Hours away from the start of the draft, we try to make sense of it all, separating truth from rumor, and handicapping the race:Front-runner (30 percent chance)
Buccaneers (Pick No. 7): Tampa Bay has been regularly linked to Manziel’s Texas A&M teammate, WR Mike Evans, which makes a ton of sense. But the Buccaneers reportedly have Manziel on the short list of players in consideration for their first-round pick. It also makes sense since the Bucs have a system in place (solid defense and running game) that could support a player like Manziel. Josh McCown can’t be looked at as a long-term solution, and second-year QB Mike Glennon is reportedly on the trading block. The Bucs are definitely going to take a quarterback. Where in the draft is the question.
Not far behind (25 percent)
Browns: Owner Jimmy Haslem reportedly has a “love affair” with Manziel but apparently won’t force the pick on his new coachng staff. While the Browns are getting more comfortable with the off-the-field Manziel, is he the guy who can lead them to the top of a defensive-driven division? It seemed more likely Manziel would end up in Cleveland with the old regime. We believe the interest is there, but probably not at any expense. Pick No. 4 could be a reach, and he’ll likely be gone when Cleveland is due to pick again at No. 26.
Rams: There’s no doubt about the Rams’ interest in Manziel, and coach Jeff Fisher issued a classic non-denial denial Tuesday on Sam Bradford’s future. With that said, pick No. 2 is probably too rich, and No. 13 might not be high enough to get it done. What’s conceivable is the Rams trading down a few spots from No. 2, picking up extra draft selections, taking Manziel, and putting Bradford on the trading block. You could argue it might be a little early to give up on Bradford, but he has had a difficult time staying healthy, and Manziel would offer an exciting, new start.
Vikings: We aren’t buying Mike Zimmer’s contention that there are plenty of red flags with Manziel, or at least enough to scare the Vikings off. In fact, the new Vikings coach came off as disingenuous in his remarks after Manziel’s pro day, which he called a “sideshow.” That he went on a radio show to make the comments casts even more doubt on his sincerity. Yeah, we know, Zimmer is a defensive guy, but as a defensive guy, he knows what a nightmare it would be to game-plan for an Adrian Peterson-Manziel tandem.
Cowboys: Jerry Jones is reportedly interested in keeping Manziel in-state, but the Cowboys owner has always been about winning now. We’re not sure how picking Manziel helps them win immediately, but Jones has not always done things the conventional way. While Tony Romo has had his struggles, especially in the postseason, he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. On the other hand, he is 34 years old and the clock is ticking on his career. The biggest obstacle for the Cowboys is getting Manziel to drop to No. 16 (his basement is reportedly No. 13), and trading up might be prohibitive, as much as we’d like to see this happen.