Overcoming the odds at an FCS school to be a top prospect in this year's draft, Carson Wentz knows there are more challenges that await in the NFL.
Maybe the biggest test in his young career — if not to himself than to the scouts and NFL staff members watching — for North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz came at this year's Senior Bowl.
Wentz, who many believe might be the best quarterback in this year's draft, had never been pitted against FBS players, and his outing would help determine whether he could handle the game against competitors at a higher level.
He ended up playing the entire first quarter, completing 6-of-10 pass attempts for 50 yards.
"I think to a lot of people it showed I can handle that game speed," Wentz said. "Obviously there's still going to be a big jump going forward, but that was probably the big question everyone wants to know. Can he adjust. He was playing FCS ball. All these guys are FBS guys. I think I went in there and proved that I could handle it."
There are many other reasons to believe this will be true. In college, Wentz ran a pro-style offense and was under center quite a bit, eventually adapting to more shotgun sequences. Still, the team's bread and butter remained with power football and play-action. Wentz's other attribute, being able to run with the ball, also helped diversify the offense.
"I think that will help me tremendously going forward. I was in charge of a lot at the line of scrimmage, changing plays, run checks, all sorts of fun stuff with that," Wentz said. "But obviously there's going to be a jump. The NFL playbook is probably twice the size of what we did, or more. I'm excited for that. I'm a student of the game. I love learning football so I'm excited to learn that."
Last season Wentz, in just seven games (he missed time due to a broken wrist in the middle of the season), threw for 1,651 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also ran the ball for 294 yards on 63 attempts with an additional six touchdowns.
Certainly size helps in his position. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, he's been likened to Andrew Luck, likely because of his large frame, and as his NFL.com profile reads, he "has the athleticism to escape pressure and hurt defenses with his legs."
Because he comes from a smaller divisional school, names such as Joe Flacco and Tony Romo are also prone to filter into the conversation surrounding Wentz. He appreciates them for helping pave the way for quarterbacks at smaller schools, but is cautious whenever there is a jump to comparison.
"To be compared to anybody in the NFL is obviously quite an honor," Wentz said. "Those guys have already proven themselves. We're all just college kids coming out trying to make a name for ourself. So those comparisons … everyone is going to throw their comparisons out there. I think it's tough to really put a guy and say this is who he's like or he's like this guy and put him in a box. I don't that's fair to myself or to anybody else."
Still, there is some room for mixed feelings for NFL teams ready to find their next franchise quarterback. Wentz's weaknesses are tethered to concerns about adapting to the speed of the NFL game and the inconsistencies in his footwork and the touch on his passing game.
These are challenges Wentz is embracing. He's felt strongly about his Senior Bowl experience and the enhanced competition he's played. Now another transition awaits.
"I think right away the biggest challenge that myself, anybody standing up here at this podium is going to say is adjusting to that speed," Wentz said. "You put on some NFL tape or you watch Monday Night Fooball, Sunday games or whatever, you realize these guys are playing fast. So you've got to adjust right away and learn to adapt pretty quick. I'm excited for that opportunity."