COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Watching a quarterback as a fan from an armchair and what an NFL scout looks for are entirely different things. With Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel taking on the vaunted Alabama defense, NFL Draft 365 asked an NFC West scout, who did not want to be identified, which three things he would watch for from Manziel.
Check out how Manziel's performance fared based on a scout's three primary criteria.
1. How is his accuracy from the pocket?
Throws on the run come easy to Manziel, being away from a rush and often throwing to wide-open receivers. But how is his accuracy on throws from the pocket, especially with a pass rusher in his face?
First quarter: Manziel couldn't have been more on target from the pocket to open the game. Nine of his first-quarter passes came from the pocket, and he connected on seven of them. Several were easy throws to the flats, but several others were far more difficult.
Second quarter: Manziel completed five of six passes from the pocket in the second quarter. Three were not of an especially high level of difficulty; two screens, and a short crossing route. He threw a perfect pass with high difficulty from the pocket on an incompletion deep on the right sideline that resulted in a personal foul by Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He also had an overthrow over the middle before the half.
Third quarter: Two throws stood out. One was on an ill-advised deep pass into traffic that was intercepted by Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri. The pass itself wasn't too bad, but the decision was. Following that miscue, Manziel threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy over the middle. It was thrown slightly behind Kennedy, but he had beaten his man by enough of a gap that it did not matter.
Fourth quarter: How about a 95-yard touchdown pass, second-longest in school history, from the pocket? Manziel pulled Texas A&M within seven points with the big strike to Mike Evans, who beat Cyrus Jones on the play. He also connected from the pocket on a couple of shorter crossing routes, but threw low on an incompletion.
Recap: Manziel was on target all day from the pocket, erasing any doubt about his comfort level there. In fact, he was just as accurate in the pocket as he was outside it, if not more so. Alabama did a good job most of the game of keeping him contained on passing downs, despite the fact that he picked up solid rushing yardage. He picked up well over 200 yards passing on deep routes down the sideline, and virtually all of that was from the pocket.
2. How does he handle adversity?
How does he react after an interception, fumble or some other mistake? Body language is more important than Manziel probably realizes.
First quarter: Everything went just as Johnny Football could have hoped for in the first quarter, with a pair of touchdown drives that came with relative ease. He faced nothing that even resembled adversity, so body language told little.
Second quarter: It was all calm for Johnny Football after his first big mistake, an interception on a lob into the corner of the Alabama end zone that was overthrown. It thwarted an ideal scoring chance for Texas A&M, but Manziel jogged off the field without concern. He took a sack later in the quarter with the same calm demeanor.
Third quarter: Manziel continued to be a cool customer even as Alabama began to take control with its rushing attack. After his second interception, he missed a tackle on the return and jogged off the field with no apparent emotion.
Fourth quarter: Johnny Football came out of his shell after the 95-yard strike to Evans, as he should have. Following that, he paced the sideline up and down like a cat hoping the Texas A&M defense could get a stop, only to watch Alabama drive for its seventh touchdown of the day.
Recap: It was just what NFL scouts would want to see. Manziel did not get visibly upset when things went wrong for him -- which wasn't often. When things went right, he was equally poised and didn't appear to engage in any trash-talking the entire game.
3. Mechanics and footwork
Do his mechanics and footwork allow him to make every throw the right way? Can he put the right touch on a back-shoulder throw or a ball that needs some air under it? Does he step into the throws that need zip to be fit into a tight window?
First quarter: Manziel showed outstanding touch on two deep throws to the wide side of the field, both to a big target in Mike Evans. He also threaded a needle to Evans on another deep sideline route that required a higher-velocity throw between a cornerback and a safety.
Second quarter: After showing both touch and zip in the first quarter on varying types of throws, Manziel showed in the second quarter that he can complete yet another throw: the desperation type:
Third quarter: Texas A&M ran the ball more in the third quarter, as did Alabama, and Manziel, as a result, had less of a chance to show off his arm. He did show nice zip on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy across the middle.
Fourth quarter: The touch required on the TD pass to Mike Evans, who reached 247 yards receiving on the day with the play, was significant. Manziel threw the ball out ahead of Evans and led him perfectly, as UA cornerback Cyrus Jones found himself a step and a half behind at the wrong time. He completed 6 of 8 from the pocket in the final quarter.
Recap: Manziel pretty much did it all, throwing with velocity when needed and with loft and touch when something else was in order. He led receivers exceptionally well and hit crossing routes in stride. There were a couple of ill-advised throws on which Manziel refused to throw the ball away. One of those resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown, but overall, Manziel flashed a wide array of passing skills. He finished 28-of-39 passing for 464 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He took just one sack and rushed 14 times for 98 yards.