By: AJ Douglas
As the pro days for top prospects Jared Goff and Carson Wentz come to an end, speculation and anticipation of where the two gunslingers will ultimately land and what team fits them best begins to fill draft board discussions. While both quarterbacks have pulled away from the other throwers in terms of projected draft position, neither one seems to have emerged as the clear favorite at this point as draft evaluations for teams come to a conclusion. Goff and Wentz have both proved themselves to be worthy of running in the two-man race for the prize of top quarterback in the draft, but the similarities seem to end there.
Carson Wentz is the prototype of a soon to be elite NFL quarterback in the physical department. At 6-6 231 pounds and mobility that allowed him to leave the pocket with comfort at North Dakota State, there’s not a lot more you could ask from him in terms of build. In addition to his size, Wentz made a name for himself in the FCS by being able to make every throw on the field. The fabulous arm strength and accuracy he boasted in college doesn’t look to be fading away any time soon.
Flaws are tough to come by with Wentz, but looking deeper into his college career leaves something to be desired. For one thing, he only played a total of a year and a half at NDSU due to injury troubles. Furthermore, some of the success he saw in college could be attributed to being a part of a team that clearly outclasses the rest of the FCS division. NDSU has won three titles in a row and counting now and regularly overwhelm teams they face. Additionally, Wentz had the luxury of throwing behind one of the best offensive lines in the FCS that only gave up 8 sacks in the seven games Wentz played in last year. The issue of the FCS also brings up questions for Wentz. Small school players have seen success in the NFL in the past, but the jump in competition—especially for a quarterback—from the FCS to the NFL is not something to be overlooked. Countless FBS quarterbacks struggle against the elevated competition of the NFL, so a small school guy who played on a much better team than the rest of the division may see this as the largest hurdle of all. Still, his physical tools and ability to throw the football may trump the lack of competition he faced in college.
Jared Goff has proven a lot in his 3 years at California. He proved his ability to break records with his shattering of the career passing yard record previously set by Aaron Rodgers. He proved that he could lead a team to improvement, taking an undersized Cal team from 5 wins in his first season to 8 wins in his last. Most importantly, Jared Goff’s 3 years at Cal proved he could lead a team. On the field, his superb accuracy and great short passing skill allowed a skill wide receiver corps to shine and gave a struggling defense room to breathe. Off the field, his obsession over winning and likeability kept him out of trouble and garnered the respect of his teammates and coaches. To this day one would be hard-pressed to unearth even one quote that questions his character. Coming from a second tier school in one of the toughest conferences the NCAA, Goff had to prove a lot about himself. He managed to do all this and more, leading him to the position he’s in today.
Size has been the biggest question mark surrounding Goff. While his 6-4 height looks to be adequate, his skinny frame at 210 pounds leaves something to be desired for NFL scouts. Hand size looks to be another issue for Goff, as Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns has publicly aired concerns about his 9 and 1/8 inch hands. 23 fumbles in his three years of college is evidence that his hands may lead to ball security issues in the future. The system he has become accustomed to at Cal—Bear Raid—also raises some questions. The unorthodox Sonny Dykes system had the quarterback line up exclusively in the shotgun, and allowed Goff many more throwing opportunities per game than he will likely receive in the NFL. Goff will have to prove his worth under center to NFL teams at his pro day and private evaluations. The final issue that most pertains to Cleveland is the impeccable weather Goff has become accustomed to playing in throughout his life. From Marin Catholic High School to Cal Berkeley, Goff has little experience in cold weather, and almost no experience throwing in the snow. This is sure to be a big component of the Browns’ private workout when the time comes.
Both quarterbacks have proved themselves worthy of the opportunity to take the reins of an NFL franchise. What remains to be seen is what franchise will jump on which quarterback. The Browns may be fond of Wentz due to his experience in cold weather, but have sent scouts and coaches to both players’ pro days. The Niners will be partial to Jared Goff more than likely if he falls to their position as the locality of Goff—who lived in the Bay Area his entire life and grew up a 49er fan—will be more than enough icing on the cake for a struggling franchise that so desperately needs a new face. The signing of Robert Griffin III may just throw a wrench in the draft projections should the Browns elect to forgo drafting a quarterback. This would be best-case scenario for the Rams who are currently wheeling out Case Keenum as their week one starter. LA will be an interesting destination for a young quarterback as they boast a rare opportunity to make their own way in one of the largest sports markets in the world. Still, the Browns would have to skip a quarterback in the draft for this scenario to be valid for either quarterback. Who goes where remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. Both quarterbacks—however different—have proven themselves to be in the upper tier of young potential NFL quarterbacks in the last few draft classes and will be looking to right the ship of their respective franchises come draft day.