The NFL Draft on Thursday will be a historic day for A&M. Both ESPN and NFL Network will televise the draft starting at 7pm CT.
A&M has a chance to make history with Mike Evans, Jake Matthews, and Johnny Manziel all expected to be drafted in the top 10 picks. Assuming one of these players is selected in the top 10, it will be the fourth straight year Texas A&M has a top-10 pick. Only 5 other college programs have accomplished this feat: Alabama 2009-13, Miami (FL) 2002-05, Ohio State 1994-97 and USC 1993-97. And if Manziel goes in the top 10, Texas A&M would be the first school since the 1990-92 Houston Cougars with two quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 in a three-year span.
Evans has had an incredible, albeit short, career at A&M. After redshirting in 2011, he went on to start every single game in 2012 and 2013. During that span, he had 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. Perhaps his most impressive game was a loss to Alabama in 2013. That day he put together a performance of the ages with 279 yards, a touchdown, and 7 receptions which was good for an average of 40 yards per catch. Mike Evans will be remembered as one of the greatest talents ever to don an Aggie jersey. In only two seasons of play, he ranks 4th on the all-time receiving yards record for A&M. Evans was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (nation’s top receiver) and a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award (player of the year). He earned first-team All-American honors by the AP and also first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors.
Evans could be drafted by a number of teams, and is expected to be the #2 receiver off the board following Sammy Watkins. Most analysts have him getting picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 7th pick. This rumor gained major traction after Tampa Bay traded wide receiver Mike Williams to Buffalo. The Bucs currently don’t have a solid receiver behind Vincent Jackson. Bringing in Evans would give the Bucs a great #2 deep threat. Rumors have also linked Mike Evans to Detroit. The Lions currently have the 10th pick and are in risk of losing Evans to Tampa Bay unless they trade up. Some analysts are predicting just that and have Detroit trading with Atlanta to secure the 6th pick and the ability to draft one of the 2 elite receivers in this draft.
Most people forget but Mike Evans has only been playing football for 4 years now. He decided to give football a try his senior year in high school. Now he enters the NFL as arguably the best receiver in the nation and an elite jumbo target that could have a career trajectory similar to Calvin Johnson. His major strengths include his size, catch radius, and run blocking. At 6’5” 231lbs, he is physically dominant pass catcher that can box out defenders in the redzone. With a 35” arm length, a 37” vertical, and his previously mentioned height, he possesses an unheard of catch radius. Finally, Mike Evans is one of the most physical run blockers that has come through A&M. He has a mean streak that he takes out on poor unsuspecting cornerbacks. It’s rather nitpicking to find weaknesses to his game. However, as he spends more time playing football in general, he will begin to refine his route running and become an overall smarter football player. He will be able to read defensive schemes, understand more complex playbooks, and excel at the finer points of his position. The sky is truly the limit for this Aggie.
Jake Matthews doesn’t get the same type of recognition that Johnny Manziel or Mike Evans receive. After all, it is hard to quantify the value of an offensive lineman. Well Matthews started the final 46 games of his college career. For those counting, that is the final 7 games his true freshman season and then every single game after that point. In the first 6 games of his freshman season, the Aggies gave up 23 sacks. Once he was inserted into the starting line-up, A&M only yielded 14 sacks the rest of the season. From then on, he helped anchor one of the best offensive lines in college football for 3 consecutive seasons. Following his junior season, Matthews had a chance to declare early for the NFL Draft and be a likely first round pick. But with the promise to move from right tackle to left tackle along with the chance to play a season with his younger brother Mike, he chose to come back for his senior season. Now he enters the NFL Draft as a sure-fire top 10 pick with a season at left tackle on his resume. Jake earned USA Today, Parade All-American, and All-Southeastern Conference honors. He also was an Outland trophy winner, Rotary Lombardi semifinalist, and team captain.
