With the 2016 NFL Draft fast approaching on April 28 teams are in full scouting mode ensuring they know which prospects they will target on the night in Chicago.
Quarterbacks are always high-end retail coming out of college and with a plethora of teams being needy at the position this year, the race to get a potential franchise signal caller is gaining heat.
Determining the top two prospects has been relatively straight forward with North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Cal's Jared Goff distancing themselves from the pack with excellent combine and pro day showings to go with their stellar college careers. However, there is real debate and uncertainty surrounding who is the true number one prospect in this draft class.
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Here is a look at both players and a take on which one will translate to a better NFL quarterback:
Wentz is a fifth-year senior out of North Dakota State, an FCS program that has been dominant at its level for a number of years now having won five straight titles since 2011. He has the prototypical build of an NFL quarterback standing at 6'5 and 235 pounds with a thick frame and athletic body type that draws visual comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger.
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Wentz impressed scouts at the NFL Combine and at his pro day with his arm strength and throwing accuracy and having played in a pro-style offense in college there is evidence of him making all the throws required of him at NFL level. In his four seasons in college, he held a touchdown to interception ratio of 45 to 14 and completed 64.1 percent of all his throws, making for impressive reading.
He possesses good pocket presence and the ability to escape pressure and extend plays with his legs much like Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Wentz has also drawn comparisons to Luck with regard to his intelligence and excellent intangibles, in particular, his leadership ability.
There is very little doubt that he would be able to handle the depth of an NFL playbook and Wentz even has the backing of notable NFL analysts Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah. In an April 12 interview on 97.5 FM The Fanatic, Mayock said the following, according to nj.com: "To be honest with you, the more I've been around the kid, his coaching staff, and his teammates, the more I think about Carson Wentz ... I'm all in on this kid."
Of course, there is some doubt about his ability mainly stemming from the level of competition he faced as a college player. Wentz played in the FCS Division One which is a tier below the top collegiate teams and thus has not been tested against NFL level talent in his career as yet. Although he has contributed to the success of the Bison, they won titles before his tenure and were unbeaten during his injury layoff last season. His physical attributes give him a high ceiling for his level of play but he is no sure fire success and teams are concerned about this.
To exacerbate these concerns, Wentz threw for less than 200 yards in four of the seven games he played in last season and throughout his career at North Dakota State it has been a run dominant team, never relying solely on his arm to win them games. His career stats make good reading, but you have to consider that they have come up against an inferior level of competition to the other top prospects in this draft class.
The Bison were 5-2 with Wentz and 8-0 without him last season and his backup actually produced eerily similar statistics to him during his time out with an injury. This raises the question of whether he just benefited from being in an excellent program with a good system that was far better than their rivals. He also played all his home games in an indoor stadium where conditions are nigh on perfect for quarterback play.
The mystery around Wentz has potentially led to him being overhyped and his skills may be a production of media intrigue rather than reality.
When examined closely on tape he does have flaws that could hinder his progress as an NFL player, namely his lack of anticipatory skills. He rarely throws receivers open and has a tendency to stare down targets which will get him in a lot of trouble at NFL level with ball-hawking defensive backs too talented and fast to beat if they know where the ball is going. He also carries injury concerns have suffered a number of layoffs and worryingly a broken bone in his throwing wrist.
Overall, Wentz is an intriguing talent and has the body type and physical tools to succeed in the NFL but it really is all about ceiling with him with little evidence of playing against top talent it is a huge unknown how he will translate to the level of play in the pros. He will undoubtedly get drafted in the first round due to a large number of teams that are needy at the position but whether or not he will be the number one quarterback off the board remains to be seen.
Whilst Wentz has been talked about as the number one quarterback on the board in the past, recent rumblings around the league seem to suggest teams are changing their minds, in particular, the Browns who draft at the number two position and are almost certain to take one of the two men.
New Browns head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton both know of Goff from his early college days as Jackson once applied for the Cal coaching job during Goff's career there and Hamilton was involved in attempting to recruit him to Stanford. They seem to be hotter on Goff than Wentz due to his high football IQ and the fact that he is more of a sure fire prospect who will almost certainly translate successfully into the NFL.
The Browns organization is in turmoil and need stability to start from the most important position on the field. Their quarterback troubles of recent are comical, with 16 different men starting at the position in the last ten years. Goff is as reliable and solid as they come and is drawing comparisons to the Falcons' Matt Ryan due to their similar physical attributes and playing styles. Ryan is a pro bowl level quarterback and if that's what a team will get from Goff there would be very few who wouldn't draft him given the chance.
Scouting reports have largely suggested that Goff has the feel of a future franchise quarterback with excellent leadership qualities and confidence. He also has good height at 6'4 and although he is a little thin, like Ryan, this shouldn't hinder his progression much.
Goff performed excellently at the combine displaying elite arm strength and the ability to make every NFL level throw. He has sublime touch on deep throws and is very good at throwing receivers open in tight situations. His accuracy can be an issue and he has very little experience taking snaps under center but he will certainly improve upon these things under the tutelage of NFL coaches.
His ceiling may not be as high as Wentz but he certainly has the tools physically and mentally to be a pro bowl level player and is much less likely to be a bust in this league having displayed the ability to compete against NFL talent in college. Goff set Pac 12 conference records last season with 4719 passing yards and 47 touchdowns, an excellent output especially when you consider some of the quarterbacks who have previously graced the conference including current pro stars Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer.
For all Wentz's prowess standing in the pocket Goff is equally able. He has good poise and is comfortable using his legs to get out of trouble whilst having a better ability than Wentz to pick up blitzes and read defensive looks.
Goff is on the upward trend and unless Cleveland decides to trade down from the number two spot they should take him due to his NFL ready skill set and the fact that he is much more likely to be a reliable playmaker than Wentz. Goff is ready to be a franchise quarterback from day one and help out any organisation that drafts him and that more than any reason is why he should be the number one quarterback drafted this year.
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