National Football League

Why Not Take Manziel at No. 2?

Anthony Stalter in 101ESPN Studio

For months, the NFL draft conversation in St. Louis has been nauseating. Repetitive. Mundane, even. Sammy Watkins or an offensive tackle? Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews? Sit and pick or trade back again? Do I punch myself in the throat now in efforts to drum up a little excitement around here, or can I hold on until draft night?

But then Charles Davis of the NFL Network dropped this little nugget into everyone’s laps a few weeks back: What if the Rams took a quarterback? And not just any quarterback, but Johnny Manziel? That rumor grew legs, a torso, a head and also started chain-smoking by Monday when Peter King reported that the Rams have serious interest in Manziel and put him through an extensive workout/meeting at Texas A&M.

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Still, though – Manziel? A Ram? Come on. There’s no way.

(Well, Sam Bradford is coming off ACL surgery.)

It’s blasphemy.

(He’s also set to make a quarter of a billion dollars over the next two years.)

This Charles Davis fellow is a crazy. Just crazy. He’s reckless, really.

(And he’s never taken the Rams to the playoffs.)

This is pre-draft media hype at its worst.

(Oh, my God, this is happening.)

There are so many questions when it comes to the Rams drafting Manziel. For starters, what do they do with Bradford? His trade value is already suppressed – an ACL injury, a bloated contract and four years of polarizing play will do that for you. If the Rams take a quarterback in the first 13 picks, they might as well drag Bradford’s body out to the front curb with a sign that reads: “FREE FOR THE TAKING IF YOU CAN HAUL IT AWAY YOURSELF.”

There’s that little issue of the offensive system, too. The Rams spent an entire summer, preseason and first month of last season running a spread offense that was supposed to highlight the strengths of Bradford, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Daryl Richardson and Chris Givens. Instead, the Rams didn’t become efficient offensively until Zac Stacy was the focal point and they got back to a run-first approach under Jeff Fisher. Manziel ran the spread at A&M, so would they turn back to that offense or ask him to hand the ball off 25-plus times a game? And maybe that’s not even a big issue. After all, the Seahawks and 49ers operate run-first offenses with mobile quarterbacks, and they’ve done just fine. In fact, maybe a run-first approach would suit Manziel perfectly, although I still have questions about his ability to read defenses after he improvised weekly in college.

Rams QB Sam Bradford

The biggest question lies in whether or not the Rams want to start over again. This team is seemingly close, and Fisher and Snead have maintained that Year 3 would be “the year” that the Rams challenge for a playoff berth. If that’s the case, then why start over with a rookie quarterback? Manziel is electrifying, but can he thrive running a pro-style offense while throwing to smaller receivers like Givens and Stedman Bailey?

Here’s another thing that I just can’t shake. I’ve been told that the Rams’ interest in Manziel is serious, although maybe not at No. 2. If he falls to No. 13, I’ve been told, then the Rams would likely pounce. But if Johnny (blanking) Football is your guy, then why not take him at No. 2? Remember, we’re talking about a quarterback here. This isn’t a cornerback, a tight end or even a cornerstone left tackle – this is a quarterback. The leader of your franchise. The one who commands the big money. The position that can almost singlehandedly get head coaches and general managers fired. A quarterback.

So you mean to tell me that Manziel is worth all the scrutiny, the media attention and the heartburn that would inevitably come from dealing with the Bradford situation, but only if he falls to No. 13? Are you kidding me?

Fisher and Snead are smarter than that. The coconuts that have made decisions for the Cleveland Browns over the past decade are smarter than that.

I’ll be the first to state that Manziel’s value isn’t that of a No. 2 overall pick. But quarterbacks hold a different weight. If Manziel is your guy, then you take him at No. 2. You don’t roll the dice and hope he falls to No. 13 if you’re willing to risk the fate of the franchise on his shoulders. Or, at the very least, you trade up from No. 13 (maybe with Atlanta, seeing as how the Snead-Thomas Dimitroff connection just won’t die) after Cleveland and Oakland pass on him. Either way, if you’ve zeroed in on a franchise signal-caller, then you better make damn sure that you do everything within your power to land him.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher

Maybe this is all just an elaborate smokescreen by Fisher and Snead, although we may never know for sure. If the Rams pass on him at No. 2 and he’s taken before No. 13, then don’t expect the Rams to be forthright with their pre-draft strategy. Fisher and Snead certainly aren’t going to reveal how interested they were in Manziel if they have to ride with Bradford another year. There would be no point in upsetting the starting quarterback who’s currently on the roster, especially after you’ve never wavered in your support of him.

Let’s just hope that if the Rams identified the new face of the franchise, they don’t leave it up to fate on whether or not they select him. Personally, I’d rather see them pass on Manziel and select two impact prospects who can help them now, but that’s just me. I’m not in the war room.

Either way, the draft talk around here just got a hell of a lot more interesting.

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