Manziel, RGIII among 6 NFL players facing a make-or-break 2015 season

The 2015 free-agent frenzy has come and gone, and the draft is less than a month out. As teams delve deeper and deeper into planning for the upcoming season, some players are standing out for all the wrong reasons.

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Manziel, RGIII among 6 NFL players facing a make-or-break 2015 season

1. E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills

Entering his third career NFL season, the former first-round pick will be a part of a three-way competition for Buffalo’s starting quarterback job. If he wins, it means he was better than veteran journeyman Matt Cassel and longtime backup Tyrod Taylor.

Under first-year Bills coach Rex Ryan and after a very productive offseason, Buffalo is already considered one of the favorites to make noise in the AFC in 2015. With an already stout defense and the addition of LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the pressure is on Manuel — more so than Cassel or Taylor — to win the starting job and not look back.

If Manuel is unable to do that, it’s conceivable to see Buffalo’s front office ponder new options at the position entering 2016, possibly looking for a quarterback in the first round for a second time in four offseasons.

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

2. Geno Smith, QB, Jets

Similar to the situation in Western New York, Smith may be playing for his roster spot with the Jets this season. The team acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Texans and is reportedly going to be in the mix for former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with the No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft.

Fitzpatrick is still recovering after breaking his leg last season, but is expected to be ready for Jets OTAs. That means a healthy Smith is in the best position to take the lead in the team’s quarterback battle and earn a Week 1 start.

Should Smith fail to win the job or do so then struggle and be benched, it’s likely his run in the Big Apple will come to an end. Perhaps it could be over regardless if the Jets draft the much-hyped Mariota with their first pick later this month.

(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns

Johnny Football was instantly a fan favorite for the quarterback-starved Cleveland fan base, but his continual off-the-field antics and recent trip to rehab has many in the Browns organization skeptical if the quarterback will ever start a game for the team again.

Manziel wowed us when he was inserted into the game late against the Bills this past season, but he was equally as ineffective earning the start under center down the stretch of 2014. His constant off-the-field storylines only deepened the hole he was digging for himself.

This season Manziel will likely be the backup to free-agent signee Josh McCown, and any more off-the-field drama will likely be his ticket out of Cleveland. It’s hard enough to put your faith in a quarterback that struggles on the field; it’s ever harder to do so in a quarterback that can’t keep it together off it either.

(Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

4. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings

It remains a mystery where Peterson will play this season. He remains a member of the Vikings, though all indications from the running back suggest that’s not where he wants to suit up Week 1.

At 30 years old coming off a one-game campaign in 2014, there inevitably are questions as to whether Peterson is still the Peterson who has dominated the NFL the past eight years. He’s only three years removed from a 2,000-plus-yard season, but three years could be a lifetime when it comes to NFL running backs.

With all off the commotion being stirred up by Peterson and the Vikings, he faces a major “prove it” type of season wherever he plays in 2015. Otherwise, a team that deals for him could be making a major bust type of deal, likely having to part ways with multiple draft picks and opening its wallet big time to bring him in to make a run.

(Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins

The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year is very much facing a rocky future in the nation’s capital. As we’ve seen since 2013 coming off his injury, RGIII has never really bounced back to be the consistent threat behind center that won him so many accolades his rookie season.

Entering his second year under coach Jay Gruden in a new system, Griffin’s job is very much going to be on the line. That, plus the fact that he’s set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

If Griffin doesn’t improve to better fit Gruden’s offense this season, it’ll likely mean the Redskins will begin searching for a new franchise quarterback next spring.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

6. Percy Harvin, WR, Bills

Once touted as arguably the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NFL, Harvin’s time in Minnesota has taken a sharp turn for the worse since being traded to the Seahawks and then the Jets before now winding up as a free-agent pickup with the Bills.

Since his career year in 2011 when he recorded 1,312 yards from scrimmage and totaled eight touchdowns, Harvin has played a combined 23 games and started only 20 of them — that’s out of a possible 48. He has only eclipsed 700 yards from scrimmage once during that span — in 2012 still in Minnesota — and has seen his production drop off every season to date.

Now playing on a one-year deal in Buffalo, Harvin, now 27, must bounce back and return to form in order to earn another contract next offseason. So far he has been unable to stay on the field, nevertheless be as productive he was four years ago. Like the situation with Manuel, the pressure is as the Bills have raised their team expectations. Harvin is a part of the equation, and must deliver.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

During the process of planning out a draft and building the roster through free agency, inevitably some players stick out because they're question marks for the future. Some of them could be facing make-or-break seasons as early as 2015.

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