Manziel Or Lynch: Who Really Is The Better Pro Prospect?
By Bill Lund
You would think that the first player in college history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 while totaling 44 touchdowns in a single season probably would wind up winning the Heisman Trophy, right?
Perhaps if Jordan Lynch were playing for Texas A&M, he would have. Lynch not only led Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl, he finished with 4,953 totals yards (3,138 passing, 1,815 rushing). If Lynch had put up those numbers in a power conference, perhaps he would have garnered greater consideration.
While many draft analysts are looking at Johnny Manziel as a highly draftable prospect for the 2014 draft, few have yet to see Lynch in the same light, though they should. The styles of each quarterback are similar, as are their numbers (Manziel had 5,116 total yards and 47 TDs in his Heisman-winning season). Both operate offenses that highlight their arms and feet, with the only difference being Manziel plays on a larger stage.
With Lynch playing his final year, and Manziel more than likely declaring for the NFL draft, both will be available for scouts to evaluate this season. Which one has the better opportunity to be an NFL quarterback?
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Lynch is listed at a stout 6-feet tall and 216 pounds, and he has been an ultra-productive dual-threat quarterback for the Huskies. As a passer, he does not always look appealing with his mechanics. He has a three-quarters delivery, but he places throws on target with good accuracy. He doesn’t snap his wrist on throws but still displays good zip, especially in the three-step game. He has a nice touch on his fade ball as well as underneath passes and shows an ability to hit receivers in stride. He doesn’t have a great downfield arm, and deep outs could be a question in the NFL game.
Lynch is at his best improvising outside of the pocket when a play goes awry. In spite of his imperfect arm mechanics, Lynch has been highly productive for the Huskies. He shows a great aptitude in reading the defense, finding the open seam and accelerating downhill in the run game. He has good initial quickness and good speed in the open field, as showcased by his numerous explosive runs. Lynch also can run with power in the open field.
Lynch has made steady improvement from his option days at Mount Carmel High in Chicago. He is a fierce competitor and a worker with great football intelligence. He will look to continue to improve in every facet of his game.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel is officially listed at 6-1, 210, which seems slightly inflated. He has great speed, clocking in the 4.4 range in the 40.
What has defined Manziel so far has been his on-field leadership and elite competitiveness. He has delivered in the clutch numerous times in big games for such a young player. With that being said, he does have flaws in his game that could be exposed in the NFL.
His footwork is inconsistent and he has gotten away with it thus far, due in part to an offensive scheme allowing him to predominately play in the shotgun. He does show good accuracy on short and intermediate throws, but what make Manziel dangerous is his ability to be accurate while on the run. He is able to make throws from body positions that would be difficult for others. His deep throws are average at best. His arm action is erratic and he tends to just “sling it,” but Manziel does get the ball out quick. When he is on point with his footwork, he has zip on intermediate throws and deep outs, which will look good in a pro day, but they're hardly the throws that are evaluated on film.
Manziel's ability to improvise is outstanding. When pressured, though, he is impatient in the pocket, bailing immediately even when protection is adequate enough for him to step up or side step oncoming defenders. Manziel will be judged on performance, and if he dedicates himself to his craft, he has the moxie to be an NFL quarterback.
Who is the better draft prospect?
On the surface, the easy answer is Manziel. He won the Heisman, plays in a higher-profile conference, played in more big games and performed in the clutch. Lynch, on the other hand, lifted a program from a mid-major conference into a BCS bowl, dealt with a coaching staff exodus prior to the bowl, and held his own against Florida State. It’s easy to say Manziel is better, and circumstances don't allow for a great counterpoint argument for Lynch, though I wouldn’t dismiss him outright.
Manziel is not a first-round talent as a quarterback. I think he is more of a work in progress, despite his big game ability. Lynch, in my opinion, has that same ability. Both have been and will be compared to Russell Wilson because of their comparable size, but I don’t feel that is fair to Wilson just yet. Wilson played in two pro-style offenses in college and exceled.
If either Manziel or Lynch is able to enjoy any NFL success, they must upgrade their accuracy and downfield ability, which will only occur by working tirelessly on their footwork and mechanics in the offseason. The 2014 season will be pivotal for both of their respective futures.