North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and California’s Jared Goff are widely expected to be selected with the top two picks in the 2016 NFL draft, which begins on Thursday. SI.com’s latest mock draft pegs Wentz to go No. 1 and Goff No. 2 to the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles—both of whom traded up for the top two slots—respectively. These quarterbacks shined during their college careers, impressed scouts in pre-draft workouts and have the potential to change the trajectory of whichever franchise they join.
Yet their paths to this point were strikingly different.
As a freshman at Century High in Bismarck, N.D., Wentz stood 5’8’’ and weighed 125 pounds, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Though he sprouted to 6’3’’ by his junior year, Wentz did not play quarterback because of a broken hand. After growing two more inches over the next year, Wentz played quarterback as a senior, recording 1,383 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns and earning first-team all-state honors.
Wentz said most of his scholarship offers were extended after his senior season and that they were mostly from “Missouri Valley teams and a bunch of FCS teams.” Mid-American Conference program Central Michigan showed significant interest, according to Wentz, but did not actually offer him. Wentz told the Detroit Free Press that “when I called to tell them I was confirming and declaring to go to NDSU, they told me they were going to fly out this week to get me an offer.”
Instead of playing for the Chippewas, Wentz went on to post a 20–3 record as a starter at North Dakota State and lead the Bison to two FCS titles.
Goff never came close to winning a championship in the FBS, but before ever taking a snap for the Golden Bears he was a highly-regarded passer out of Marin Catholic High in Kentfield, Calif. The son of former Major League Baseball catcher and Cal alumnus Jerry Goff, Jared Goff earned his first scholarship offer from the Golden Bears at their junior day in February 2012, according to Scout.com. He would earn two more offers within a week from Washington State and Boise State, the website reported.
Goff eventually received interest from Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and USC as well, according to Scout.com, but he decided to end his recruitment in March 2012 by issuing a verbal commitment to Cal. In doing so, Goff became the first member of the Golden Bears’ ’13 recruiting class. “Everything about it just seemed perfect for me,” Goff told Scout.com. He was named an Elite 11 quarterback in ’12 and as a senior completed 63.9% of his passes for 3,692 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Goff went on to start 37 games over three seasons at Cal, including its season opener in 2013 as a true freshman. He set a host of program passing records in coach Sonny Dykes’ high-octane Bear Raid offense and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team as a junior in ’15.
The recruiting backstories of the two quarterbacks projected to be taken at the top of this year’s draft can be summed up thusly: One was a late bloomer from a remote locale, and the other was a coveted prospect who put up big numbers in high school. Both Wentz and Goff developed into more esteemed NFL prospects than initially expected, though Wentz’s rise was even more surprising given his lack of interest from Power 5 schools as a recruit.
The astonishing nature of Wentz's climb will provide plenty of fuel for the Recruiting Rankings Don’t Matter crowd. However, even though Wentz was a non-entity on the national scene—Scout.com did not even create a recruiting profile for him—his status as an elite NFL prospect doesn’t undermine the accuracy of recruiting rankings any more than, say, a two-star defensive end at Wisconsin who wasn’t even offered by the Big Ten program from his own state going on to become the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Which is to say: not at all.
For one, Wentz’s recruitment was stunted during his junior year because he was injured. And while Wentz played his future position as a senior following a major growth spurt, it was against weak competition in a state that’s not recruited nearly as heavily as others that regularly produce blue-chip prospects. Meanwhile, Goff was rated considerably higher in his class than one quarterback who was an MVP candidate last season and another who was selected second overall in the 2015 draft.
Who will be the better NFL signal-caller between Goff and Wentz? The answer to that question probably can’t be found by reviewing their high school careers.
Social media item of the week
One of the nation’s top defensive linemen released his list of top four schools last week. Joshua Kaindoh currently attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but he hails from Maryland. The hometown Terrapins, however, did not make the cut.
Three things to know
• Georgia keeps winning on the recruiting trail. The Bulldogs secured a commitment last week from Netori Johnson, the No. 2 offensive guard and No. 184 player in the country, according to Scout.com. The Cedar Grove (Ga.) High standout pledged to Alabama last June but reopened his recruitment in February. About two months later, Johnson decided to announce his intentions to join his in-state program. “It feels great and I am staying home,” he said, according to Scout.com. Johnson is enormous (6’3.5”, 348 pounds), and his Scout.com analysis notes that he “can drive the opponent backwards and open up big holes for running backs.” Johnson’s announcement came three days after Georgia landed an even more highly regarded recruit, four-star defensive back William Poole. The Bulldogs also flipped one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, four-star Jake Fromm, from Alabama in early March.
• It’s going to take a while before Rutgers can hope to compete with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten East, but new coach Chris Ash has the Scarlet Knights off to a promising start off the field. Ash secured verbal commitments last week from St. John Vianney (N.J.) High products Micah Clark and Jamaal Beaty. Clark is rated the No. 6 offensive guard and No. 40 player overall in the class of 2017 by Scout.com and has drawn reported scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Tennessee, among other programs. His stepbrother, Beaty, is a two-star prospect at the same position. Clark would have been a nice addition for a national power like the Buckeyes or Crimson Tide; for Rutgers, he represents a massive coup. If he sticks to his pledge, Clark could anchor the offensive line of a team that has ranked no better than seventh in the Big Ten in scoring offense since it joined the conference in ’14.
• Nebraska may have finished below .500 last season, but it’s putting together one of the better 2017 recruiting classes in the Big Ten. Last week the Cornhuskers received a verbal commitment from Avery Roberts, an inside linebacker who attends Concord (Del.) High and is rated the No. 5 inside linebacker in the nation by Scout.com. For Nebraska, Roberts’s pledge is the latest recruiting victory in a six-week-long stretch that also yielded commitments from three other members of the Scout 300: four-star wide receivers Jaevon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and four-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia. The Cornhuskers are also in the mix for a teammate of Gebbia and Johnson’s at Calabasas (Calif.) High, five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes. Setting aside that possibility for now, the Cornhuskers rank fourth in the Big Ten in Scout.com’s ’17 team rankings with seven commitments and a 3.43 average star rating.