Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambles away from the Missouri pass rush this past season.
INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians has coached many successful quarterbacks during his NFL tenure, and nearly all of them fit a certain prototype: tall, sturdy pocket passers with a big arm. Denver's Peyton Manning, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck are among his former pupils, while current quarterback Carson Palmer also fits the mold.
The main topic of conversation at the NFL Scouting combine, though, is about a certain 5-foot-11, Heisman Trophy winning scrambler. When the Cardinals' coach was asked if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel could fit into his offense, Arians didn't hesitate to say yes.
"There's no doubt," Arians said. "He's 5-11 and Ben Roethlisberger is 6-6, but he lived that way early in his
career. One, two, (then) I'm going to create something. He did not make mistakes. As long as (Manziel) isn't making mistakes, you can live with it."
It's unlikely Manziel falls to the Cardinals at No. 20 overall. Most projections have him among the top five picks, with No. 1 overall a possibility. His Houdini-like ability to evade rushers and a track record of success has quarterback-starved franchises taking a close look. There are questions about his size, although the emergence of Russell Wilson in Seattle has been a boon to diminutive quarterbacks.
Manziel was officially measured at 5-foot-11 ¾ on Friday, a figure the confident gunslinger shrugged off.
"I feel like I play like I'm 10 feet tall," he said. "A measurement to me is just a number."
Manziel was the most anticipated guest in the media area at Lucas Oil Stadium. He slipped in a back door and answered questions from an overflow throng of reporters. He claims to still be a small-town kid, but is clearly the most high-profile player in this draft.
Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, whose team picks third overall, insisted it was only Manziel's talent and not his marketability that would impact Jacksonville's decision. However, there's no doubt the team who chooses him will feel the glare of the spotlight.
"Manziel's got that 'It' factor," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "It doesn't matter if it's Cleveland, Seattle, Dallas. He's just going to be who he is."
Manziel won't throw at the combine -- doing so instead for teams in individual workouts -- but will participate in the rest of the physical activities. Much of his collegiate success came from his ability to freelance and create plays out of nothing, and critics wonder if that skill will translate to an NFL where defenders are faster across the board. Manziel believes his game is more refined than the highlight-scrambles show.
"I'm looking forward to showing up all the people that are saying that I'm just an improviser," he said. "I feel like I worked extremely hard this year to all-around hone in on my game."
Arians is wary of the hits scrambling quarterbacks take throughout the season, especially on designed runs. However, if he did coach Manziel, he said there would be no overhaul to his game. Staying in the pocket would be stressed, but Arians believes Manziel has specific strengths which, if inhibited, would be counterproductive.
"The same things were always being said about Roethlisberger: He doesn't throw the ball away, he takes too many hits, extends plays too long," Arians said. "He got hurt one time doing it, so everybody wanted to change the way he plays football. You can't change the way a guy plays football. You have to accept who he is."