Carson Wentz has gone from being a hidden gem at North Dakota State to one of the top prospects available in the 2016 NFL draft after scouts got a closer look at his game tape.
With a brighter spotlight comes more intense scrutiny, though he doesn't seem to mind the added pressure, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ Advance Media:
Wentz: "I believe I'm a franchise quarterback" #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) February 25, 2016
Wentz spoke in front of reporters Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, with Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com noting many teams have been impressed by everything they have seen from the 23-year-old so far:
Carson Wentz is the total package. 6'5. 237. 10 inch hands. 4.0 GPA. Converting doubters. Many NFL evaluators blown away by him this week.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) February 25, 2016
One of the biggest concerns for quarterbacks coming out of college, especially nowadays with the era of specialized offenses and coaches calling plays from the sideline, is how well they can adapt to carrying more of the burden.
Just looking back to last year, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider told Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star that quarterbacks' decision-making coming out of college was hard to gauge:
When you watch college football, you see those guys looking to the sideline. You may question the guy’s decision-making. You may value it higher, his intellectual level or what a good football guy he is, but you don’t truly know because they are looking at the sidelines at cards.
Wentz won't enter the NFL with that problem, saying the pro-style offense he ran in college and the amount of control given to him at the line of scrimmage sets him apart from other quarterbacks in this draft class, per NFL Network's James Palmer.
For instance, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is another potential first-round option for teams seeking help at the position. Yet, he's currently working on common traits, such as audibles, reading defenses at the line of scrimmage and calling plays from the huddle, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, because the system he comes from asked him to make many predetermined throws without going through progressions.
This isn't meant to suggest that Wentz doesn't have things to work on. As he stated during the press conference, per NFL Network's Desmond Purnell, being more consistent with his footwork has been his "biggest improvement" since leaving school.
It's not a surprise Wentz highlighted that area, since he specifically mentioned it as his biggest weakness in a November interview with Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com: "Biggest area that comes to mind is consistency with my footwork. It's an area all quarterbacks need to try and find consistency and develop. One play it looks beautiful and the next it's erratic."
Overall, as Palmer noted, Wentz's press conference could not have gone better in establishing him as one of the players to watch when the draft starts on April 28:
Carson Wentz is handling these questions brilliantly. Very impressive. Charismatic, smart, polite, thoughtful. Sounds and looks the part.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) February 25, 2016
There will always be a stigma with quarterbacks from small schools.
Wentz's rise up draft boards, though, speaks to how well his talent played in college and how likely it seems to translate in the NFL. This isn't a great year for quarterbacks, but the North Dakota State alum will be one of the first players taken if he continues to impress during the predraft process.