With the NFL world settling into Indianapolis for this week’s Scouting Combine, the fascination will turn first and foremost to the quarterbacks.
And the guy who breaks them down for the NFL’s own network seems to have a clear preference.
During his annual conference call with reporters Tuesday, Mike Mayock raved about North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, comparing him favorably to Colts quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck.
“When I look at him, I see a kid that’s as athletic or more athletic than Andrew Luck,” Mayock said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s bigger than Andrew Luck. He’s got arm strength comparable to Andrew Luck. He just doesn’t have the experience that Andrew Luck had at a high level that Andrew had coming out of college. So I see a ceiling for this kid similar to Andrew Luck. That’s why I believe in this kid so much. But it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Mayock has ranked Wentz first among this year’s quarterbacks, ahead of Cal’s Jared Goff.
(Of course, he also preferred Blaine Gabbert to Cam Newton in 2011, so take it for what it’s worth.)
Wentz has captured the early draft buzz in part because he played in the Senior Bowl and Goff didn’t, and partly because as a non-Division I player, there’s a certain Joe Flacco quality that makes many want to bestow elite qualities upon him.
“The way I look at Wentz, the first tape I put in, I went ‘Wow,”’ Mayock said. “I didn’t even know who he was. He was just a quarterback on my list. No clue. And I watched I think Northern Iowa and I watched this big kid sling the ball around a lot and on top of it, was athletic enough that they planned quarterback runs for him.
“So you do some homework and you find out he’s 6-5, 235. And I put the second tape in hoping it would be as good as the first — and it was better. So you start doing homework on the kid and yeah, he’s only got 23 starts but he’s 20-3 as a starter at a great program in Division I-AA, [with] five consecutive national championships.”
Mayock also hailed Wentz’s “character,” giving him the “smart, tough, loves the game” stamp of approval, while suggesting that Goff may be closer to being ready to play immediately (though that might be a subliminal function of his playing at a more established program).
As the week progresses and Goff gets a turn in the spotlight, there will doubtless be plenty of people lining up to say nice things about him as well. But at the moment, Wentz is the poster boy for the coming draft.