You might be saying to yourself, “Carson who? This guy’s going to be my future quarterback? You have to be joking.” Yes you read that right, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State is a legit NFL prospect. You might not know him now, but he will be a big name in the NFL Draft, so let’s take a moment to talk about what he brings to the table.
Carson Wentz Bio
Weight: 223 lbs.
College: North Dakota State
Recruiting Ranking: N/A
2012 Stats: 12/16, 144 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 22 rushing yards, 1 TD
2013 Stats: 22/30, 209 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 70 rushing yards
2014 Stats: 228/358, 3,111 yards, 25 TD, 10 INT, 642 rushing yards, 6 TD
2015 Stats (through six games): 114/179, 1,454 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT, 215 rushing yards, 4 TD
Carson Wentz was a low-rated prospect from North Dakota that committed to the Bison and redshirted his first year on campus. He was the primary backup to Brock Jensen but took over starting duties his junior year in 2014. That year, he set North Dakota State records for passing attempts, completions, yards and total offense per game. He led the Bison to a 15-1 record and their fourth consecutive FCS championship after scoring the game winning touchdown against Illinois State. In 2015, he started the year out strong with 20 total touchdowns to only 2 interceptions, but sustained a wrist injury against South Dakota State that will hold him out the rest of the season.
One of his biggest strengths is his size. Carson Wentz clearly has NFL-ready size at 6-5, 223 (although some announcers have proclaimed he’s closer to 6-6, 245). With his size comes a huge arm as well. Wentz has the ability to make every throw on the field and he’s capable of rocketing the ball to the other side of the field from the far hash mark. NFL teams will love his arm talent, but also his ability to put touch on the ball. Some of the better throws I’ve seen him make are lobs to receivers on a wheel route pattern, where he uses touch to perfectly place the ball in stride.
Behind his goofy smile is also a very smart quarterback. North Dakota State runs some pro-style elements and Wentz has experience taking snaps under center and seems very comfortable in his drop backs. He shows good pocket awareness and the ability to read through his progressions before making a throw. One of his best attributes is his smart decision making, and there were very few times I thought that he made the wrong read or threw a ball that should have been intercepted. He’ll check the ball down to his running back or take off and run if the throw isn’t there, which is encouraging for a player going against clearly weaker competition.
Wentz is also a very mobile quarterback. He is elusive in the pocket and has a good sense for pressure when it sneaks up on his blind side. It’s very difficult to bring him down with just a single rusher. When he’s on the run, Wentz is very dangerous. He is not afraid of contact and it often takes two or three men to tackle him. He also has some wiggle to his game and is capable of making a player or two miss, which is surprising for a guy of his size.
In the clip above, the throw that Wentz makes highlights his arm strength. He drops back, plants his feet and rockets the ball to the far side of the field. The throw may be a little off, as the receiver has to dive to catch it, but the arm strength is clearly on display there.
The clip above is another example of his arm strength. From a clean pocket, Wentz perfectly places this ball where only his receiver can make a play on it for the touchdown.
One of the biggest concerns with Wentz moving forward is obviously the level of competition he’s facing at the FCS level. This will get tossed around to death in the pre-draft process. Wentz is clearly the best player on the field and looks like he should be playing in the SEC on Saturdays instead. For that, we must take some of the throws and plays he makes with a grain of salt. Some of the throws that he completes against weaker competition will most certainly be picked off in the NFL. He’s able to run through and around defenders at the FCS level, but the rushers in the NFL are more disciplined so Wentz won’t be able to replicate his success on the ground. He also seems to trust his arm a little too much and this results in throws that are too far in front or behind of his receivers. Wentz also needs to work on his deep ball accuracy, as too many times he correctly identifies a receiver breaking free deep but throws the ball just a little too far out of his reach. Again, this may stem with trusting his arm too much.
It was announced after the South Dakota State game that Wentz broke a bone in his throwing wrist. It will keep him out for the rest of the season and will certainly be something NFL teams investigate in their pre-draft process. There’s a good chance he will be healthy for the Senior Bowl, which will be a huge opportunity to play in front of NFL scouts with FBS-level competition. In a very weak quarterback class, Wentz has the tools and intangibles to skyrocket up draft boards in the spring.
Carson Wentz is certainly a project for NFL teams and, as such, projects to be no higher than a 3rd round pick in the draft. The level of competition he faced at North Dakota State will be an issue with teams but teams should not draft Wentz with the idea of him being a day one starter. The best possible scenario would be for Wentz to go to a team with an established quarterback in place, such as New Orleans or Dallas, and learn for a season or two before taking over starting duties.