So… both CPGM Headley and I have gone on record with our respective opinions as to which quarterback is better between small school standout Carson Wentz and PAC12 gunslinger Jared Goff. We both agree that Jared Goff is the superior QB and will be the first player off the board during 2016 NFL Draft now that the quarterback needy L.A Rams are owner’s of the first overall selection. This much you already know. However, to this point we have provided scant analysis and detail as to why we believe the Cal product is a better option than Carson Wentz. That changes today. You are no doubt fatigued with all of the coverage and analysis the talking heads have provided as they have opined as to why they prefer one QB over the other; but that ain’t us. Allow me to breakdown Carson Wentz vs. Jared Goff for the first and last time. Of course the masses will compare these two for the rest of their careers and perhaps beyond that.
Let the record show I am only speaking for myself. While Headley does agree with me that Goff is a better selection than Wentz we may agree for different reasons. Meanwhile, CPGM Drew prefers Carson Wentz. But before I get into the nuts and bolts of my argument I want to re-visit my formula for deciding which QB prospects have the best chance of succeeding at the NFL level. First things first, this is not a hard and fast rule. This is not Avogadro’s number, the quadratic equation, or the Pythagorean theorem. There are exceptions. However, the quarterback prospects that meet most of the criteria therein tend to have long, successful, NFL careers.
- Experience – The quarterbacks coming from the collegiate level that have a lot of snaps under their belt tend to be better prepared for the rigors of the NFL game including: ups and downs, longer season, and additional seasoning as the leader of the offense and team. Give me a 3-to-4 year starter with strong film of course.
- Outperform your supporting cast – Football is the ultimate team sport but a quarterback that finds success despite NOT having elite talent or household names accompanying him, buoying his performance, generally have experienced more on-field adversity which is expected every week in the NFL.
- Pro-style system – Spread offenses are here to stay but in many cases they do nothing to prepare a young quarterback for the next level. In fact, the reason why spread offenses are so en vogue is because their installation is far less labor intensive than a pro-style system. Considering the limitations on practice time at the collegiate level it’s easier to teach and execute a spread offense. A pro-style system demands more from the quarterback and the offense as a whole. A spread offense capitalizes on tempo, rhythm, smoke and mirrors and asks the athletes to “think” less. It also puts your quarterback in harms way (Cam Newton’s don’t grow on trees). Meanwhile a pro-style system requires more film study, a greater emphasis on execution, calling your own audible, working under-center (mechanics) and turning your back to the opposition (during play-action) which even proved difficult for the great Peyton Manning at the end of his career. In a nutshell the “spread” is designed to out-athlete your opponent while a pro-style system is designed to out-execute your opponent. The best of the best play in the NFL and it’s impossible to out-athlete the opposition week-in and week-out. That’s why the “spread” phenomenon at the pro level has slowed to a crawl.
- Year-to-year progression – Too often college QBs flash big time potential during their Freshman campaign or in their first year as a starter only to level off in terms of their performance or more commonly digress. A prospect that demonstrates steady improvement over the course of their collegiate career puts in the time and effort to work on their craft and is willing to be coached. If you think you have it all figured out once you sign on the dotted line you’re in for a rude awakening as a professional quarterback.
Obviously, intelligence, accuracy, arm strength, work ethic, ball-security, competitive drive and ACCURACY are all essential in the makings of a quality NFL QB but I wouldn’t be doing this analysis if I didn’t think both quarterbacks possess these traits (to varying degrees of course).
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Jared Goff has the obvious edge in terms of experience. He was a three-year starter and attempted 1,568 pass attempts during his career. He demonstrated steady progression in all major passing categories with an increase in: completion percentage, passing yards, passing yards per attempt and touchdown passes each season. He also never completed less than 60% of his passes despite the sheer volume of pass attempts and a poor-to-below average supporting cast. Keep in mind the Cal Bears went 1-11 during Goff’s freshmen season and had not won a bowl game since 2008 before he led his alma mater to a bowl win during his 7 TD swan song performance in December of 2015. The cupboard was pretty bare when Goff arrived on campus but the program made substantial improvement over the last two years because of his presence. While Goff has virtually no experience under-center and comes from a spread system referred to as the “Bear Raid” the types of throws he was asked to make were very much pro-style in nature and he did so at a very high level. Here are my notes while watching every pass attempt Goff threw during his junior year.
“Average athlete, strong arm accurate to all areas of the field; too much shotgun although mechanically sound, compact quick release; susceptible to well disguised underneath coverage; remains accurate as pocket breaks down; delivers the football in a phone booth; processes information quickly; at times tries to overcompensate for supporting cast; has dealt with adversity, improved year-to-year despite lack of quality supporting cast.”
