The Surprising, Meteoric Rise of Carson Wentz


When you cover or closely the Football Championships Subdivision, watching a player like Carson Wentz grow into an NFL draft sensation feels like how I envision music snobs think at any given moment.

Oh yeah, I loved Carson Wentz years ago. I have the 2014 Playoff game against Coastal Carolina…ON VINYL.

Yes, I marveled at Wentz’s play-making ability in 2014, when he replaced Brock Jensen as quarterback of the North Dakota State dynasty. The program underwent considerable overhauls that year, breaking in both a new starting quarterback and new head coach, yet the Bison didn’t miss a beat.

Wentz even took the offense to new heights his predecessor hadn’t, showing off a dual-threat element uncommon for a player with his 6-foot-6 frame.

Wentz opening eyes upon exposure to a bigger audience isn’t what surprises me. Plenty of FCS stars do so every year when given the opportunity, like Panthers defensive back and Coastal Carolina product Josh Norman.

It’s more the intensity with which NFL draftniks have embraced Wentz, and how rapidly the praise has spread, that underscores the zeal of this particular hive-mind.

I have taken aim at the oversaturation of NFL draft buildup on this site previously, albeit more so for the catty — and often anonymous — attacks lobbed at former college stars. Wentz’s sudden stardom resides on the other side of the same coin, skyrocketing from obscurity to a superstardom in what feels like record time.

For perspective on just how meteoric Wentz’s ascension has been, I asked his former head coach and recruiter, Wyoming’s Craig Bohl, about the quarterback’s future last July.

Bohl’s bold stance then was to “venture to say he’s got a great opportunity to play in the NFL.” No mention of a No. 1 overall draft pick.

Before the 2015 season, Carson Wentz was still an intriguing prospect, primarily a mid-round projection. Much can change over the course of a season, of course, but he wasn’t markedly better in an injury-shortened senior campaign than he was as a junior.

He cut down on his interceptions, throwing four in 2015 against 10 the year prior, but his touchdowns dropped from 25 to 17. Wentz’s completion percentage and yards per attempt also dipped.

Nothing Carson Wentz did in a game in 2015 impacted his current ascent. In fact, Wentz’s rise didn’t begin until after North Dakota State concluded its fifth consecutive national championship run.

Here’s a brief timeline:

Dec. 12: NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein declares Wentz is deserving of a first-round grade.

Jan. 14: ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. releases his first 2016 Big Board with Wentz going to the Houston Texans at No. 22.

Feb. 18: Wentz springboards past Cal’s Jared Goff, long considered the best quarterback option of this draft, in Kiper’s revised Big Board.

April 14: The Los Angeles Rams, facing a dire quarterback situation and seeking a face for the newly moved franchise, trade for the No. 1 pick.

April 18: reports the Rams will host both Goff and Wentz for interviews and workouts in the days before the draft.

April 20: The Philadelphia Eagles trade for the second overall pick. Popular opinion suggests whichever quarterback Los Angeles doesn’t draft, Philadelphia will. If true, Carson Wentz is no worse than the No. 2 NFL draft pick.

Over a four-month time frame, wherein Wentz played in all of two games, the North Dakota State quarterback went from hidden gem to a top two pick. What changed?

The most basic attributes — he’s 6-foot-6 and played his college ball in a pro-set offense — were evident to anyone paying even the slightest attention a year ago.

Wentz wowed in his pro day, though Teddy Bridgewater might be fast to point out the folly of placing too much stock in those workouts.

His interviews have reportedly gone well, including his televised Gruden Camp appearance.

Game film shows a physically gifted player with quick reaction time, good field vision and a cannon arm. But, again, was none of that available a year ago? Why is Carson Wentz such a huge revelation now?

The process fascinates me. I am not going full music snob and declaring Wentz a sellout nor disavow his “new stuff.” I just marvel at the value of word-of-mouth and hype for college football players as they move to the next level.