Could Johnny Manziel, the outspoken and publicity-friendly quarterback out of Texas A&M who is about to enter the NFL draft, end up as a backup to Tom Brady? The scenario seems far-fetched. But nonetheless, Johnny Manziel appeared in New England on Tuesday night to get ready for a meeting with Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and the New England braintrust on Wednesday.
Each NFL team is allowed just 30 visits at their team facility from draft prospects each year, so they tend to spend those visits carefully, on players who they believe they may actually pick. Could Johnny Manziel be that high on the New England radar? The Patriots have eight picks in the draft this year, but none until the 29th overall pick in the first round.
By that time, Johnny Manziel is likely to be gone. Some draft watchers speculate he could even be the first selection overall, as former Patriots assistant coach Bill O’Brien, now the head coach of the Houston Texans who own the Number One pick, is hungry to acquire a franchise quarterback.
The meeting also seems odd given that the Patriots have future Hall of Fame quartreback Tom Brady under contract through the 2017 season, and a capable backup in Ryan Mallet under contract through 2014.
But according to football reporter Jeff Howe of the Patriots local Boston Herald newspaper, the meeting in New England with Johnny Manziel could be less about the draft and more about a kind of intelligence gathering.
“The Patriots’ interest is almost certainly a means of advanced scouting,” wrote Howe in Wednesday’s paper. “Bill Belichick has often discussed the merits of interviewing draft prospects as a way to formulate a base in their scouting reports, either in terms of preparing for a future opponent or a possible free agent.”
Howe compared the Johnny Manziel meeting to a similar confab between Belichick and Tim Tebow before the 2010 draft. If that’s the case, the strategy has paid off. When the Patriots faced a Denver Broncos team led by Tim Tebow in the 2011/2012 AFC Divisional Playoff game, New England stopped Tebow easily and won by a lopsided 45-10 score.
The Patriots then signed Tebow as a free agent, albeit only briefly, two years later.
It may be that the Patriots’ meeting with Johnny Manziel will lead to similar results. On the other hand, the talented Manziel’s “character issues,” have led other teams to shy away from him. The Minnesota Vikings recently had Manziel work out for them and came away with “flags.”
Those issues could cause Johnny Manziel to fall in the draft where Belichick, who has often acquired players cast off from other teams due to perceived personality defects, could pick him up.