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Fantasy Football Trends: Johnny Manziel’s Influence On Drafts

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Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns warms up during a preseason game between the Browns and Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 18, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns warms up during a preseason game between the Browns and Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 18, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

By Andrew Kahn

You don’t need to be a fantasy football guru to know you shouldn’t draft a back-up quarterback. This is especially true if the back-up in question failed to beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job. With that in mind, Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel is certainly overvalued by fantasy owners.

Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the draft, will not be starting on Week 1. And yet, according to CBSSports.com, he’s been drafted in 52 percent of paid leagues so far. His most common landing spot is the 13th round, so maybe owners are taking a flyer on the former Heisman winner around the same time they’d typically draft a kicker or defense. Little risk, but what’s the reward?

CBSSports.com’s fantasy football experts don’t think Manziel is worth drafting, and their projections for his performance were published before the Browns announced Hoyer as the starter. Dave Richard lists Manziel as a “deep sleeper”—something about the phrase doesn’t inspire confidence—at his position, slotting him at No. 29 among quarterbacks, ahead of Matt Schaub, Blake Bortles, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He does not list Manziel in his top 200 and projects 2,689 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and three rushing scores.

Jamey Eisenberg is a little more optimistic, listing Johnny Football as the 22nd-best QB, ahead of Super Bowl winners Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, and 165th overall. He projects more than 3,000 yards, 18 passing TDs, and three rushing scores.

Fantasy owners like familiarity, and Manziel is a household name. This is especially true in Texas, where he played high school and college ball: 9.4 percent of fantasy teams in Texas have drafted the hometown hero, more than any other state. Perhaps Manziel’s antics appeal to the Hollywood crowd, as California is a close second. Browns fans aren’t as convinced: just 5.2 percent of Ohioans have taken him, which is in the middle of the pack. Less populated states are not buying the hype: Utah, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Maine, and Idaho are among the states with the least faith in Manziel according to draft data.

Manziel’s influence on fantasy football this season goes beyond his statistics. He may inspire more team names than any other player. Nearly 100 variations of his name have been used in new team names on CBSSports.com in the past few weeks alone. Some names involve puns such as Tickle Me Manzielmo, Manziel Crush, and Batmanziel, while others poke fun at his lifestyle: Johnny Swanziel and Johnny Manziel’s Party Bus among them.

However, the owners who will get the last laugh are those who recognize Manziel probably won’t see the field much. Johnny Clipboard or Wheeeere’s Johnny? might be the most appropriate.

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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