Monday, February 29, 2016

QB Day At The 2016 NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterbacks (from left) Christian Hackenberg of Penn State, Jared Goff of California and Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech listen to a coach during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterbacks (from left) Christian Hackenberg of Penn State, Jared Goff of California and Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech listen to a coach during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
This is the weekend of the NFL combine, with today, the final day of proceedings, before everyone returns from whence they came.  Then, we may stop the live feed from Indianapolis that has been going around the clock since sunrise on Friday.

Saturday was the object of attention for most of us in this neck of the woods as it was the one and only day in which all of the quarterbacks who will be available in the draft were all present on the same football field at the same time.  Sadly, they were not playing football, but they were throwing the ball and at least demonstrating velocity and accuracy in certain predetermined drills that can allow us some pieces with which to compare. 
It allows us to see how this guy looks standing next to that guy and at least get some idea of whether or not things on the screen are apples to apples.  Now, at nearly the exact same time, Jerry Jones was on his bus kicking it with the local media and dousing any premise that they are looking QB at #4 with a cold bucket of water.  But, for the moment, let's assume that our supreme leader of the Cowboys is bluffing rather than playing a fiddle while Rome (Romo) is burning
Let's assume that he is aware his QB has not finished a complete season since 2012 and let's assume that he understands that almost every year he has owned the team, the Cowboys have not been in a position to acquire a franchise QB when they have picked - except for the time they took Troy Aikman at the top of the draft.  Now, we don't know if this draft has a Troy Aikman, but if it does, it will very likely either be Carson Wentz or Jared Goff.  And if that is true, the odds are rather solid that the Cowboys will be able to select one of those two young men where they sit at #4.  They will not get their pick of which one, but it appears from where we sit on the final day of February that it will likely be whoever Cleveland does not pick.
The differences between Goff and Wentz have been written about plenty.  In fact, I spent considerable amounts of time on both a month ago with Wentz's profile here and Goff's profile is here.  I think both a going to be very strong players in this league and I would consider both a very solid selection at #4.  I realize many people don't want to hear that because they want to add a player who can play with Tony Romo in this last window of this Cowboys' era, but I want to think about both the short and long-term situations here, and that is why I continue to say that we should consider every position in the organization.  Including - but not limited to - quarterback.
I think this is a good time to share my views on the NFL combine and assume that this is how most people see it.  The combine is simply a way to confirm or challenge data that has already been assembled.  We don't get to see the same players doing the same things when watching their college tape, but we do get to see them in their natural environment doing what they can do.  The idea is to now fill in the gaps at the combine - not construct opinions.  I would rank it somewhere around 80% college tape and 20% interviews, workouts, and other off-field evaluations. But, make no mistake; the most important component of evaluating any football player for me is always going to be football. 
Anyway, here are some of the observations I would offer after being locked in to the 7 hours of coverage from Saturday's QB day.
Carson Wentz is very impressive.  He is so big and so athletic.  He is not quite to the standards of Andrew Luck, but he isn't really far off.  He is a big man who can move very well, but his best attributes remain in throwing the ball.  The ball jumps out of his hand and reaches its destination with purpose and velocity.  He stands confident and fires darts.  He is comfortable under center so the 5-step and 7-step drops and footwork seem pretty natural.  He fires strikes. 
Jared Goff was interesting to see in the light track gear because it shows how slender he really is.  I put this in his profile back a month ago: "He is also quite skinny and while he might get thicker, he will always make you nervous in terms of durability as he stands tall in a blitz to make a throw. When he is sacked, the ball does come loose from time to time." It certainly is more obvious when he is not in uniform with shoulder pads.  There are certainly slender QBs in the NFL without broad shoulders and some thickness to their upper body, but that doesn't mean we won't get nervous about surviving the punishment of the NFL game.  Also, the hand-size will be discussed.  I don't think it bothers me too much - especially in Dallas (basically, a dome). He is "surfer-slender".  But, man the delivery is quick and compact and that will serve him well.  He also has great footwork in the pocket to slide around and get the ball off when under pressure.  He is going to be great.  
But, what strikes you is how many people insist that both of these Grade-A prospects could greatly benefit from some time on the sidelines before you throw them to the wolves.  Personally, I think that this old fashioned idea should be considered more as something we should go back to, but with both of them, there is nothing but good that can happen if you have patience to delay their debut.  And who is in a better position to do that than Dallas?
Others worth noting from QB day:
Paxton Lynch is the guy who seems like he could be great or scary at different times.  That is often called boom/bust with a seemingly high variance of outcomes to his career.  He is so athletic.  Amazing.  36" vertical, very twitchy for a man his size and his size is insane.  I have seen him look amazing and I have seen him look pedestrian.  I would take him in the 1st, but I would feel nervous going too high.  He seems a cut below the other two.
Dak Prescott  is very interesting and someone I want to definitely include as a profile soon.  There is something there, I am just not sure if there is enough.
Christian Hackenberg is another guy who has put some great tape out there, but not much since 2013.  The connections to his college coach Bill O'Brien in Houston are interesting, but I think the Texans can do better. 
I am a big believer in Trevone Boykin and enjoyed nearly every aspect of his college career with hopes that there could be a spot in the NFL.  Seeing him out there at the combine reminds me of his promise and ability and I thought he threw the ball well.  But, you cannot mention his name there without those who will be quick to point out how his college career ended in handcuffs.  Everyone makes mistakes, but that one was incredibly poorly timed.  It seems that most want to convert him back to WR, which shouldn't be that tough, but I am definitely rooting for Boykin.
Tomorrow, we get back to the profiles with Clemson's DE Kevin Dodd.

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