The Draft’s Catch-22
The Browns landed Manziel with the 22nd pick, but had to beat out three teams vying for the spot. Should the Vikings have pushed harder to move up for Johnny Football instead of angling to get Teddy Bridgewater ten picks later?
As we look at the NFL draft with some perspective now, the one pick that fascinates me is number 22. And not just because Johnny Manziel got taken there, but because there was such heated competition for the pick.
An impeccable NFL source told me this on Monday night:
- The Eagles, who held the 22nd pick in the draft, informed teams after several players they loved at 22 were snatched—LSU wideout Odell Beckham, who went 12th to the Giants, and Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, who went 14th to Chicago, among others—that they were auctioning the choice.
- Six teams inquired about pick number 22. Philadelphia got four solid offers.
- Though it was reported by Jay Glazer that the Vikings and Browns jousted for the 22nd pick (absolutely true), they were not alone. The source said that another team, not Minnesota, was the leader in the clubhouse when Eagles GM Howie Roseman told Cleveland GM Ray Farmer with three minutes left in the 10-minute draft period that he had to make a better offer than the one Cleveland had on the table.
- Minnesota and Cleveland wanted Johnny Manziel. But it’s clear that the second-place finisher, which already had a good quarterback, wanted another player at 22. I wish I knew that other team. I do not. I don’t believe it is Houston.
- Cleveland, as I reported Monday in my column, did sweeten its offer to move up from 26 to 22, by improving its last offer to the 26th pick and 83rd overall. (I don’t know what Cleveland’s offer was before this, but GM Ray Farmer had less than 30 seconds to improve it to Philadelphia’s satisfaction, and he did.)
- If Farmer didn’t include the mid-third-round pick in the deal, Philadelphia absolutely would have made the deal with Team Unknown for the 22nd pick. Cleveland would have had to move on. In that case, Cleveland would have called Kansas City at 23 and Cincinnati at 24 to try to get a deal done. I am told Kansas City would have been receptive to an offer for the 23rd pick, but Cincinnati, in love with cornerback Darqueze Dennard, would have held onto the pick.
- The finish line: Cleveland won. The anonymous team seeking a player other than Manziel finished second. Minnesota was third—obviously because the Vikings didn’t want to include the 2015 first-round pick. (I don’t blame them.) The Eagles would have likely made that trade knowing the three or four players they liked at 22 would have been gone at 40. And another anonymous team finished fourth.
So, many of you have asked in the wake of Manziel to Cleveland at 22 and Teddy Bridgewater at 32 whether the Vikings messed this up, whether Bridgewater is just a consolation prize.
All I can tell you is this: I was in Minnesota last month. I spoke to GM Rick Spielman, whom I have known for a long time, and he was dubious about every quarterback in the draft. I spoke to another member of the organization, an influential one, who was similarly skeptical about the quarterbacks in the draft. They didn’t have a fervent belief in any one of them. They did like Manziel. They didn’t want to sell the farm for him.
When the Vikings spent private time with Manziel before the draft at dinner, coach Mike Zimmer was pointed and blunt (which is exactly what Zimmer is) with Manziel. At one point, Zimmer said to Manziel, “I’ve been waiting all my life for this chance. Can I trust you?’’ Manziel said yes. Manziel told Zimmer they would win Super Bowls together. Zimmer loved it. Zimmer wasn’t sure whether he trusted him totally, but he loved it, and he loved the confidence.
So the Vikings wanted Manziel. That is true. But did they want him enough to give the 40th pick in this draft and next year’s first-round pick as well? No. Can’t say that I blame them either.
Now on to your emails following a very interesting draft.