clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Carson Wentz being a top NFL Draft pick doesn't invalidate all of QB recruiting

Want to be a surprise QB prospect? Grow 9 inches and 117 pounds in seven years.

Monday morning, I read the headline "Carson Wentz shows that quarterback camps just might be ruining quarterbacks" from the Washington Post, a reputable paper, so I figured it had good evidence to present the claim.

At every level, the football industrial complex devotes untold resources into developing and finding quarterbacks, the most coveted commodity and most glamorous position in sports. What does it say about the efficiency of the systems in place that the NFL's top pick might be an lower-division college player who didn't start quarterback until his senior year of high school?

We are not off to a great start. What does it say about the efficiency of systems? Nothing. It says that they do not have a crystal ball to discover a kid who was 5'8, 120, then grew but got hurt and was from the middle of nowhere.

Let's continue.

With widespread 7-on-7 leagues and a cottage industry popping up around grooming signal callers, the system continues to grow. Yet, if the Rams take Wentz first, the top draft pick in a league desperate for competent quarterback play will be a player who developed outside the system. It may not be a quirk.

Still thinking it's a quirk.

Wentz, some believe, is not a top prospect despite blooming late. He is, in some readings, a top prospect because he became he bloomed late. His delayed progression allowed him to develop well-rounded athletic skills and avoid the over-coaching - and, in some cases, detrimental coaching - many young quarterbacks receive.

He had a growth spurt and then got healthy. Why does it matter when he became NFL-sized? Playing other sports can help develop other skills, but how exactly did being tiny and hurt push him to other sports?

"It's killing the position," said Jeff Christiansen, a former NFL quarterback who has tutored, among others, New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. "It's destroying it. I don't think Wentz ever went to a quarterback coach. There are three or four guys that I had that never went, and they're further along than had they gone to a guy and become a mechanical robot. It's a glaring, glaring problem."

Find a self-interested "expert" ready to give a quote based on a wholly inadequate sample set? Check. And we're off.

Wentz never attended quarterback camps or sought individual teaching outside his team as a quarterback. In high school, he played basketball in winter and baseball in spring.

...

For this reason, Wentz never experienced the incessant or repetitive coaching that is common for quarterbacks who are identified early as elite talents. Quarterback tutors have become prominent. In spring, 7-on-7 leagues, both associated with high schools and not, are common. Many parents believe their sons must do it all. Even as some excel, the constant quarterbacking can backfire. Those pushed into the camps and clinics are recognized as the best talent entering college, but they can regress, stall or burn out.

I'd argue that he played basketball because it is an indoor sport and he lived where the average temperature in winter is in the teens.

Perhaps there is some evidence that quarterbacks who get private QB coaching or play 7-on-7 or participate in camps are more likely to "regress, stall or burn out."

"It's almost like some of those kids, if you're lucky enough to find me or a guy who gets it, your talent is going to escalate and you're going to play at a higher elevation," Christiansen said. "If you find a clown who doesn't get it, you're going to throw it better, because you're going to grow and get bigger and stronger. But they're not going to throw it more efficiently or play the position better."

So, private quarterback coaches are bad, unless you sign up with one who is good, like the guy giving quotes, according to the guy giving quotes.

Recently, Christiansen said, he knew six kids in the Chicago area who trained with a quarterback coach after earning college scholarships. Christiansen believed all of them possessed enough talent to land in NFL camps, and two could have been early-round draft picks.

"They were so mechanically broken after these two guys got there hooks in them, they all wound up playing different positions," Christiansen said.

First four, then six. The sample set is growing! Also, we have no idea if this claim is true, since no names are given. Maybe these quarterbacks didn't have the talent Christiansen believed them to have? The NFL doesn't exactly have a lot of quarterbacks with the athletic talent to play other positions.

Christiansen argues with parents who want their son to focus on quarterbacking to the extent of quitting other sports. Playing basketball, Christiansen said, is the best thing an aspiring quarterback can do: It improves sudden movement, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

This is a solid point backed up by logical reasoning.

As an unheralded high school player, Wentz never felt pressure to quit other sports to focus on football. Once he got to college as an overlooked recruit, no coaches had motive or desire to rush him on to the field. He worked hard, learned a pro-style offense and, when his time came, he revealed himself to be an unlikely NFL prospect. The process didn't hurt him; it helped.

Was it the process that helped him? Or was it growing by 9 inches and 117 pounds over the span of seven years while retaining athleticism that did the trick?

I've previously profiled the ways in which sleeper recruits end up becoming high NFL picks, including "very limited film due to injury or focus on another sport" and "gained a lot of muscle in college while retaining athleticism." Check and check, Carson Wentz.

Coaches want to play the player who gives them the best chance to win.

If Wentz had quarterback coaching in high school or had played in 7-on or camps, maybe he would have been better earlier and not had to redshirt at a place like North Dakota State.

"I look back at the recruiting process. If he would have been 6-2, 6-5 as a sophomore, I‘m almost certain he would have been more highly recruited coming out of high school. It would have made a world of difference of football."

Uh, yeah. Wentz was 6'5 as a junior and couldn't show off his talent because he hurt his wrist. If he was healthy, he certainly would have been noticed, as he was on a loaded team by North Dakota standards, with 10 members making First Team All-State.

Wentz had a decent senior highlight tape against terrible competition. He often appeared to be the biggest player on the field, and yet had just 1,383 yards of total offense and missed three games due to concussions.

I think I understand and agree with some of the ideas in this article.

Playing other sports may be able to develop skills in ways that quarterback coaching and 7-on-7 cannot. But I'm still waiting for the evidence to back the claim that "quarterback camps just might be ruining quarterbacks" or that the system should have noticed Wentz.

What if Wentz had a private QB coach with good connections who could have gotten his name out more? What if he had stayed healthy or grown earlier or not have played his high school ball in a state that produces almost no talent and is more than 400 miles away from the nearest Power 5 school, Minnesota?

Plus, the article presents a ridiculous false dichotomy. Nothing is preventing a player from playing hoops or baseball and participating in 7-on-7, camps or sessions with private quarterback coaches.

If you're serious about football, sure, mix in some basketball. It might help with footwork and balance. The pressure of shooting free throws in a tight game is great, too. But not to the exclusion of working on your craft. If you are a very athletic, raw, quarterback, it might even be better to spend your time working on throwing, rather than dunking.

But let's not pretend Wentz could not have ascended to the potential No. 1 draft pick if he had taken a different path. 6'5 with his arm and athleticism plays anywhere.