The NFL has created a fallacy in its draft process at the quarterback position. The immeasurable value of an elite starting quarterback in the NFL, coupled with the scarcity of said player, has forced teams to completely shift their usual processes with selecting players as they are oft forced to over select quarterbacks because of the small, small chance they become a long term net gain. This overcompensation annually levitates mediocre quarterbacks into something they are not, a first round draft pick. We’ve seen it with Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Brandon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Johnny Manziel and now, Carson Wentz.
The North Dakota State senior morphed from an unknown recruit (zero FBS offers) into a five-time national champion (twod as the starter) as a member of the Bison. Now entrenched as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2016 draft, Wentz’s stock has seen a meteoric rise in the last 18 months. Yet, I feel many have only seen a hollow and shallow view of Wentz that has been formulated by his collegiate [teams] success and his ability to “look the part” at both the combine and his pro day. This rookie profile serves to aim, using what I’ve seen on film and learned on Wentz, to separate fact from fiction on the quarterback that is riding his mediocrity into the upper echelons of the first rounds.
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Lets begin with the foundations around Wentz that have propelled him to the cusp of the NFL. Many see the 6-foot-6 gunslinger as your prototypical “pro-style” quarterback who will flourish at the next level thanks to his arm strength and pocket awareness. More so than Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch, Wentz has been tabbed as the most pro ready quarterback in the 2016 class by many draft pundits. However, as I watched him, I saw a quarterback in an offense not resembling the homogenous style of the NFL’s product, but one that was predicated on gimmick plays and the immense talent gap between NDSU and most of their competition. A run heavy scheme (358 pass attempts in his 16 game 2014 compared to Goff’s 509 in 12 games) coupled with quick routes and packaged plays that saw a vast majority of completions thrown to open receivers, culminated in a scheme that bred success for Wentz and created a false sense of value into how good he is as a passer. Don’t get me wrong, he can make throws that most quarterbacks can’t, those throws just happened to be few and far between the many passes that most guys can make, first-read throws to open receivers. But, those rare throws that just scream NFL quarterback are all the ammo that front offices need to justify taking Wentz high in the first round due to the rarity of finding a solid starting quarterback. We’ve seen the Texans sign Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract as well as the Eagles and Sam Bradford’s two-year, $35 million contract because of the massive shortage of reliable, or even good, starting quarterbacks.
Metric Spider Chart of Carson Wentz courtesy of MockDraftable.com.
Continuing with Wentz’s throwing ability, there seem to be some misconceptions as to who he is a passer. One of the main takeaways I had from watching his tape was how inaccurate his deep ball was. Contrary to his shorter throws, most of the time he dropped back and threw deep his man was covered, which may give insight into his inability to consistently hit the deep receiver. This inaccuracy was a surprise to me, as many had raved at Wentz’s pro-ready arm, which accuracy was an assumed tool of. Wentz once again leveraged an advantage, accuracy on short, one-read throws, to lull those evaluating him into a false sense of the talent he actually possesses. By being flawless on the open throws and showing the ability to hit receivers in stride on the slant and on their cut to the sideline on the out route, Wentz does possess the ability to create throws that will translate to the NFL, I just didn’t see enough, both in quality and quantity, that convince me he will be a functioning starter, and definitely not worthy of a top 5 pick. Additionally, for every throw that wowed me, there was one that made me cringe. That valley of variance is just too high to trust as a viable NFL player, much less a dynasty asset.
Speaking to his dynasty value, I see Wentz as a 4th-round rookie pick at best, and someone not worth more than a third or fourth quarterback spot on your roster. His potential for failure is already high and will only increase if we see him land in the spot that many are currently projecting, Cleveland. Almost certain to be named the starter for whichever team drafts him, Wentz’s raw skills will be exploited by defenses and worsen his chances of actually having time to develop and reach the ceiling that many see in him. While scouts are declaring him pro-ready, it’s clear to me that he needs major developmental time, something he won’t receive for where he will be drafted.
Let’s take a look at how he stacks up on Playerprofiler.com.
The argument that Wentz supporters love to leverage is one that many dynasty owners should be familiar with: potential. Yes, the 5th-year senior is considered inexperienced with a high ceiling, something both perplexing and intriguing. On one hand, you can see the tools Wentz has and the fact he has had little time to develop them. On the other, it may just be the simple fact that he is a mediocre quarterback at best that is being over projected due to his stature and offensive system as well as the NFL’s flawed system for evaluating quarterbacks. In five years at North Dakota State, he sat out one as a redshirt, was the backup for the next two, and the starter for the final two. But, a broken bone in his wrist this past season reduced his senior campaign to just 7 games, giving him in total only 23 starts in four years. This lack of experience is supplemented by his impressive 2014 campaign, his lone full season under center. In those 16 games, Wentz set the NDSU single-season records for passing attempts, completions, yards and total offense as he led the Bison to their 4th straight national championship. That success has led many to believe that Wentz has a ceiling higher than any other quarterback in this draft, which may very well be true. His potential is infatuating teams, blinding them of the fact that the current product is barely even serviceable. Plus, the odds are on the fact that Wentz goes to a team that needs a quarterback. The draft capital that will be spent to acquire him will force teams to name him the starter, a false positive for a quarterback who showed some signs of inadequacy at the FCS level.
Carson Wentz is an average quarterback that has been built up by the NFLs flawed criterion for what a starting quarterback should look like, culminating into a situation that foreshadows nothing but disaster. With a 6-foot-6 frame, strong arm, and ability to make the occasional great throw, a team is basically taking a chance on Carson Wentz with their most valuable asset (a first round pick) because of the fact that he may be able to piece together tools that weren’t all the way there despite five seasons of grooming in the Missouri Valley conference. The fact that Wentz is so valued as a commodity speaks volumes to the strength, or lack there-of, in this years QB class, and shows the incredible desperation teams have for any sort of skill at the position as well as the mediocrity they are willing to ignore for any sort of chance at finding their next franchise quarterback.
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