Johnny Manziel's Last Laugh

Johnny Manziel gets last laugh: Cocky as ever and still No. 1 star despite NFL draft drop

Johnny Manziel gets last laugh: Cocky as ever and still No. 1 star

Johnny Manziel draft
Johnny Manziel didn't disappoint — or back down — when the Cleveland Browns finally took him with the No. 22 pick. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel struts onto the Radio City Music Hall stage like he's the true No. 1 pick in the NFL draft rather than the most prominent draft day drop since Aaron Rodgers. He rubs his fingers together, doing his infamous money sign, which probably causes the uptight Roger Goodell to consider fining him on the spot.

Everyone might have seen Johnny Football sweat. But he's not about to admit to being bothered.

Manziel comes into the NFL as cocky as ever, arriving more like an over-the-top rapper than a PR firm-counseled professional football player. He'll somehow make it seem like he's had the last laugh.

 Manziel might be No. 22 in the draft book, but he's still the No. 1 most fawned-over star. And it's not even close.

Sure, Manziel free falls all the way down to No. 22. Sure, everyone from the Texans to Jacksonville to Jerry Freaking Jones to Cleveland (twice) say thanks but no thanks before the Browns finally move up to grab him with a third chance.

So what?

It's just more Johnny Football high life. Just more great drama for the narrative. Johnny Manziel wants you to believe he couldn't care less. It's all good.

The crazy thing is he's probably right. He might be No. 22 in the draft book, but he's still the No. 1 most fawned-over star. And it's not even close.

No one else has the NFL Network cameras following him relentlessly through the back corridors of Radio City, documenting his every step long after the Browns end America's Johnny Football vigil. No one else needs a regiment of security types to inch his way through the crowd. No one else has people tweeting out doctored pictures of him downing a beer at the NFL draft. (No, that didn't actually happen. It's a fake).

Johnny Manziel absolutely plummets — and he still emerges as the blinding star of the night. Go figure. It turns out that Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton aren't the only ones impervious to reality.

You know Manziel is loving it. Sure, the long fall costs Manziel around $13 million in his first NFL contract (based on those projections of his being the No. 4 pick). But this Rich Man's Son never needed the money. Besides you don't have to be buddies with Drake to know it's all about the endorsement cash.

In the end, this draft day drama is good for the Johnny Football legend. As long as he goes out there and makes teams pay Randy Moss style.

 There's no way Manziel should have gone No. 1 with Jadeveon Clowney's blinding talent. But there's also no way he should have dropped to 22 either.

Which he probably will. Johnny Manziel may be too much of a rebel for even a clearly suddenly very old Jerry Jones, but he can play. 

There is no way Manziel should have gone No. 1 to Houston because of Jadeveon Clowney's blinding supernova talent. But there's also no way he should have dropped to No. 22 either.

"Obviously, there were some spots where I thought I might end up," Manziel says in his televised press conference, "but when it didn’t happen there was no list [made] or no bitterness or grudge there."

Sure. And Jennifer Lopez hasn't lost her mind. Forget Manziel's sudden PC talk. You can be certain he'll absolutely hold a grudge. And with the Browns playing 13 of the teams that passed him this season — including the Texans (good luck with Clowney and J.J. Watt in that one) — Johnny Football will relish the drama.

No, he does not get the monster-sized stage of Jerry World. "I don't know if the world could have handled that, honestly," Manziel cracks when asked about his possibly being chosen by Dallas — a move that would have likely caused Tony Romo to explode into dust on the spot.

No matter. Manziel will haul all the drama, the circus — and, yes, his strangely undervalued talent to Cleveland. Suddenly, the Browns are must-watch TV.

Johnny Manziel's TV draft drama
Putting on a good TV show is something Manziel knows a whole lot about. He cannot hide his annoyance, sitting there in the green room (the expression of the young woman at his table avoiding eye contact with him at all costs as the picks inch into the 20s is priceless) as both ESPN and the NFL Network's cameras hone in.

Hey, he's a star. Above all else, stars know the show must go on.

 Manziel befuddled Nick Saban's Alabama defense twice. He breathed belief into an entire program. Johnny Football is no mirage. This guy can play.

"I knew the TV part of it was going to come," Manziel says on a teleconference. "I knew that would be part of it. For me, it was a little nerve-racking. But at the same time, I went into the situation telling myself that everything would happen for a reason. I would land wherever I did tonight for a purpose."

Now the purpose is proving a whole bunch of rigid NFL general managers wrong. 

Two other Texas A&M University players go before the school's Heisman hero — offensive tackle Jake Matthews to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6 and wide receiver Mike Evans at No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Central Florida's Blake Bortles — whom Manziel vastly out performed in college — is the first quarterback gone. 

But the real shock hits Manziel's face when the Browns move back up to the No. 8 pick — and take a cornerback rather than Johnny Football. He sits for two hours and 45 minutes of agonizing TV time in all. (It only seems like he's on the screen for every second of it.)

After all the hype, the "best pro day ever" and the apparent false NFL love, Johnny Manziel is just another player who is deemed to be too short and too slight to star in a league that still strangely insists its quarterback prospects come from Central Casting. Actual playing evidence be damned.

This isn't the Texans' regret (unless you count Bill O'Brien's decision not to move up into the first round again later when the Manziel free fall really picks up steam against him). But it sure figures to be Jacksonville's. And Tampa Bay's. And Minnesota's. 

Manziel absolutely befuddled Nick Saban's Alabama defense twice. He breathed belief into an entire program, managed to make Texas A&M cooler than UT. Johnny Football is no mirage. This guy can play.

He goes into the New York night still certain he's a star. About that, Johnny Manziel couldn't be more right.