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Johnny Manziel could cash in on slipping QB draft class

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel could benefit from Marcus Mariota's decision to return to Oregon.

Credit Sports Illustrated writer Greg Bedard with a clever and humorous tweet coming off the news that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had decided put the NFL off and return to college for at least one more year. The social media post suggested that Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel could be awfully happy to move up one slot at the quarterback position on draft boards all over the NFL.

But along with being clever and humorous, Bedard's portrayal could also be deadly accurate.

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Between Mariota's decision and recent serious knee injuries suffered by two other quarterback prospects -- LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray -- the quarterback draft class of 2014 has taken something of a hit in the last 10 days. And while even a healthy Murray hasn't been projected as a higher draft pick than Manziel anyway, the Mariota decision and the Mettenberger injury could help Manziel move one or two steps closer to being the first quarterback chosen next spring, provided he opts to declare draft eligibility.

And that could translate into millions of dollars.

If, for instance, NFL teams with the Nos. 5, 10, 15 and 20 overall draft picks were the only clubs determined to draft a quarterback in the first round, Mariota's decision conceivably moved not only Manziel but any other quarterback with first-round potential up in the round by five picks, which translates, again, into this. While questions about Manziel's size, mental makeup and unorthodox style will persist until and beyond draft day, projections on where he could be picked only seem to climb. But nothing would help secure his place like being the top player on the board for as many clubs as possible at the game's highest-premium position.

It's not as though there won't be plenty of quarterback prospects jockeying for their place on the draft boards.

"It's a good quarterback class overall when you consider potential underclassmen," Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said, according to chicagotribune.com. "It's a big class. It's probably one of the better ones in a long time."

According to the report, Emery was on hand at Missouri Saturday to watch one of Manziel's least effective performances of the season in a loss to the home Tigers. He was measuring Manziel for decision-making, however, not height.

"Really, with the quarterbacks, two big areas: Leadership and decision-making ability. If they have that, you're willing to cheat a little bit on the size," Emery added.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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