Carson Wentz may not have faced the best competition at FCS school North Dakota State during his collegiate career, but he certainly faced significant pressure on Thursday in front of NFL scouts and media members picking apart his every move in anticipation of the 2016 draft.
Wentz was the main attraction at North Dakota State’s pro day on Thursday and reportedly looked impressive throughout his performance. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network and NFL.com gave the signal-caller a glowing review, via College Football 24/7:
.@MoveTheSticks grades Wentz's pro-day throwing session: "That's an A if not an A+. "— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) March 24, 2016
Unfortunately for Wentz, not every team had the opportunity to see him earn that “A, if not an A-plus” in person. Gil Brandt of NFL.com shared the details regarding uncooperative Mother Nature before he raved about Wentz's performance:
Because of snow storms only 18 teams at Wentz's pro day. Only 1 HC here -- Hue Jackson who was delayed in Minneapolis. 30 teams credentialed— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 24, 2016
One of the best pro days I've ever witnessed. Wentz reminds me of Joe Flacco. He had 2 55-yard passes that were as pretty as I've seen.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 24, 2016
Peter Schrager of Fox Sports echoed similar sentiments and urged fans not to draw any conclusions about the low attendance:
As reported last night, snow impacted travel for many coaches, scouts, and GMs at Wentz Pro Day. Don't read into low attendance. @NFLonFOX— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) March 24, 2016
Those who did make the event were surely pleased with what they saw in Fargo, North Dakota. Wentz is listed at 6’6” and 235 pounds on ESPN.com, which makes him an ideal height to stand in the pocket and fire strikes downfield throughout his NFL career. With that prototypical build and his experience in a pro-style system with the Bison, teams were likely looking to see further evidence he can make NFL-type throws on Thursday.
He seemed to be doing just that, per Jeremiah, via College Football 24/7:
.@MoveTheSticks on Carson Wentz's pro-day workout: These are some big-time throws he's making.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) March 24, 2016
Brandt provided some statistical breakdowns of Wentz’s performance:
Throw 45 of 65 first to hit the ground for Carson Wentz. Tremendous workout so far.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 24, 2016
John Kosko of Pro Football Focus shared a video of the quarterback’s “first miss after 43 in a row,” but even that one appeared to be virtually in stride with the receiver well downfield:
Teams won't only judge Wentz on his ability to stand tall in the pocket and convert on a number of different types of throws. While he may not be asked to run for 1,000 yards in the NFL, his ability to escape pressure in the pocket and create additional yardage with his athleticism could help him stand out on his way to the next level.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network didn’t hesitate to compare Wentz with some of the best in the game in terms of athleticism, via NFL Network:
Kosko shared video proof of that athleticism at work:
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller pointed specifically to Wentz’s athleticism as an advantage when comparing the former North Dakota State quarterback to past Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco:
I like Wentz's athleticism a lot more than Flacco's, and I don't think his arm is quite as strong. https://t.co/lwcUxeer9q— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 24, 2016
In addition to the ability to make plays with his arms and legs, scouts often look for intangibles when determining whether a quarterback can be a franchise cornerstone. Mayock indicated that won’t be a problem with Wentz, via the NFL:
“From a toughness, from a game day perspective, from a competitive perspective, he’s Philip Rivers." https://t.co/C4grkU6Dl0— NFL (@NFL) March 24, 2016
One reason Wentz was so impressive on Thursday could be his improved health. He returned from a broken wrist during the season to lead the Bison to a fifth consecutive FCS championship, and Miller suggested he is finally nearing 100 percent again with the draft approaching:
Important to note that Wentz's arm wasn't full-strength during FCS title game, Senior Bowl or Combine. Been working back to 100%— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 24, 2016
It is important to point out it wasn’t all positive for the young signal-caller. Miller said Wentz had some issues with a couple of deep balls during the workout:
Wentz has missed on two deep balls now. Both slight overthrows.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 24, 2016
What’s more, Wentz seemed to struggle a bit when he was asked to simulate playing in inclement weather with a wet ball. Albert Breer of NFL Network shared his evaluation:
Carson Wentz was near perfect in the scripted part of the Pro Day ... Slipping a little with the wet ball.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 24, 2016
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated highlighted the fact Wentz had more incompletions with the wet ball than a dry one in a much smaller sample size:
Wentz with three incompletions (two misses, one drop) on five throws with the wet ball. Two incompletions on 65 scripted throws.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) March 24, 2016
That he was asked to throw with a wet ball doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com said Cleveland Browns quarterback coach Pep Hamilton had California’s Jared Goff throw with a wet ball after his scripted 65 passes during his pro day.
Considering the Browns hold the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and have what Goodbread called “a glaring need at the quarterback position,” they were likely looking for any way possible to differentiate between the two prospects.
It was clear who Mayock thinks will be the better of the two, via College Football 24/7:
.@MikeMayock: I'm more convinced than ever that Carson Wentz is best QB in this year's draft.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) March 24, 2016
The question now is whether Wentz has done enough to surpass Goff in the race to be the first quarterback taken in the draft.
The mock drafts from CBSSports.com were a testament to how close the battle is between the two. Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both have Wentz going No. 2 to the Cleveland Browns and Goff going No. 7 to the San Francisco 49ers in their most recent updates. However, Pete Prisco and Will Brinson both had Goff going No. 2 to the Browns (Prisco had Wentz going No. 7 to San Francisco, while Brinson had the North Dakota State product going No. 4 to the Dallas Cowboys).
If Wentz truly does go to the Browns at No. 2, ESPN.com said he would be the first non-FBS quarterback taken in the first two picks since the FBS was implemented in 1979.
Thursday was likely his last chance to make a significant impression on a number of NFL teams in one setting since his Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine outings are both in the past. From all indications, he fulfilled, or even surpassed, expectations.