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Will Russell Wilson’s NFL success pave the way for Johnny Manziel?

Frank Schwab
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(USA Today Sports Images)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – A player like Russell Wilson wouldn't go in the third round of the NFL draft anymore.

Wilson was passed over until the third round in 2012 because he's just 5-foot-11, which is short for an NFL quarterback, despite having a phenomenal college career. The Seahawks drafted Wilson when he fell, and Wilson made many teams look bad by translating his success at Wisconsin to the NFL. Wilson will start for Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday.

This year there's another short, athletic, dual-threat quarterback in the draft who was incredibly productive in college. And when Johnny Manziel's name gets called early on the first day of the draft, he can thank Russell Wilson.

Now that NFL teams have seen how a player like Wilson can be a pro success, they have an easier time visualizing how 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Manziel can do the same. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks that Wilson's success will positively impact Manziel.

"Without question Russell has at least turned some heads," Carroll said on Monday. "It's exciting to see that happen. There's a lot of marvelous athletes, and we're seeing it right now – Johnny is a great example of an incredible athlete who might not have been considered as highly until Russell has his success. It's kind of silly it has happened this way, but the right thing is to get the best players out there and let them play."

Manziel is entering the draft after a second consecutive productive season at Texas A&M. He is listed at 6-1, and that will be tested when he measures at the NFL scouting combine. Right now he's listed in the top 10 in most mock drafts, and will probably get at least some consideration by the Houston Texans as the No. 1 overall pick. A few years ago, it seemed impossible that a quarterback who may not be more than six feet tall would get any consideration as the top pick.

Manziel and Wilson aren't the same player just because they're both short, just like Wilson and Drew Brees aren't the same player, even though Wilson often gets that comparison. Wilson is known for being all about football and nothing else, and Manziel will have to answer those questions after his crazy offseason last year. And Wilson has a better arm, but Manziel is probably a bit faster. The point is, Wilson having his success and being in a Super Bowl means there will be fewer concerns about whether Manziel's height leading up to the draft.

"I think Russell Wilson is going to change a lot of people's minds about how they evaluate the quarterback position," Seahawks tight end Zach Miller said. "Guys that didn't get shots before I think will get shots. You really can't write a guy off because of certain size or something like that."

Wilson lasted until the 75th pick in the 2012 draft, and the Seahawks nervously waited it out. They knew how skilled Wilson was and they targeted him going into the draft. Carroll told the story about how general manager John Schneider really wanted Wilson and pegged him to be available with their third-round pick, then nervously sweated it out until it got to that pick.

Carroll said that not everyone in the Seahawks' draft room knew what an extraordinary player Wilson would be, but Schneider did. Seattle, which had just signed free-agent Matt Flynn, surprised some people by taking Wilson.

"It was really exciting for us," Carroll said. "We knew we were going to do something that was going to surprise some people out there. We knew we had a chance to get a guy we were totally in love with who might be a difference maker.

"It was a very exciting moment for us, one we'll all remember."

Wilson has gone on to become a star, and because of that, whatever team wants to draft Manziel better be ready to use a pretty high pick on him.

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