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Extra Points: 'Johnny Green Room' calls Cleveland home
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - In the end "Johnny Football" ultimately became "Johnny Green Room."
Team after team feigned interest in Johnny Manziel during the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night in the hopes some other quarterback-desperate club would take the bait and offer up a king's ransom for the former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner.
No one was buying it, however, at least not early on.
In the end Manziel went No. 22 overall to the Cleveland Browns, 19 selections after Central Florida's Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken at No. 3 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"For me, it was a little nerve-racking, but at the same time, I went into the situation telling myself that everything would happen for a reason, that I would land wherever I did tonight for a purpose," Manziel said after being selected. "Whether I thought or knew the situation, I thought it would all work out for me, and I truly believe leaving here tonight that the situation did work out for me. I'm in a great place."
Manziel was not only the most polarizing figure in this draft, he was one of the most polarizing prospects in history.
Some scouts swear by him, pointing to his ability to extend plays and make something out of nothing. Others believed his diminutive size and reckless style of play simply isn't conducive to staying healthy over a 16-game NFL schedule, while his pocket presence is just not good enough to succeed at the NFL level on a consistent basis.
"I'm used to that by now. In the two years that I've had in college, I think I've been very scrutinized and nitpicked, as far as my game goes," Manziel said. "For me, the one thing I'd like to say is I improved from my first year playing to my second. I got better. All I'm trying to do throughout these next few years is continue to get better and hone in on my skills and become a better player. I think if I do that, I can be really good."
Hindsight now says Manziel's detractors outweighed the supporters.
One long-time scout summed up Manziel to The Sports Network like this: "He'll keep both teams in the game."
Meaning, Manziel's penchant for the big play will usually keep his club in it but his Brett Favre-like inability to give up on anything will foster mistakes and keep the opponent in it as well.
Whatever camp you are in, Manziel seemed destined to be the first signal caller taken in this draft.
Houston, though, couldn't seriously consider him at No. 1 overall, not with the talented Jadeveon Clowney headlining this draft.
While there was smoke in St. Louis, there was no fire as the Rams stayed true to Sam Bradford and passed on Manziel twice even though there is more than enough evidence to question that decision.
In Jacksonville, GM David Caldwell certainly didn't play it safe and give Gus Bradley the defense he likes, but chose Bortles over Manziel even though former Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick compared the UCF gunslinger to the dirty word in Jacksonville, 2011 draft bust Blaine Gabbert.
Cleveland was an obvious potential destination at No. 4 overall but the Browns traded down and then moved back up in order to get Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.
The fallback was always going to be Tampa Bay at No. 7, but the Bucs instead took Manziel's teammate with the Aggies, receiver Mike Evans.
Fans in Minneapolis at the Vikings' draft party were thrilled to get their shot at "Johnny Football" but the Vikings braintrust wasn't, trading down a spot before taking UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Some thought Manziel could turn into "Johnny Broadway" especially after Eli Manning's disastrous 2013 season but the Giants turned up their nose at 12, instead taking LSU receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
Even the guy who always makes the wrong decision made the right one this time as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones passed on the sizzle and took the steak, Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.
By the time Arizona, a team loaded with talent and looking for an heir apparent to Carson Palmer, traded out of No. 20 overall, it was time for Manziel to contact Geno Smith for ideas on what to do Friday morning.
Or was it?
Philadelphia held the No. 22 overall pick and Chip Kelly recruited Manziel heavily while he was at Oregon. Sure, Kelly has Nick Foles at the position, a player who happened to have a better passer rating than Peyton Manning last season, but "Nicky Numbers" doesn't have the movement skills of a typical Kelly QB.
Meanwhile, Kelly had a well-earned nickname while he was piloting the Ducks and it had something to do with his testicular fortitude. Google it.
The crowd as Radio City Music Hall picked up on all of that and started chanting "Johnny" as Roger Goodell stepped to the podium for the Eagles' selection.
It wasn't Kelly, though, who ended Manziel's long wait, it was Browns first- year general manager Ray Farmer trading back up from No. 26 to take the chance on Manziel at a much more palpable spot.
Drake's "Draft Day" finally lit up the speakers.
"Draft day, Johnny Manziel/ Five years later how am I the man still," Drake belted.
It wasn't quite five years but it was almost three hours.
"There are a lot of teams that did pass me up," Manziel said. "Just like I think with anybody in this draft that a team didn't select them that they thought they might go to or thought that there was a possibility, you do grow a little bit of a chip. For me, (it's) just continue to try and get better and become a good football player."
05/09 02:42:04 ET
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