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Friday, April 22, 2016

Isn't Taking Carson Wentz a Big Risk?

To frame up the argument:

I am not a snob when it comes to schools.  Great players can come from small colleges and there can be big busts from schools in major conferences.  Grambling probably has produced more Hall of Famers in the NFL than many major conference schools.  That said, Grambling doesn't have the players it once did because the major DI schools no longer discriminate the way they used to.  Still, players from FCS schools can and do have good and long careers in the NFL.  There just are not as many of those players as players who come from FBS schools. 

Atop that, how many quarterbacks from Division I-AA or FCS schools have excelled in the NFL?  Phil Simms?  Joe Flacco?  Tony Romo?  The answers is not many.  Atop even that, how many quarterbacks from Division 1-AA or FCS schools have been first-round draft picks?  Anyone besides Ken O'Brien in the quarterback-laden first round of 1983?  Atop even that, how many quarterbacks taken in the first round over the past 25 years have become either Pro Bowlers or Super Bowl champions?  In all likelihood, less than half, probably by some good margin.  (Just recall the 1999 draft, when Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Donovan McNabb went 1-2-3.  Couch was in a pass-happy, innovative offense at Kentucky, Smith was a one-year wonder at Oregon, and McNabb was the real deal at Syracuse.  Two out of those three picks failed).

So what did the Philadelphia Eagles do?  Apparently, a lot of research last year, what with now GM Howie Roseman's having been sent to the football version of Siberia when he lost a power struggle to Chip Kelly.  I would have thought that Roseman would have come up with a premise that you cannot win unless you get a great push on both sides of the ball, so load up on linemen.  That would have made sense, and there are some good offensive tackles and pass rushers available (then again, many first-round offensive line picks don't pan out either).  That theory would have pushed the Birds to trade up for Ole Miss tackle Leremy Tunsill, who is high on everyone's draft board.  He and Lane Johnson would make a fine pair of tackles.  But Roseman did not do that.

What he did instead, smartly, was to figure out common themes among championship teams.  He discovered the Captain Obvious point that if you have a good quarterback, you have a good chance to win a lot of games.  Remember, Sam Bradford was highly touted coming out of Oklahoma, played for some bad teams and kept on hurting the same knee.  Now he's healthy, had a good second half of the year and might be able to call audibles this year, something Kelly had forbidden him to do.  Sounds like a decent plan.

But a healthy, more mobile and more free Bradford apparently doesn't fit into Roseman's formula.  So, he went bold, ignoring the concept that there are bold GMs and old GMs, but there's no such thing as an old, bold GM (see Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore for someone who continues to do things well, even if the Ravens had a bad year last season).  Roseman traded a Herschel Walker's ransom of picks for the second pick in this year's draft, guaranteeing that the Eagles will get whichever quarterback the Rams don't take with the first pick.  And that quarterback right now is Carson Wentz. 

I know, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski like him a great deal, but the best body language I got out of Gruden last year was not about the first couple of quarterbacks taken, but about the Raiders' Derek Carr out of Fresno State, who looks like he can be a very good one.  It's hard to know who the next best QB is after Wentz and Cal's Jared Goff, but they don't seem to generate the excitement that someone like Andrew Luck did several years ago.  And, of course, there's the reminder that the Patriots took Tom Brady oh so many years ago in the sixth round, that Joe Montana was taken in the third round and that Johnny Unitas was a free agent.  Times have changed, naturally, but even with all of the diligence around draft picks, teams still fail.

Will Wentz succeed?  Perhaps the quarterback evaluators and the draftniks are right.  Perhaps a kid who has started in about two dozen FCS games and led his team to two FCS championships can make the leap to the NFL and excel.  Or perhaps the speed and complexity of the game might overwhelm him, or the limelight could upset his equilibrium.  Philadelphia, after all, is light years away from North Dakota.  And presumably a lot more intense.

Those in favor of the deal and Roseman will argue that you cannot just fall into line, play the game and take who's there, especially when who is available might not meet your needs.  They have drunk the Sam Hinkie Kool-Aid to a degree and want a franchise-changing bold move.  Those opposed will argue that the team has a good nucleus, that Bradford could work out, and that the Eagles have so many needs why did they elect to bet the bank on the FCS QB from North Dakota State? 

There is no mistaking that Roseman is putting his career in Philadelphia on the line here.  He has generated momentum for himself through a very good off-season and is now parlaying that into this bold strategy.  If Wentz becomes a star, then Roseman's star will brighten too.  If Wentz fails, then Roseman will fail, took, and presumably follow him out the door quickly. 

Interesting times for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Make no mistake, Howie Roseman is taking a very big chance on the Flavor of the Month. 

If it works, he had the courage to unearth a gem.  If it doesn't, he's taken the guy who will make Eagles' fans forget Mike Mamula.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool story bro, looks like you were wrong.

2:02 PM  

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