Football

NFL Draft Countdown: Carson Wentz won’t let FCS pedigree get in way

NDSU QB Carson Wentz On The Possibility Of Sitting Behind A Veteran Like Tony Romo

Wentz is one of the top-rated QBs in the 2016 draft with a chance to go in the top five.
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Wentz is one of the top-rated QBs in the 2016 draft with a chance to go in the top five.

Carson Wentz seems unfazed that he lacks FBS experience.

“I’m a very confident player, and I know what I’m capable of,” Wentz said. “I know a lot of people had that question, so I am excited to go prove that.”

Wentz won two FCS national titles at North Dakota State and ended his career with a 20-3 record. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Wentz has the size NFL teams covet. He also has the arm talent and athleticism, and Wentz even has experience under center.

There’s a learning curve they all go through, but I don’t think it’s as drastic as some may [think].

49ers general manager Trent Baalke

“Certainly, there’s a learning curve they all go through, but I don’t think it’s as drastic as some may [think],” San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “They play at a high level. They won five national championships in a row, and Carson was a part of four of those.

“He’s a good football player. He’s got the stature you’re looking for. He’s got the intelligence you’re looking for. There are so many positives to draw from.

“Now, how ready is he going to be when he gets to the league? I think there will be a learning curve, but there is for everybody at that position.”

Wentz could beat out the FBS products and be the first quarterback selected in this NFL Draft. He follows four other FCS quarterbacks who became first-round draft picks — Grambling’s Doug Williams in 1978; Morehead State’s Phil Simms in 1979; Alcorn State’s Steve McNair in 1995; and Delaware’s Joe Flacco in 2008.

“I think the success of guys like Joe Flacco or Tony Romo or … the list goes on, whether it’s quarterbacks or other position players,” Wentz said. “There’s a lot of talented individuals at the FCS level that can play, especially a guy like Flacco coming in really right away as a rookie and winning some ballgames

“I think it shows that that adjustment can be made by special players, for sure.”

I think for me coming out of North Dakota State, I think the track record speaks for itself as a winner.

Carson Wentz, who won two FCS national titles at North Dakota State and ended his career with a 20-3 record

Wentz ended his career completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 5,115 yards, 45 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also ran for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns. He missed half of last season with a broken right wrist that required surgery.

“Sometimes you see guys that come out maybe of a I-AA or Division II [school], it takes some time to adjust or you wonder is it too big,” said Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who played and coached at North Dakota State.

“That’s not the case with him, in just my conversations, so I’m happy for North Dakota State, and I’m happy for him.”

Wentz, 23, has no doubt he will win in the NFL just as he won at North Dakota State.

“Being a winner in the NFL, that will take you places for sure,” Wentz said. “I think for me coming out of North Dakota State, I think the track record speaks for itself as a winner.

“So when I think of a franchise quarterback, not only do I think of the physical ability, but I think of being a winner, winning ballgames, taking command, being a leader. All those things come to mind.”

The North Dakota State product is working with the Cowboys' coaching staff this week at the Senior Bowl. Video by Drew Davison.

The Cowboys owner had a brief encounter with Wentz on Wednesday. Video by Drew Davison.

 

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

Overview

The top of this class is not as strong as last year when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the top two picks. But the overall position is much stronger than in 2015. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are viewed as future NFL starters. Only seven quarterbacks were drafted last year; that number could double this year.

Cowboys’ needs

The Cowboys went 3-1 in the four games Tony Romo, 36, played last season, when he twice broke his collarbone. He also had two back surgeries in 2013. He has not played a full, 16-game schedule since 2012. So while Jerry Jones frequently talks about a four- to five-year plan for his quarterback, the Cowboys can’t count on Romo to stay in the lineup for an entire season. Yet, they did nothing to shore up the backup spot. Three backup quarterbacks combined for a 1-11 record last season, and Kellen Moore returns as the primary backup. The Cowboys need to begin grooming a young quarterback sooner than later.

Top five

Jared Goff, California, 6-4, 215, 4.82: His record was only 14-23, but he was a three-year starter at an FBS program and has the tools to succeed in the NFL.

Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, 6-5, 237, 4.77: Some scouts like him better than Goff. He won two FCS national championships in his two years as a starter.

Paxton Lynch, Memphis, 6-6  1/2 , 244, 4.86: He passed for 8,865 yards, 59 touchdowns and 23 interceptions as a three-year starter and will need time to develop.

Connor Cook, Michigan State, 6-4, 217, 4.79: He left as Michigan State’s all-time winningest quarterback with a 34-5 record, but questions persist about his leadership ability.

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State, 6-4, 223, 4.78: He had his best season as a freshman, regressing after Bill O’Brien left for the Texans.

Sleeper

Cardale Jones, Ohio State, 6-5, 253, 4.81: He isn’t a sleeper in the traditional sense, but projected as a late-round pick, Jones has a chance to develop into more than expected.

Top Texas ties

Trevone Boykin, TCU, 6-0, 212, 4.77: He is one of only eight quarterbacks in FBS history with 10,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards, but scouts say he lacks the tools to play QB in the NFL.

Source: Heights, weights and 40 times came from CBS Sportsline analyst Dane Brugler.

NFL Draft

April 28-30, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

Schedule: Round 1, 7 p.m. April 28; Rounds 2-3, 6 p.m. April 29; Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m. April 30.

TV: ESPN and NFL Network.

Draft order:

1 Los Angeles Rams

2 Cleveland Browns

3 San Diego Chargers

4 Dallas Cowboys

5 Jacksonville Jaguars

6 Baltimore Ravens

7 San Francisco 49ers

8 Philadelphia Eagles

9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10 New York Giants

11 Chicago Bears

12 New Orleans Saints

13 Miami Dolphins

14 Oakland Raiders

15 Tennessee Titans

16 Detroit Lions

17 Atlanta Falcons

18 Indianapolis Colts

19 Buffalo Bills

20 New York Jets

21 Washington Redskins

22 Houston Texans

23 Minnesota Vikings

24 Cincinnati Bengals

25 Pittsburgh Steelers

26 Seattle Seahawks

27 Green Bay Packers

28 Kansas City Chiefs

29 Arizona Cardinals

30 Carolina Panthers

31 Denver Broncos

Note: New England forfeited 29th overall pick.

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