Johnny Manziel (Kind of) Joins the Padres

The fun-loving Cleveland Browns’ rookie QB was taken in the 28th round. Why?

Johnny Manziel was probably too excited about his courtside seat for Game 2 of the NBA Finals to sweat his slide to the 28th round of the MLB draft. The freshly minted Cleveland Browns quarterback had just arrived in Miami from Austin, where he spent Saturday swigging champagne in a pool, when the San Diego Padres announced the 837th overall pick. Technically a shortstop in the Padres organization, Manziel joins the long list of NFL signal callers who’ve been drafted by major-league clubs, a roster that includes Tom Brady (catcher), Michael Vick (outfielder), Russell Wilson (second base/outfield), and Colin Kaepernick (pitcher).

Still, Manziel stands out among those players. Wilson was considered a major prospect when he was selected in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies, and Tom Brady, who smacked a home run in the old Kingdome during an open tryout for the Mariners, was a reasonable 18th-round selection when the Expos took him out of high school. Unlike Jameis Winston, who closes for the Florida State Seminoles when he’s not on the gridiron or benched for off-field issues, Manziel never stepped into the batter’s box in a college game. He hasn’t played competitive baseball in years.

If the pick was a gimmick, it was a risky one. The28th round may seem like garbage time in the draft, but it’s not uncommon in baseball for late-round picks to work out.  Albert Pujols (13th round), Roy Oswalt (23rd), Keith Hernandez (42nd), and Mike Piazza (62nd) are all household names. What is clear is that the Padres organization made a decision to bet on merchandise rather than gamble on talent. Manziel already has the most popular NFL rookie jersey and he had the most popular NFL jersey overall for several weeks after the draft. If he can move some San Diego units, that would represent a victory for a team with few charismatic stars (Seth Smith, anyone?). The choice also makes the club part of the baseball conversation, an achievement for the guys in the front office, who have watched their squad drift 14 games back in the NL West. 

Photos by Denis Poroy / Getty Images