With my leanings being heavily pro-Goff in the quarterback stock for the 2016 NFL Draft, I thought it was only fair (and useful) to obtain some thoughts from someone who had also taken a close look at Carson Wentz, but had a higher opinion of him than myself. Especially considering how the Los Angeles Rams might take Jared Goff with the first overall selection after their trade with the Tennessee Titans. Even though the Philadelphia Eagles have traded up into the second pick selection – leaving the Cleveland Browns with pick number eight – there still remains the possibility that they did so for Jalen Ramsey (or other non-QB) and that second quarterback slips. Whether it be Aaron Rodgers or Johnny Manziel, presumed early quarterback picks are often overly-hyped by the media.
So, Pat Leonard, commentor extraordinaire, agreed to air his thoughts on both of the quarterbacks the Browns could select with the No. 8 overall pick as we combat with opinions and facts in a friendly debate.1
Michael Bode: Hey Pat, should we start with the typical information about Carson Wentz?
Pat Leonard: Hi Michael, as you know Jared Goff is my favorite quarterback in this draft, but I do see Carson Wentz as a close second and worthy of taking with the Browns’ first-round pick. The typical pro-Wentz argument goes something like this: he’s big at 6’5″ and 230 lbs, he’s got a strong arm, he’s mobile, and he’s a natural leader. All of these things are true, but I also don’t think they quite encapsulate everything positive about Carson Wentz.
For whatever reason, Jared Goff typically gets crowned as being the smartest QB in the draft class, which in turn leads to Wentz being viewed as some sort of meathead. Or at the very least, his intelligence isn’t viewed as one of his best attributes. Although this test is not the end-all be-all, Wentz supposedly beat Goff on the intelligence portion of the Wonderlic test with a score of 40 to 36. I have a high level of confidence that he can jump right in and understand Hue Jackson’s offense quickly.
Michael: So, let’s get down to it. Here are some of my chief concerns about Wentz; let me know why I should worry less than I do about them.
Having only a season of high school and just over 600 pass attempts in college, he is incredibly inexperienced, while also being a fifth year senior (two years older than counterpart Jared Goff).
Pat: Successful quarterbacks have such a long shelf life that I don’t worry too much about the fact that Wentz is one year and 10 months older than Goff. If both guys play until they are 35-36, then it’s not a big concern for me…or at least not as big of a concern as it was for the ancient and decrepit Brandon Weeden.
You gave your concerns regarding his level of experience, and I don’t think there is much I can do to alleviate those fears. I may be working against myself here, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that Wentz was not worthy of a starting QB spot during his freshman and sophomore years at NDSU. So, if you’re thinking of Carson Wentz’s stock, then this is a guy whose stock rose dramatically over the past year versus Jared Goff whose stock has been steadily climbing for four years. And, just like in playing the stock market, there’s an inherent risk to buying a stock that doesn’t have much historical success.
But, I don’t think higher level of risk should stop the Browns from drafting Wentz. My projection of Wentz is really based on what I have seen this year, and it’s a large enough sample for me to feel comfortable with the pick. I thought he showed serious growth from the beginning of the season all the way through the FCS championship game and even the Senior Bowl.
Michael: Wentz played for a dominant FCS program with the North Dakota State Bison. So, the talent around him on the field was consistently better on his side of the line of scrimmage. And, while the Bisons ran an offense more closely resembling a pro-style than most NFL teams, Wentz did not seem to have thrown as many NFL deep seam, out, or post throws that Goff demonstrated (largely anecdotal from the games viewable on Wentz as I have not been able to find a full statistic breakdown per route).
Goff/Wentz debate is not an either/or scenario. It’s more like a yes/and scenario.
Pat: It’s true, he played at the Alabama (or is it Ohio State?) of the FCS donning the Green and Gold of North Dakota State. The players around him were mostly of a higher talent level then the players of the other teams he faced. But I think if you are going to say that, then you also have to say that the players around him were much less talented than the players who surrounded Jared Goff at Cal in the FBS. I’d assume there were many passes that Wentz’s receivers dropped or couldn’t corral due to height/speed/route-running limitations that would have been caught by Cal’s receivers. So it’s a two-way street, and I am not sure which way has the most traffic. What we do know is that when Wentz was given the chance to play with some of the highest talent in the FBS at the Senior Bowl, he showed out as the best QB of the bunch. 2
I’ve said this to you before and will say it again here for effect, but I don’t see Carson Wentz as a “project” at all. Of the QBs expected to go highest in the NFL draft, I would give that mantle to Paxton Lynch. From my perspective, Wentz has the most experience taking snaps under center, calling audibles at the line, making pre-snap reads, and doing what you would generally expect to see from a pro style offense. Many people will turn up their noses at this next line, but Jon Gruden agrees with me. Say what you want about Jon Gruden and the fact that he seems to like every quarterback he’s ever seen, he spent a day picking the minds of both Wentz and Goff, and he labeled Wentz as the most pro-ready QB in this draft. So that’s… something.
