Draft Daily: Wentz Has the Highest Upside At QB

The North Dakota State quarterback could be an option with the eighth pick.

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. If you have a player you want covered, shoot us an email ([email protected]).

THE BACK STORY

Three seasons ago, North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman created a stir in the media. When he was asked to name the best quarterback his defense faced all year, Klieman responded with the name of his backup quarterback: Carson Wentz.

Although Klieman may have known in 2012 that Wentz would dominate FCS football one day, even he probably didn’t anticipate Wentz’s rise would reach its current level. When Mel Kiper, Jr. ranked the 25 best NFL prospects in December, Wentz was nowhere to be found. But in last week’s updated version, the 6-5, 237-pound quarterback climbed to the eighth spot.

In between those two iterations, Wentz played just one game.

But Kiper isn’t the only one who only recently started to buy Wentz’s stock. According to Adam Schefter on 97.5’s Morning Show today, one team thought they could draft the North Dakota State product in the third or fourth round during the season. Now, some think Cleveland will make Wentz the first quarterback taken with the second overall pick.

However, the Eagles have been linked to Wentz several times in the last week, including reports that they may be interested in trading up to draft him. While California quarterback Jared Goff is considered to be the most “pro-ready” quarterback in this year’s class, many think Wentz has the highest upside.

Because of a broken right wrist, Wentz missed eight games in 2015. However, he was cleared to play the week of the FCS national championship game, and he returned to lead the Bison to their second straight title with him as the starting quarterback. He went 20-3 as a starter, and he finished third in program history in touchdowns, completion percentage and pass efficiency rating.

After impressing teams at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Wentz is now essentially a lock to be picked in the top 10.

THE MEASURABLES

This spider chart is a good illustration of part of the reason Wentz has risen. He’s a quarterback with good size and good athleticism, and he’s on the opposite end of the hand size scale compared to Goff.

According to Mock Draftable, his measurables can most closely be compared to guys like Blake Bortles and Ben Roethlisberger. Doug Pederson mentioned at the owners meetings that he’d like Sam Bradford to put on some weight, but he probably wouldn’t have any complaints about the way Wentz is built.

THE NO-22

Accuracy. That’s one of the first things I noticed as I watched Wentz’s film from last season. He did a good job of not just getting his receivers the ball, but getting his receivers the ball and helping them extend the play with where he placed his passes.

One completion I liked was in the FCS championship game in January when North Dakota State crushed Jacksonville State. It was just a seven-yard gain (with no yards after the catch), but Wentz threw the pass to the receiver’s back shoulder, where the defender couldn’t make a play on the ball.

“The throw from Carson Wentz is what threw him open,” an ESPN analyst said. “The ability to throw it to the outside.”

Wentz had a couple of other completions I really liked in that game when he fit the ball into tight windows, including the one below along the left sideline.

But one of the biggest throws Wentz made all year was an 18-yard game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute left against Northern Iowa. It’s a heck of a catch by the receiver, but there’s also little room for error on Wentz’s end for that to be a completion.

Although I thought Wentz sometimes put a little too much air on his deep balls, he often showed good touch and accuracy on long passes. His stock is also helped by the fact that he played in more of a “pro-style” offense that required him to make post-snap reads and take snaps under center, which many college quarterbacks — like Goff — didn’t do as much of.

However, he did seem to force the ball to receivers when nothing was there, and he appeared to stare down targets at times. Part of why he was in position to lead North Dakota State to a comeback victory against Northern Iowa is because of his two interceptions, including the one below.

Wentz also explained what he thought his biggest adjustment to the NFL would be at the NFL Combine last month.

“I think right away the biggest challenge that myself, anybody standing up here at this podium is going to say, is adjusting to that speed,” Wentz said. “You put on some NFL tape or you watch Monday Night Fooball, Sunday games or whatever, you realize these guys are playing fast. So you gotta adjust right away and learn to adapt pretty quick.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Given the jump Wentz is about to make, it’s understandable that some may be hesistant to invest such a high draft pick in a guy who played against teams like South Dakota State on a regular basis. In four weeks, he could become the highest non-FBS quarterback ever selected. (Steve McNair, whom the Houston Oilers picked out of Alcorn State at No. 3 overall in 1995, currently holds that title.)

However, if I had to rank this year’s quarterbacks class, I’d rate Wentz over Goff, and according to T-Mac, the Eagles would too. As I’ve mentioned a few times about this group, no quarterback appears to be worth trading up in the draft for, but with the Eagles on the hunt for a franchise quarterback, he could very well be the guy if he’s available at No. 8.