Carson Wentz knows he has a lot to prove this week.
The North Dakota State quarterback is arguably the biggest name at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., a player already being talked about as the top prospect at his position heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I think there’s obviously a lot of doubt coming from the FCS level and I just want to address that right away, prove that I can play at a high level, play at a fast level, compete with these guys and really excel,” Wentz told reporters. “I have the mental and physical abilities to play at this level and I’m really excited to prove it.”
Wentz’s story is that of the quintessential late bloomer, growing from a 5-foot-8, 125-pound freshman at Bismarck (North Dakota) Century High School into a lightly-recruited 6-5, 200-pound senior who signed with North Dakota State after also receiving scholarship offers from Central Michigan, Southern Illinois and South Dakota State.
Now a 6-5, 233-pounder, Wentz is the talk of Mobile after leading North Dakota State to back-to-back Division I FCS national championships.
In 16 games as a junior, in 2014, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards, with 25 touchdowns against 10 interception, ran for 642 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
This season, limited to eight games because of a broken wrist, Wentz completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,651 yards, with 17 touchdowns against four interceptions, and ran for 294 yards and six touchdowns.
“Carson is big. He’s got a strong arm and is very athletic,” Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s in an offense that’s more conventional to the NFL, rather than all the spread offense 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.
“I think he's probably going to be the most-watched player here. Hopefully, he winds up being the face of the franchise.”
The evaluation process that will take place over the next few months, which includes the Senior Bowl practices and game as well as the NFL Scouting Combine, pro-day workouts and individual workouts and interviews, will scrutinize and pick apart each of the three quarterbacks as NFL teams try to figure out the pecking order.
It is possible Wentz, Goff and Lynch will all be selected in the top half of the first round.
The Cleveland Browns (No. 2 overall), Dallas Cowboys (No. 4), San Francisco 49ers (No. 7), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 13) and Los Angeles Rams (No. 15) may all be looking for new quarterbacks this spring. The demand for a difference-maker at that position far exceeds the supply coming from the college ranks.
Wentz said Monday that his goal is to be the first quarterback selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I don’t know any quarterback that doesn’t want to be the top guy in their class,” he said. “If you don’t think you are or don’t think you have the ability to be, then you’re probably in the wrong sport because we’re competitors playing football here. We all want to be the best at our respective positions and that’s obviously the goal.”