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Doug Flutie: Johnny Manziel could be 'exceptional' NFL QB

The off-field circus that is Johnny Manziel's life away from football gives way, finally, to football this week as Texas A&M opens fall camp on Sunday.

It couldn't have arrived soon enough, no doubt, for coach Kevin Sumlin.

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Whether or not Manziel has the skill to take his game to the NFL level will be much more of a focus than it was last year, when he became a freshman phenom. Earlier this week, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah took that question into the ring with five NFL executives, and came away with a split decision.

Three of five execs told Jeremiah that Manziel could indeed make the pro transition.

Perhaps none of them, however, have as good a perspective on the challenges that face short NFL quarterbacks than former Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie.

The 5-foot-9 Flutie told USA Today Manziel could flourish at the pro level.

"I think he can be an exceptional NFL quarterback," Flutie said. "The NFL right now, they love to see guys 6-4, 6-5. I was too short to play when I played, and they wanted you 6-1 to 6-3. But the athletic quarterbacks are getting more of an opportunity to run the spread offenses, run the zone read and do all that."

Johnny on the spot

As for whether Manziel will make the jump to the pros after this season, ESPN sports writer Wright Thompson certainly thinks so. And after spending a couple of days with the family for the most extensive feature story written on Johnny Football to date, he should know as well as anyone not squarely in the Manziel camp.

A day after the ESPN piece, Sports Illustarted put Manziel on one of its regional covers. In the cover story, Manziel said he once had a formula that would trigger his decision to turn pro; it was based on his projected draft round and victories at Texas A&M. That, he admitted, might no longer be the case.

Last season, football fans wondered if college defenses were ready for Johnny Manziel. The answer, by season's end, was a resounding no. This season, the world will wonder whether Johnny Football is ready for the NFL. But that answer might not come nearly as quickly.

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Final take

One has to wonder whether Texas A&M's No. 6 national ranking in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll is standing on Manziel's shoulders. As dynamic a player as Manziel is, the Aggies were arguably only the sixth-best team in the SEC a year ago, and this year's team will be without some stellar talent from a year ago. That includes first-round pick Luke Joeckel at left tackle and sack master Damontre Moore at defensive end. TAMU might prove to be worthy of the No. 6 ranking, but here's guessing they'll spend most of the season outside the top 10.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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