Jake is largely considered the top NFL lineman in a great draft for his position. Some analysts have Auburn’s Greg Robinson ahead of Matthews. However, that is largely due to the differences in styles. While Matthews is a dominant pass protector that run blocks well, Robinson is an excellent run blocker that is still growing into his pass blocking. Rumors have Jake going anywhere from St. Louis with the 2nd pick to Atlanta with the 6th pick. He could also land in Oakland (5th pick) where they desperately need a franchise tackle to help solidify their porous line. The Jaguars have also shown interest in Jake Matthews and could be tempted with joining him and former teammate Luke Joeckel together again. Look for there to be lots of movement at the top where there is no certainty with the Texans top pick.
Jake has strong NFL ties already and is ready to carry on his family’s legacy. His father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and cousin have all made it to the NFL and most of them went on to have extremely successful careers. Jake fully expects to carry on the tradition and could turn out to be a future Hall of Famer like his father Bruce. Out of any player in this year’s draft, Jake is largely considered the safest pick. He is quick off the snap and is exceptional with his technique. His active hands and great balance have kept pass rushers at bay during his college career. These skills were especially honed over the last two years with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. As we all know, Manziel would extend plays for 6, 7, even 8 seconds at times. The typical offensive lineman is only asked to hold his block for 3 to 4 seconds while the quarterback makes a pass or bails out the play. Jake Matthews anchoring the tackle positions was crucial to A&M’s success and will immediately translate into the NFL. And with experience at left tackle, right tackle, and A&M’s deep snapper, Jake is the ultimate plug-and-play guy. He can move seamlessly between positions and will be a franchise player for whoever is lucky enough to land him.
A man that needs no introduction, Johnny Football captured the nation with his free lancing style of play and his Houdini like ways of escaping the clutches of pass rushers. He led A&M into the buzz-saw known as the SEC west and came away with an 11-2 record, a Heisman trophy, and a 41-13 rout of Big 12 champion Oklahoma. But possibly most impressive, Manziel accomplished something most people considered impossible. He helped make A&M cool. Many recruits, players, and analysts have labeled A&M the “it” school in Texas. And while both Sumlin and the move to the SEC played a major role in that, Johnny’s electrifying style of play and envious offseason activities made A&M must watch TV. After redshirting his freshman year, Manziel won the starting job in 2012. Over the next two seasons, he completed 594 passes for 7,806 yards and 63 touchdowns. He also added 30 rushing touchdowns on 343 attempts and 2,162 yards. Winning the Heisman trophy, Davey O’Brien award, and Manning award are just a few of Johnny Manziel’s honors. He is far and away the most decorated athlete ever to play for A&M.
Johnny Manziel has been linked to nearly every NFL team drafting in the top half of this year’s first round. Both Dallas and Houston are interested in keeping the Lone Star product at home. The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders are seeking a player that can rejuvenate a downtrodden fan base and bring life back into their respective franchises. Even Chip Kelly with the Eagles can’t resist the prospect of matching up the perfect playmaker in his fast paced offense. And while most analysts have given Johnny a low first round to high second round draft grade, nearly every single mock draft has Johnny taken in the top five picks. Currently, those top picks belong to Texans (1st pick), Rams (2nd pick), Jaguars (3rd pick), Browns (4th pick), and Raiders (5th pick). However, recent rumors have surfaced that the Bucs with the 7th pick are interested in trading picks with the Rams in order to land Manziel. If this is the case, they must seriously believe that Johnny won’t fall past the Jaguars at #3. At this point, anything can happen including the top pick by the Texans.
Manziel is entering the NFL at the perfect time. The draft stock of smaller quarterbacks couldn’t be higher with Drew Brees and Russell Wilson both winning super bowls in the past 5 years. Nevertheless, Manziel is very much considered a wild card as he enters his professional career. Teams are worried about his level of maturity given his highly publicized and scrutinized off field antics. They worry about his durability with his 6’0” height and 210lbs. frame. But most of all, they worry that the same free lancing style that made him so popular in college simply won’t work in the NFL. While most people believe both Mike Evans and Jake Matthews will have immediate and long lasting NFL success, the jury is still out for Manziel. Will he be able to make all the throws necessary from the pocket? Will he stay injury free despite his desire to scramble? But perhaps the most important, will he be drafted to a team that can put him into a position to succeed? All of these things and more will factor into his future success. Even though the risk is high with picking Johnny, his ceiling could be the highest of anyone in this year’s draft.
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