The quarterback position incites the most debate when the NFL draft rolls around, and that has been the case with the 2014 version as well. While a consensus has started to form regarding the top four prospects at the position -- Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater -- the order they fall in seems to depend on your personal preference.
If you're basing things solely on college tape, Bridgewater stands out. If you want prototypical NFL quarterback size and arm, it's probably Bortles who tops your list. A few analysts have fallen in love with Carr's arm talent. NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock tends to be a traditionalist when it comes to evaluating signal-callers, but he's sticking his neck out for the most dynamic quarterback of the bunch this year and hitching his wagons to Manziel.
"Out of all the quarterbacks, if I had to take one -- you put a gun to my head and you're only allowed one -- that would be my guy," Mayock said of Manziel on The Rich Eisen Podcast. "And I say it with trepidation. But I think the most interesting conversations I've had about Manziel have been with defensive coordinators, all of whom say, 'We don't want any part of dealing with that guy.'"
Coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine, Mayock had Manziel ranked as the second-best quarterback in the draft class. Between his impressive pro day in full pads at Texas A&M and further evaluation, however, Mayock has seen enough to elevate Manziel to his top spot at the position in his latest rankings and has come around to the point where he believes Manziel is a top 10 pick who can win football games in the NFL.
One of the biggest knocks on Manziel has typically been about his height, but Mayock hasn't focused on that negative as much as others. Instead he has harped on Johnny Football's ability to stay in the pocket and make NFL throws with an arm that might be one of the stronger ones in the draft. Off-the-field issues are also a major concern for most teams looking for a quarterback but Mayock thinks that if they can get over that, they could be getting a special NFL player under center.
"It's two things: One is off the field -- you want him as the face of your franchise," Mayock said. "Do you want to manage this kid off the field for four or five years? Number two is, you have to believe that he can win from the pocket. And if he can go through his progressions, if he can throw the ball down the field, and then do his Johnny Football thing, I think you get the best of both worlds.
"If the answer to those questions is, I'm OK with him off the field, and I believe he can win in the pocket, you take him in the top 10."
Recent NFL.com mock drafts are all over the board as to where Manziel will wind up. He could wind up as high as third overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars or fall to the Cleveland Browns and the 26th pick. A report surfaced Tuesday saying the Houston Texansstill have Manziel under consideration for the first overall selection, but Mayock holds the opinion that might not be best for the franchise if they truly want to grab a quarterback in the first round.
"I think they want to trade down, my guess says they want to trade down," he said. "If they have to pull a card at one, I've got to think it's Clowney at one, and come back at 33 and get your quarterback. I don't like it the other way. I don't like Manziel or Bortles at one and come back at 33. I'd much rather do it the other way."
No matter how things wind up playing out come draft night, one thing is for certain: Mayock, like the rest of us, can't wait to see what Manziel winds up doing in the NFL after being the toast of college football the past two seasons.