Johnny Manziel, the spectacular Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns — but only after sliding to the No. 22 pick in the NFL Draft. Manziel, who quickly became a Texas folk hero nicknamed Johnny Football in his freshman year at Texas A&M in 2012, was regarded as the draft’s top quarterback prospect and considered one of the frontrunners for the Houston Texans No. 1 pick. But the Texans went with sure-thing defensive superstar Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina instead, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who needed a quarterback and had the No. 3 pick, opted for Blake Bortles of Central Florida.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. had predicted that Manziel would be drafted by Tampa Bay at No. 7, but when the Buccaneers chose Manziel’s teammate, wide receiver Mike Evans, instead, the brash quarterback’s prospects began to drop, as one team after another passed on him. Cameras captured Manziel’s discomfort in Radio City Music Hall’s green room as time ticked by. But the Browns, who made three trades before the first round was even concluded, moved up four spots and selected Manziel at No. 22. The crowd roared its approval. “To be [in Cleveland], it feels right,” Manziel told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. “Dawg Pound, here I come.”
Manziel will likely get an opportunity to play right away in Cleveland, which hasn’t reached the NFL playoffs since 2002. But the low draft position will cost him money. Last year, the No. 22 draft pick signed a four-year deal worth $8.2 million. The No. 7 pick, on the other hand, was inked for four years and $14.6 million.
In 2012, Manziel became the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy. The following summer, he was suspected of selling his autographs for money — a violation of NCAA amateur rules — and suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s first game of his sophomore season. He rebounded to throw for more yards and more touchdowns than he had during his record-breaking freshman season.