Johnny Manziel: Undersized Heisman Finalist Still Has Promising NFL Future

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs for a third quarter touchdown during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel is as small as the hype surrounding him is big.

Known to the world as "Johnny Football," the humble freshman from Tyler, Texas is expected to shatter the mold on Saturday, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

He endeared himself to the nation earlier this year when he led the Texas A&M Aggies to an upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Since then, the "Johnny Football" hype train has been moving faster than the locomotive in Unstoppable.

People asked, "How many Heisman Trophies will Manziel win? Will he ever be a national champion?"

The adulation is well-deserved. He's the best freshman quarterback I have ever been blessed enough to watch. And no offense to Manti Te'o and Collin Klein, but if he doesn't win the Heisman tomorrow night, it'll be a severe injustice.

But there's an elephant aboard the Johnny Manziel bandwagon. And that elephant, like so many other players in college football, towers over him like a building.

Manziel is officially listed at 6'1'', but those who have met him in person know what a farce that is. Manziel is under six-feet tall, a fact that hasn't hindered him in the SEC, but potentially could at the next level.

You see, the NFL is different––or so it's supposed to be. Gimmicky college players are supposed to be weeded out by the speed and rigors of the game. Especially at quarterback. Undersized dual-threats like Manziel are expected to transition to receiver or find a new line of work.

That anachronistic line of through has kept a ceiling on Manziel's pro prospects. Despite the precociousness of his debut season, many scouts don't think he can play at the next level.

They're dead wrong.

It's not quite the Pac-12 yet, but the NFL is changing. The rule changes, the personnel changes, the strategical changes––they're all meant to benefit the offense. Especially those who are quick and agile.

Need I point to Drew Brees, another diminutive signal-caller who's thrived in the NFL. Sure, Manziel doesn't have Brees' accuracy, but Drew himself couldn't throw like that when he was a freshman.

How about a more recent example: Russell Wilson. He was thought to be a reach––a reach!––in the third round of this year's draft. At 5'11'', he was thought to be a serviceable backup quarterback at best.

Less than a year later, at the tender age of 24, he's leading the NFL's second-best offense (per Football Outsiders).

So, yeah. It's fair to question the ceiling on Johnny Manziel's NFL prospects. Especially when he needs to stand on a footstool to reach it.

But if you think for a second that he's not worth betting on....well, you simply haven't been paying attention.