It is one of the benefits, if you will, of the Dallas coaching staff suffering through 4-12: the staff gets to coach this week's Senior Bowl in Mobile and has assigned to their squad - maybe not coincidentally - some players worthy of targeting in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Foremost among those: Carson Wentz. And while eventually this will be a Valley Ranch debate about the top handful of players that Dallas can choose from via the No. 4 overall slot (see CowboysHQ.com's intensive work on Dallas and the draft here), more immediately starting today at the Senior Bowl Will be about two things:
1) The very distinct possibility that Dallas will, as Dane Brugler projects, "fall in love with" this player.
2) The very distinct possibility that Dallas comes to grips with The idea that drafting a weapon for Tony Romo helps him win as his window closes doesn't mean you can't also draft a quarterback here ... Because the backup quarterback in this league and for this team and in Romo's circumstance (age and injury and ongoing surgery consideration) IS an important weapon.
And if you don't think so you must not be familiar with the names Cassel, Weeden, and Moore.
Forget for a moment whether Wentz is superior or even comparable to Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff. And it is way too early to specifically marry this or any other player to any team, as Charles Robinson notes ...
But how high can he rise? A quote from Wentz himself, who says he's already met with nearly half of the NFL's 32 teams this week: "I don't know any quarterback that doesn't want to be the top guy in their class. If you don't think you are [the best] or don't think you have the ability to be, you're probably in the wrong sport."
For now, let's wrestle with the philosophy and get to know Carson Wentz, as best we can as the Cowboys will ...
Wentz entered high school at Bismarck Century High School in North Dakota standing all of 5’8” and weighing 125 pounds soaking wet. Wentz would eventually grow into his 6’5 frame by his senior year, when he started at quarterback for the first time in his career. He also played defensive back for his high school team, and in was a multi-sport athlete, playing basketball and baseball as well.
Wentz was very lightly recruited in high school, leading him to enroll at North Dakota State University in Fargo, just three hours from his home in Bismarck.
After redshirting his freshman season, Wentz would spend two seasons backing up incumbent starter Brock Jensen, who had led NDSU to three straight national titles. In 2014 Wentz was given his chance, and he made the most of it, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. He also ran the ball for 642 yards and six touchdowns. Wentz led the Bison to their fourth straight national title that season, defeating Illinois State in the final game 29-27 in Frisco.
2015 was a bit of a frustrating year for Wentz overall, as he missed ample time due to a broken wrist midway through the season against rival South Dakota State. Wentz would return however, and lead the Bison to their record fifth straight national title over Jacksonville State, where he was responsible for three total touchdowns. In his limited appearances as a senior, Wentz completed 62.5 percent of is passes for 1,651 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.
At 6’6” 235 pounds, Wentz has ideal size for the quarterback position. His size makes him very difficult to bring down, while he also moves very well in the pocket to avoid the rush.
He possesses good arm strength with a quick and compact release, and can make all of the NFL throws. His footwork is solid, especially while on the move.
Scouts say he defenses well pre-snap, and is equipped with an extremely high football IQ.
Lack of competition is a concern, having spent his entire career at the FCS level. (Though Fish adds an interesting note here: "Had Wentz played at Alabama, how many national championships would he have won? Answer: Four."
Some say Wentz tends to lock in to receivers and telegraph his throws at times. He also has a habit of trying to throw the ball into tight coverage at times.
His accuracy on the deep ball needs work, as he tends to overthrow receivers from time to time.
Ben Roethlisberger. Both players come from small schools and possess great size and arm strength. Like Roethlisberger, Wentz is very slippery and elusive in the pocket, and does well in clutch situations, as evidence by his performance in the 2014 FCS National Championship game.
Said former NFL exec and Senior Bowl director Phil Savage: "From everything I saw of Wentz on video and then talking to people in the league, he's big ... he's got a strong arm, he's very athletic. He's in an offense that's more conventional to the NFL, rather than all of this spread type of stuff. Even though he's coming from the FCS, he's got a lot of traits that people think will carry over to the NFL."
Wentz has long been projected as a mid-first to late first-round pick in the upcoming draft, though because he plays at such a high value position, he has the potential to be drafted earlier than that projection. (See what Jerry Jones and Romo himself have to say about that very issue in our story on the Cowboys and Goff.)
Indeed, Brugler is sticking with his convictions while offering no guarantees ...
Fish is sticking with his regarding another QB candidate ...
And Bryan Broaddus seems to think highly of a handful of 'em ...
But this isn't yet about "Wentz vs." anybody.
This week for the Cowboys is about getting comfortable with what he is ... And getting comfortable with what their philosophy is.