Editor’s note: Or not.3
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden on former Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg: "I'll be shocked if he doesn't go in the first round."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 19, 2016
Pat: I’ll ask you a question as well… when I watched film of Jared Goff, I saw what I would call an alarming number of throws that he makes while drifting backward and throwing off of his back foot. Do those throws scare you off at all when determining whether that will translate well to the NFL?
Michael: Yes, even as Goff-ic as I have been during my studies, there are still some flaws that prevent him from being on the Andrew Luck level of NFL prospects. While he is 6-foot-4, the mere 215 pounds he has on that frame led some to worry about withstanding the beating of the NFL, and there was the whole kerfuffle about his hand size. But, you have hit on the main issue that pops up with Goff on film. Not that he throws off his back foot necessarily, but that his feet are constantly moving. Cal’s OL was terrible his first couple of seasons (and bad his last one), so he grew accustomed to always being on the move. He’ll stand in the pocket and slide to pass rather than run away (good), but if he doesn’t throw in rhythm with his moving feet, he can float a pass either by throwing off the back foot or not utilizing his trunk (bad). Now, I don’t think he has Couch-Carr Syndrome (hit so many times a QB hears footsteps), but he needs to fix his feet.4
Pat: So, what do you see as his positive traits?
Michael: Goff’s overall pocket presense, throwing mechanics, ability to read-and-learn defenses, and that beautiful touch on the deep pass are reasons that I am extremely high on Goff. In the pocket, he keeps those eyes downfield and throws aggressively to lead his receivers to break them open rather than relying on having an open receiver. Cal entrusted him with many deep seam, deep out, and medium slant routes that are the staple of most NFL offenses. While he needs to plant those feet more consistently, his trunk rotation and release point are picturesque. He might not be an Andrew Luck level prospect, but I do believe he is in the next tier of Matt Ryan / Phillip Rivers prospects.
Additionally, he took a talent-deprived Cal team and slowly worked their way back to relevance. Cal’s records with Goff were 1-11, 5-7, then 8-5 in 2015. Coach Sonny Dykes gave him more audible responsibilities each season including the ability to swap between run and pass options. The growth Goff showed during those years and the leadership to grind through the tough years are valuable lessons. Particularly, for a player who might be drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
Two pretty ridiculous throw from Goff against Air Force. Beautiful stuff. https://t.co/MpPOpZ0Khf
— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) March 21, 2016
Michael: You also mentioned that you have Goff rated slightly higher than Wentz. What parts of Goff’s game elevate him to the best in this QB class?
Pat: I love Goff’s passing talent. He’s the best passer in this draft, plain and simple. The arm strength isn’t elite, but it’s solid. He is an excellent deep ball thrower, but he also has great touch on the short and intermediate routes. As you mentioned, he has fantastic pocket awareness and does a good job of sliding around without getting antsy and breaking downfield. He has the mental makeup that you want in a starting QB, especially one that is going to a QB wasteland like Cleveland. He brought Cal back from the dead, and it gives you hope he can do that again with the Browns. I also like that he’s not afraid to get hit…he’ll stand in the pocket and complete passes with defenders draped all over him. He’s mobile enough that you don’t worry about him being beaten by a linebacker to the sideline to pick up a short gain. His frame can take some muscle and he’ll probably put on 15 lbs of healthy weight by the end of next summer. Also, if you’re into Football Outsiders’ QBASE, their projection of him is becoming an elite QB (#Analytics).
So for me, the Goff/Wentz debate is not an either/or scenario. It’s more like a yes/and scenario. I really like Goff. I also like Wentz quite a bit. I think Carson Wentz has the tools to be great and the mental makeup of someone who will not stop until he is great (and probably not even at that point).
WFNY 2016 NFL Draft Prospects Rankings:
- Well, I think we’re still friends. Pat? Are you still speaking to me? Bueller? Where’d you go? [↩]
- Note: Goff being a junior was not at the Senior Bowl. [↩]
- Yes, this move was completely dirty pool. [↩]
- Hat-tip to http://insidethepylon.com and all of their great draft work this offseason. If you do not have them bookmarked, then you need to do it now. [↩]