March from the NFL's annual meeting after talking to Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, a QB for Oakland ceased to be a legitimate option the minute the club swung the deal to acquire Matt Schaub from Houston. It's win-now-or-else time for Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie, and that's no time to invest in a top-five quarterback.

Oakland is said to be content with taking an offensive tackle to help protect Schaub (Robinson, Matthews or perhaps, in a bit of a surprise, Lewan), or it could talk itself into Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. I believe that presumes Watkins is already off the board at that point.

• If the Browns do pass on Manziel at No. 4, probably in favor of a receiver like Watkins or Evans, they'd be showing a lot of confidence in their ability to get a quarterback like Bortles or Manziel at No. 26, or wherever else they might have to maneuver in the first round to get the job done. And to beat a horse to death, Cleveland's recent history of moving around in the lower third of the first round in the pursuit of a quarterback has not been impressive (see No. 22 Brady Quinn in 2007 and No. 22 Brandon Weeden in 2011).

I'm sure it'd be great to be able to field a receiving corps like Josh Gordon, Watkins or Evans, and No. 3 receiver Andrew Hawkins in 2014. But having another standout receiver won't seem quite so impressive if you still only have Brian Hoyer and Co. throwing them the ball.

It's misinformation season, of course, but one league source told me it's definitely Manziel the Browns like the most at quarterback. Cleveland is said to have some reservations about Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, given that both are from Florida and might have issues adjusting to the winter weather the Browns often play in. Then again, Texas probably didn't prepare Manziel all that well for the conditions in Cleveland every November and December.

• From talking to league sources who are paying attention to his market, Garoppolo seems likely to come off the board at No. 26 Cleveland at the absolute earliest, with No. 33 Houston and No. 39 Jacksonville seen as the most likely teams to potentially trade back up into the first round in a bid to land him. The No. 29 Patriots or No. 32 Seahawks are considered the trade slots to watch if the Texans or Jaguars make a move for Garoppolo.

The potential first-round quarterback I'm having a hard time getting an accurate read on is Fresno State's Derek Carr. He could go to the No. 20 Cardinals or No. 26 Browns as many have projected, but I'm hearing that opinions on him vary greatly and some consider him a shaky proposition for the opening round.

• If much of the late buzz is right on Manziel and Co., and there is no quarterback taken in the top five, it'll mark the first time since 1996-97 that there have been two consecutive drafts without a QB being selected that high. Last year, Buffalo's EJ Manuel was the only passer taken in the first round, at No. 16 overall.

In 1996, Michigan State's Tony Banks went 42nd overall, in the second round, to the Rams. In 1997, San Francisco took Virginia Tech's Jim Druckenmiller 26th overall, in the first round.

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