If you're looking for a popular player in the 2014 NFL Draft, the first name on your list is probably Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. To say he's in the spotlight heading to New York City would be the understatement of the season.
Everybody has an opinion on Johnny Football and where he might end up in the draft, from the Houston Texans to the Dallas Cowboys to the Philadelphia Eagles and everywhere in between. According to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, though, if teams covet the energetic signal-caller, they'd better have a top 10 pick in the draft if they want a shot of landing him.
"From everyone I'm talking to, including several teams in the top 10, everyone would be surprised if he actually does fall out of the top 10," Rapoport said on "NFL Total Access." "Where would he go? He could go to the Bucs at seven as they might draft a quarterback. He could go to the Vikings at eight, and I'm not ready to rule out the Jaguars at three and the Browns at four. That's how much love Johnny Manziel gets."
NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock lists Manziel as the top quarterback in the draft and has gushed over him since an impressive pro day. Though the Heisman Trophy winner often gets knocked for height or relying on his improvisational ability too much, Mayock believes that teams will ask themselves two questions regarding the quarterback: off the field is he the face of the franchise, and do you think he can win in the pocket? For Mayock, the answer to both questions is yes, and Manziel is deserving of a top 10 pick based on his talent.
It appears that the rest of the league has also come around on Manziel and now tend to agree with that assessment.
"I had a quarterback's coach tell me that if you turn on the film, every three or four plays you see something spectacular," Rapoport said. "You either love him or you hate him, and this coach was feeling a lot of love. I talked to a general manager who said he has no off-the-field concerns for Johnny Manziel and compared him to a point guard because he makes everyone play fast. I talked to an offensive coordinator who said he's so unique that no one knows what to do with him.
"I asked about the durability factor -- could Manziel get hurt in the pros," Rapoport said. "He said Manziel was hit 380 times last season and hardly missed a play."
That's a number of positive statements that directly address concerns about Johnny Football's ability to play at the next level. Since it only takes one team to fall in love with a player to draft them, things are looking pretty good for Manziel's future.
Houston is a possible landing spot for Manziel with the first overall pick, but the growing consensus remains the team will take Jadeveon Clowney or trade down to fill other needs. Mock drafts do have the signal-caller going everywhere from Jacksonville to Minnesota, but Tampa Bay is a destination that is gaining steam around the league as Lovie Smith considers grabbing a quarterback of the future for the organization.
Manziel will be at Radio City Music Hall on May 8 for the draft, and it's becoming increasingly likely he won't have to wait long before hearing his name called by the commissioner based on chatter around the league.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.