Carson Wentz has all the tools you look for in a NFL quarterback. He is big at 6'5" and 235 pounds. His intelligence, both on and off the gridiron, is beyond question and he has the arm to make all the throws and the vision to be able to see the entire field even as the pass rush closes in on him. In addition, he has the athleticism to make things happen with his feet when nothing develops downfield. In short, Wentz looks like a professional quarterback.
He also has a track record of putting in the type of work that is needed to fully grasp the intricacies of the offense that he is called upon to run. These traits combined with his leadership abilities are what has Wentz moving up draft boards. He is a solid first-round talent. Still, there is a question that must be asked - "Is Carson Wentz a top five prospect?" Based on his positives the answer would be a conditional yes, depending on how he shows at the combine.
What would keep him from being a top-five talent?
The first thing that must be considered is that Wentz played his college ball against FCS competition. He proved to be a winner among winners at that level, but lets face it, the talent level in FCS is not the same as it is in the SEC. There will be a learning curve to factor in. There is for any rookie quarterback. That curve will be even steeper for Wentz.
He has adapted well thus far. Moving up to face some tougher competition at the Senior Bowl, he did not disappoint. Wentz made the transition with little difficulty, but he still has more to prove. As a quarterback he would benefit from a "redshirt" season or two in the NFL. There are still many things for him to learn before he is ready to deliver at the level a fourth-overall pick is expected to deliver.
Not only is Wentz lacking in experience against competition at the highest level, his resume is more than a little thin in experience, period. He was undersized as a high school player and only had one season of starting experience at that level. For his first three seasons on campus at North Dakota State he was a backup. This includes his redshirt year. Carson became the Bison starter at the beginning of his junior year. During his senior season he missed half the season due to a broken wrist.
Carson displays some tendencies common to young passers with limited exposure. He tends to lock into receivers in some situations rather than making his progressions. He also tends to force the ball in those situations. This can be overcome with coaching and development. Wentz also needs time for that "little clock in his head" to calibrate itself. That too will come with experience.
A fair grade for Carson Wentz would have him coming off the board somewhere between 15-20. The NFL is not a fair world and quarterback is one of the positions that is valued above others. He could come in to the league right now and take over the helm of an offense if that was what was required of him, but unlikely to take a team to the next level this soon. What he is best suited for in the immediate future is to fill the role of being the quarterback who could come into the game and help to maintain a competitive footing. For that there is a glaring need in Dallas.
Just as an actor does not play Hamlet in his first stage performance, but eventually grows into the role, so to would Carson Wentz grow into the job as the starting QB in the Cowboys organization. With Tony Romo as mentor for a couple seasons and with the tutelage of offensive minds like Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Wade Wilson to guide him through the learning process, Wentz can be the answer to avoiding the dearth that the franchise experienced between Aikman and Romo.
The Cowboys are in an unexpected position to take advantage of a high draft pick to pair with a plethora of other talented players in their prime. Opportunities like this do not come along often, and the team cannot afford to let this one pass. The number four selection is a little high considering what the player is right now, but not overly so. With the potential reward of being able to move from franchise quarterback to franchise quarterback seamlessly dangling in front of them, it is time to consider rolling the dice.