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Size matters

Johnny Football went 22nd in NFL Draft because he's seen as too small

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DALLAS -- Johnny Manziel opted to leave Texas A&M early, but his education certainly didn't end there.

Johnny Football learned a difficult lesson Thursday night. Painfully difficult, in fact. The NFL Draft isn't about college productivity. It's about measurables.

Manziel sat in the green room at Radio City Music Hall as NFL team after team passed up the most productive player in college football over the last two seasons.

Manziel sat there for more than 21/2 hours and watched a tight end from North Carolina, a linebacker from Buffalo and a safety from Louisville all go before him.

His two home-state teams, the Cowboys and Texans, also had shots at Manziel but fostered his slide. Two of his A&M teammates, tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans, were drafted more than an hour before him.

It wasn't until the Cleveland Browns traded up to the 22nd overall pick the Manziel slide ended -- and the smile of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner returned.

"I'm going to pour my heart out for this team and this city," Manziel said.

His 7,820 college passing yards, 63 TD passes, 2,169 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns mattered less to the NFL than his height (5-11) and weight (207).

The first round of the NFL has always been about the measurables. There's so much pressure on teams not to blow that first-round pick that scouting pinpoints players with the ideal height, weight, speed and strength. Logically, players who fit the NFL prototypes at their positions stand the best chance of succeeding at the next level.

That's why pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney was the first overall selection by the Texans, even though he managed only three sacks in 2013.

The NFL wasn't concerned about his lack of productivity last season. It fawned over his height (6-5), weight (266), speed (4.52 40-yard dash) and athleticism (371/2-inch vertical leap). Clowney looks like the NFL wants its pass rushers to look. So he goes first.

The NFL wants its quarterbacks to have height to see over pass rushers and the bulk to absorb punishment in the pocket. Quarterbacks are subjected to brutal hits on Sundays.

So the hunt is on for college quarterbacks who are 6-4, 235 pounds. The NFL wants its quarterbacks to look like Troy Aikman, John Elway and Terry Bradshaw -- not Johnny Manziel.

That's why Blake Bortles was the third overall pick and the first quarterback selected in this draft, by the Jacksonville Jaguars. At 6-5, 232 pounds, he fit the NFL prototype.

Bortles threw for 533 fewer yards and 12 fewer touchdowns than Manziel last season at a lesser level of competition -- Central Florida of the American Athletic Conference. But statistics don't carry the same clout in draft rooms as the measurables.

The most painful 10 minutes for Manziel came when the Cowboys were on the clock at 16. The defensive players the Cowboys coveted were all gone, leaving Jerry Jones with a couple of offensive options: Manziel and Notre Dame guard Zack Martin.

Manziel represented the future for the franchise -- an heir apparent for an aging Tony Romo -- and a marketing bonanza. This figured to be a tough call for Jones, the NFL's master marketer.

But with Romo starting a six-year, $108-million contract this season, Manziel didn't figure to hit the field for at least three seasons. And his presence would trigger an immediate quarterback controversy.

Martin, on the other hand, becomes a walk-in starter at guard, then can flip to right tackle in 2015. He represented immediate help in an area of need for a team Jones believes can contend for a division title and playoff berth in 2015.

So Martin got the nod.

And Manziel had to wait out six more teams before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell strolled to the lectern to announce Cleveland's selection.

Manziel has the talent to make it at the next level. Now he has the incentive. Quarterback-needy teams Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Minnesota all passed up the chance to draft him.

Aaron Rodgers tumbled to 24th in the 2005 NFL Draft and made a lot of teams regret letting him slide. Manziel will now have that same chance.

I wouldn't bet against him.

-- The Dallas Morning News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2014 B6

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