One quarterback can't define him, as far as NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock is concerned. But Mayock was able to combine two for a Manziel comparision: Doug Flutie and Fran Tarkenton.
"At the end of the day, he's different than any quarterback I've done before," Mayock said. "He's different than RGIII, he's different than Cam Newton, different than Andrew Luck. He's different than Russell Wilson. I believe in the kid. I think he's going to be a top 10, if not a top five pick, but you're going to have to live with some of those negative plays in addition to the positive ones."
Mayock said the Flutie/Tarkenton comparison struck him while watching tape of Manziel's pre-eminent college performance, a 49-42 home loss to then-No. 1-ranked Alabama on Sept. 14.
"The first tape I put in was Alabama, and I put the tape down about two hours later and said, 'Wow, that was awesome,'" Mayock said. "It was really fun to watch. The kid made throws, he allows other players to make plays, he gave Mike Evans a chance to make plays. He extended plays. He was a combination of Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. I really enjoyed it, and there were two or three more tapes like that."
Manziel completed 28 of 39 passes that day for 464 yards and five touchdowns, plus another 98 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Although the Aggies lost, it was a thorough carving of one of the nation's top defenses on one of the biggest regular-season stages of the season. Mayock's concern came when he reviewed Texas A&M's two late-season losses to LSU and Missouri, when Manziel played nowhere near as well.
"Both (losses), the common denominator for me was that I felt like he got frustrated in the pocket," he said. "LSU and Missouri did a great job with controlling the rush and keeping him in the pocket. The more he was in the pocket, the more frustrated he got. He started to lose his accuracy. He started trying to escape the pocket way before he needed to. I feel like he doesn't like being confined. He likes those open spaces. We've got to evaluate him a little differently because of that. I felt like he would back out of the pocket, and all of a sudden, the accuracy is down, the decision-making is down, and NFL teams are going to (see) that very quickly. Having said all that, I do believe that he's got the arm strength, the athletic ability, the passion for the game."
Manziel completed just 16 of 41 passes with a pair of interceptions against LSU in a 35-10 loss in what was the worst performance of his two-year career as a starter. A week later, he was more accurate, but not much more effective, against Missouri.