Ohio State signal-caller Braxton Miller and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein are at or near the top of most Heisman Trophy watch lists, but not too far behind the two dual-threat studs is Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel.
Manziel has burst onto the college football scene in 2012, leading the SEC in total offense (383.2 YPG) and rushing (102.4 YPG) and guiding the Aggies to a 7-2 record and a 4-2 record in SEC play. Manziel is currently second in the SEC in completion percentage (66.6%) and passing yards (2,527), and third in the conference in passing yards per game (280.8).
Or, to put it more simply, he's putting up video game numbers. But he has only scored three touchdowns vs. Florida, LSU and Mississippi State—the top three SEC defenses that he has faced so far—he has scored only three touchdowns, none of which were through the air, and tossed three interceptions.
He's still very much a work-in-progress.
So how does Manziel compare to the other top tier dual-threat quarterbacks in college football in 2012?
Pretty favorably, actually.
He's averaging 96.2 more yards per game of total offense more than Klein, and 91.3 more than Miller.
If the Heisman Trophy wasn't a popularity contest, and playing for a national title contender didn't get you to the top of the discussion during most seasons, Manziel would be at or near the top of the Heisman discussion.
He has the escapability of Miller, but he does it a little bit differently.
When he feels pressure and escapes the pocket, he forces defenders to take poor angles and runs around them without having to make many moves. He uses his athleticism to his advantage and sets up blocks well in advance (0:15, 1:44, 1:49 marks).
Miller has many of the same attributes, but can stop and start quicker and has a little better acceleration. Like Manziel, he has great field vision and sets up his blocks well.
Through the air, the two are very similar. Both players keep their eyes downfield when they escape the pocket and can throw well on the run (1:15 mark).
Klein is a much different quarterback than Manziel. Klein provides the Wildcats with the smash mouth running style that former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton brought to the SEC in recent years.
Klein is capable of running over defenders, but just like Tebow and Newton, he also is patient on designed runs and allows his blockers to do their work before he hits the hole (0:27 mark).
But like those players, Klein isn't a one trick pony. He's wildly efficient in the passing game, leading the nation with a 174.61 passer rating. He has thrown 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
Who is most important to his team?
With a rating of 149.53, Manziel is efficient too. But with six picks on the year, he's more prone to mistakes—some of which can be attributed to his youth and inexperience.
Manziel's style of play and the fact that he's going to get plenty of exposure throughout the career by playing in the SEC will lend itself to plenty of hype. But he has to start doing it against good SEC defenses—which could happen as the Aggies go on the road to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Manziel has a bright future, and certainly compares favorably with the Miller and Klein.
If he can consistently put up the kind of numbers he has put up this year against SEC defenses moving forward, he will go down as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in recent SEC memory.