Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Case Keenum’s performance at quarterback in the last two games for the Houston Texans will ensure that Manziel is a top 10 draft pick.
Keenum was the most prolific passing quarterback in the history of college football, completing 71 percent of his passes for 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior at the University of Houston. As a senior, Keenum led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a victory over Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl. He ran Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense to perfection during his five years as the starting quarterback for Houston, setting NCAA records for career completions, passing yardage, and touchdowns while playing for Sumlin. He also holds the NCAA record for total yardage.
After graduating, Keenum was not selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. Scouts felt he was too short at 6’1″, and questioned his arm strength. He was deemed a product of Sumlin’s system, and signed as a free agent with the Texans. Keenum sat behind Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates during the 2012 season, but injuries to both forced him into the starting lineup in the seventh game of the 2013 season. He responded better than anyone could have imagined.
In his first game as a starter against Kansas City, Keenum was solid completing 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. His second game as a starter resembled one of his typical games at the University of Houston. Keenum completed 20 of 34 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. He also rushed for 26 yards on three carries.
At the end of the first half, Keenum ran a play that was right out of Sumlin’s playbook. After he scrambled down to the five, he hurried the offense up to the line to get another play off. The Texans went five-wide, and Keenum threw a fade to Andre Johnson in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown.
Keenum has silenced all the critics with his play on the field. He has shown once again that height is not an issue for NFL quarterbacks. If scouts had any doubts after watching Drew Brees and Russell Wilson thrive, Keenum’s play should end the debate.
Some of the same questions that dogged Keenum when he came out of college are brought up when it comes to Manziel. Critics say that he is too short to succeed in the NFL as a quarterback. (His listed height is 6’1″, the same as Keenum’s). Manziel is viewed by many as a spread quarterback who creates on the run as if he were on a playground. They believe he lacks the discipline to make plays from the pocket in the NFL. Certainly, Manziel brings a different dimension to the game than Keenum with his feet. He can scramble out of trouble and then become a weapon in the open field. His ability to run away from defenders and make people miss will make him a dangerous play-maker in the NFL, much as it has done with Wilson in Seattle and Cam Newton in Carolina. With each game, Keenum is showing that height is not an issue and that more importantly, that products of Sumlin’s system can have success in the NFL. Keenum is making Manziel more money every time he takes a snap.
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