Goff’s footwork and mechanics despite not playing from under-center at all really stood out to me. I harp on playing from under-center because too often spread QBs find success in college despite their sloppy, flat-footed, back leg throwing, in-ability to climb the pocket nonsense only to face-plant in the NFL. This is a result of collegiate QBs spending entirely too much time in the shotgun. While he will have to work on scanning the field when he takes his eyes off the defense, Goff will be the exception among quarterbacks predominantly playing in the shotgun in terms of his excellent mechanics. Goff’s lower-half, poise, and subtle movement in the pocket combined with his arm talent will play at the NFL level.
Carson Wentz lacks the experience Goff has. He was a two-year starter at North Dakota State and only has 612 pass attempts to his credit during his four-years as a member of the Bison. I know what you’re thinking. “Jameis Winston was a two-year starter.” But don’t even try that one… and that’s coming from a Hurricane fan; Wentz isn’t in the same class as Winston. His junior season (1st year as a starter) was the only year he played a full slate of games. Wentz only played 7 games during his senior year due to injury but his 17:4 TD-to-INT ratio was a marked improvement to his 25:10 ratio during his junior year. Wentz edges Goff in the measurable department (size, speed, overall athleticism) but notice I don’t place a great deal of emphasis on that in terms of my formula. While I recognize level of competition certainly favors Goff I don’t think it’s particularly damning for Wentz. Rather, the fact that Wentz comes from a program that had won 3 straight FCS Championships (5 now with Wentz winning 2 of his own) is a detractor in terms of my formula. That may sound odd but allow me to explain. While the NDST athletes may not be better than Cal’s athletes per se, relative competition favored Wentz and the Bison substantially. Additionally, Wentz didn’t dominate statistically. Numbers can be misleading but I would expect a player being considered among the Top 2 selections of the draft to dominate competition particularly at the FCS level. Instead, I find that the North Dakota State program is dominant. You might say, “He’s a winner.” And you would be absolutely correct but the Bison didn’t exactly fall out of contention when Wentz went down with an injury. In fact Wentz played in both of North Dakota State’s losses in 2015. Imagine Goff on the sidelines, Cal wouldn’t win a game. Here are my notes while watching every pass attempt Wentz threw during his senior year.
“Good athlete, strong arm, accurate outside the numbers short to intermediate; deep ball accuracy inconsistent; experienced in pro-style system; only 23 starts; did not dominate lesser competition; uses eyes to manipulate coverage well; inconsistent when operating out of the shotgun; pocket awareness average; does not consistently climb the pocket to throw; statistically has done a good job of protecting the football but will force the issue at times; speed of competition a question mark heading into pro game if asked to start immediately; inconsistent accuracy throwing to left-side of the field; must speed up the process; fails to deliver the ball with accuracy when structure of play breaks down or when under pressure; compact delivery.”
Experts and the like love Wentz’s pedigree as a champion, his upside and his experience in a pro style system. I agree, those are pluses, particularly having experience under-center, calling the game from the huddle and line of scrimmage, and making protection adjustments. However, I waxed poetic regarding North Dakota State’s dominance in the FCS over the last half-decade and I rarely saw Wentz drop straight back or make a full-field read from under-center. He does have experience turning his back to the defense on play-action (unlike Goff) but it almost always resulted in a half roll/half field read and throw. This obviously was by design to help the quarterback but the assumed edge Wentz has from operating from under-center particularly as it pertains to mechanics is a mirage. Goff actually is more polished mechanically believe it or not. I believe Wentz’s performance and command during the Senior Bowl practices really made him a lot of money but his actual performance during that game was lackluster at best.
We all love professional comparisons and the most common comps for each quarterback are:
Goff – Matt Ryan: I believe Goff and Ryan are similar in terms of physical stature but I actually think Ryan was a better prospect coming out of Boston College, he fits the formula to a “T.” I actually think Derek Carr and Goff are more similar considering the types of offenses they played in during their respective collegiate careers.
Wentz – Joe Flacco/Blake Bortles: Wentz reminds me of “Joe Cool” and Blake Bortles from a physical standpoint predominantly. I also feel that he shares both Flacco and Bortle’s propensity for getting sloppy when there are bodies around them.
As I calculate the formula I see it favoring Goff 3:1 with Wentz only having an edge in terms of Pro-style system. Goff will have to learn to adjust protections and play with his back to the opponent but because of his advanced ability from a mechanics perspective and his intelligence (Wentz is sharp too) I think he will close that gap quickly. If you place a premium on Wentz’s potential, Goff and Wentz share a similar ceiling. However, I’m convinced Goff has a higher floor. As I stated before there are exceptions to this formula but consider the top signal callers in the NFL and you’ll find that substantially more often than not they fit into this formula. Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, and Drew Brees just to name a few.
Verdict in Carson Wentz vs. Jared Goff: Goff > Wentz