It was predicted as soon as the final standings for the regular season were done, but now it is official. Your Dallas Cowboys will be sending their coaching staff to Mobile to coach one of the teams in the Reese's Senior bowl. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be across the field from them.
The Cowboys, led by fifth-year head coach Jason Garrett, will coach the North team, while third-year Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and his staff will guide the South.
This is thought to be a real advantage for the teams that send their staffs. They get to not only evaluate the skill sets as they spend extensive time working with the players, they also get a chance to see what kind of work ethic and attitude the players bring to the table. This should logically give them a leg up on the rest of the league in placing those players on their draft board, although the fact that the Jaguars have been here before in recent years makes it clear that it is no guarantee that this is going to make a huge difference.
But the Cowboys have a strong personnel staff to use the information the coaches will gather. And given the particular situation that Dallas has regarding its roster, there is one player in particular that may make this worthwhile all by himself.
Coaching the Senior Bowl a great opportunity for the #Cowboys for various reasons. Most important reason? NDSU QB Carson Wentz— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 7, 2016
Wentz should be one of the quarterbacks Jason Garrett and staff work with, because you don't get much more north than North Dakota. And he is a player for whom the Senior Bowl experience will be very informative, since he comes from an FCS school and this will be the first extensive look at him against and in comparison to FBS level talent. Given that he missed the last eight games with a broken wrist and is currently fighting a cold to be available for the playoff game coming up in Frisco (where the Cowboys are sending a scout in hopes he plays), this is even more significant in evaluating his talent. He is a very intriguing player, but not one without some potential issues as Derrik Klassen relates (I am not familiar with Klassen, but Eric Galko is promoting his post, and Galko knows what he is doing when it comes to the draft.)
Wentz has talent, but a lot about him on the surface is concerning. The level of competition he faced, the broken bone in his throwing wrist and his underlying inclination to take off with the ball are all reasons to be concerned. A non-FBS quarterback has not gone in the first round since 2008 when Delaware's Joe Flacco was taken by the Baltimore Ravens. On top of that, the last first round quarterback who did not finish their final season was Christian Ponder in 2011.
However, as Klassen goes on to explain, the positives that Wentz brings may just override those concerns.
Wentz has the most intriguing skill set of any quarterback this year. His arm is live, showing an uncommon blend of velocity and arc control. He has no issues getting the ball to receivers on the opposite boundary, nor does he have much trouble fitting the ball through windows over the middle of the field. Wentz's velocity often gives his receiver a tick longer to corral the ball before a defender gets there, helping minimize broken up passes. At the same time, Wentz has shown he can take off some heat in order to drop a throw in smoothly- a trait most useful when placing crossers and deep outs over underneath defenders. Wentz is quite the athlete, as well.
Those are things that will almost certainly be scrutinized in depth by Garrett and everyone else from Dallas that goes to Mobile, which is basically going to be everyone of any significance. Here is a player from a small school that many teams may shy away from but who might have a truly impressive skill set. Comparisons to Tony Romo are always risky, but seem inevitable. And he compares very favorably to Kellen Moore. Wentz is 6'5", and that velocity makes him very different (and better) in delivering the ball.
It would be one thing for a team to risk a high draft pick on a player with Wentz's resume due to the lack of video from 2015 and the competition he faced, but clearly it is a different matter if you have spent extensive time coaching him and watching him line up against some of the top FBS talent in this year's draft class. Of course, the results of all that may be that he is not what the Cowboys are looking for - but if he is, this could be a chance to solve the QB succession dilemma that Dallas faces with an aging Romo.
And while Wentz is possibly the most important evaluation for the Cowboys, he is far from the only one. With so many areas that the team needs to upgrade, there is no player that they coaches will not be studying to find out if they deserve a place on the Cowboys' draft board.
But this points out that the disaster of 2015 may turn into an incredible opportunity for Dallas. Finding a viable franchise quarterback almost always requires the investment of a high draft pick, and now the Cowboys sit at fourth in this year's draft. And they have a tremendous opportunity to make sure they get it right if they decide to take the plunge. They will also likely have a chance to see Connor Cook who is expected to attend. That is two possible solutions to finding the eventual replacement for Romo. And no one will have a better set of data to evaluate them than the Cowboys.