Why The Minnesota Vikings Must Draft Johnny Manziel
Manziel is exactly what the Minnesota Vikings need (Photo: Reuters)
When Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen declared himself "all-in" on the remainder of the season after a trade to the Seattle Seahawks failed to materialise, it was thought to be a message to the rest of his teammates.
Just how well will it be received?
The struggles of the Vikings have been there for all to see this season. For a team that made the Playoffs last year, the start to this campaign has been nothing short of a disaster.
Inept offensive play, a porous secondary and some questionable coaching decisions - the 1-6 Vikes are now considered amongst the worst teams in the NFL.
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Given the talent at their disposal, that is simply staggering.
Plenty is to blame for their dismal form, but what could be the answer to their problems in future seasons?
That comes in the form of Texas A&M quarterback, Johnny Manziel.
It's no secret that the quarterback situation in Minnesota is an abomination. Christian Ponder, who was drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, has been truly horrific and now head coach Leslie Frazier seems to have finally run out of patience with the erratic signal-caller, no matter what he is saying in-front of the cameras.
Simply put, he doesn't have the necessary tools required to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has looked like a deer in the headlights throughout his time in the league and nothing seems to be improving.
Ponder has no ability to go through progressions, is not an accurate thrower and has lost the confidence of his receivers to find them the football.
While he may now stay in the job until the end of the season, it is only a matter of time before the 25-year-old is released - something even he now freely admits is inevitable.
In an act of desperation to save the season, the Vikings brought in Josh Freeman following his release from Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year, $3 million deal.
To say this move hasn't worked out is an understatement. Freeman has played just one game for the Vikings and is now the team's backup quarterback - indicating that Frazier has no faith he is the answer at the position.
With their third string, Matt Cassell, now firmly out in the cold, voicing his displeasure at the situation in the process - it's clear that a complete overhaul at the position is required.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in form, the Vikings will be drafting in the top five in 2014 - so they will get a perfect chance to fix the most important position on the team.
While Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, the best prospect at the position in the draft, is likely to be the first player selected - the Vikings should have the pick of the rest of a deep class of quarterbacks available next year.
Step forward, "Johnny Football."
The 2012 Heisman trophy winner is just what this franchise is severely lacking. A dual-threat quarterback who has you on the edge of your seat every time he has the ball in his hands.
After a turbulent offseason that involved a series of misdemeanours, Manziel has once again let his performances on the field speak for themselves.
In eight games this term, he has completed 73% of his passes for 2,594 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions - averaging 324.3 yards a game.
If that wasn't enough, Manziel has also demonstrated his supreme skills running with the football, rushing for 497 yards and six touchdowns in just 11 attempts a game. He has electrified audiences, just as he did last season - but now he seems to developing other facets of his game as he looks to progress to the next level.
The 20-year-old has looked far more composed in the pocket this season, relying less on his scrambling and looking more poised under center. He has also demonstrated that he is more than capable of making all the throws necessary to be a success at the next level, something he failed to show at times last year, which was his first as a starter.
Manziel's leadership skills also look to have improved significantly this term, which is a positive when you consider how much he has been criticised in this area in the past. This was demonstrated in their narrow loss to Alabama, where he carried his team for the entirety of the game, almost pulling off a huge upset in the process.
There have been definite character concerns surrounding the quarterback, with some suggesting Manziel isn't as focused on the game of football as he should be. Some teams have put a serious red-flag on him - something that he will have to dispel in the evaluation process next spring.
At 6'1, his height will also put some teams off - but this isn't as much a concern as it was just a few years ago, as more quarterbacks with inferior size are thriving in the NFL. Players like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III have changed the landscape for players like Manziel, which will only benefit his prospects.
With Allen out of contract at the end of the season, the Vikings will no doubt be tempted to draft an edge rusher like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney or UCLA's Anthony Barr - but Manziel is the only player they should be considering if they want the fortunes of the franchise.
After all, a team will only go as far as a quarterback will take them.
Their offense has an incredible amount of potential - all that is missing is a quarterback to keep defenses honest and distribute the football efficiently and effectively.
A backfield of Manziel and Adrian Peterson would strike fear into every defense in the league and it has limitless potential. This should see that eight are occupying the box at all times, so their receivers, who have cut frustrated figures throughout the season, would get far more opportunities to make a serious contribution.
Their rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has shown he has the potential to be a number one wideout in the league, and the former Tennessee star needs a dependable signal-caller to rely on if he is to truly maximise his potential.
Manziel has all the tools necessary to instantly upgrade the position in Minnesota and could single-handedly transform everything about this franchise instantly.
That is a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a man who will be 21 by the time the 2014 NFL season kicks-off - but if his time under center has taught us anything, it's that he is more than ready for this responsibility.
Yes, there will be some teething problems, as there always are with young quarterbacks - and his petulant past will no doubt present some concern, but the Vikings are beyond desperate and have to gamble on someone who can change the fortunes of the franchise.
That's why Manziel is worth the risk.
Of course, this will all change if Marcus Mariota declares for the draft this year. The Oregon quarterback has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Ducks and his presence in the draft next April would change the whole complexion of it - although it would be foolish for someone so inexperienced not to have another year as a college player under his belt before entering the most brutal sporting environment in the world.
The media frenzy will follow him wherever he goes, which is something both parties will have to be ready for - but with the new rookie salary cap in place, drafting Manziel isn't the grave financial gamble it once was.
Another reason to take the potential superstar.
And after a series of catastrophes, the Vikings simply have nothing more to lose.
Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_