INDIANAPOLIS: California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz promoted themselves well at the podium Thursday during the NFL Scouting Combine, but the Browns must determine which top-rated prospect is more likely to perform as advertised on the field.
Each player made a strong case for himself to become the first quarterback drafted April 28, likely second overall by the Browns.
Analysts have labeled Goff more polished than Wentz and better equipped to start immediately.
“I think I’m going to improve a team the day I get there, honestly,” Goff said. “I think I can be the guy who can play right away, the guy who can sit if I need to and learn. Honestly, I’m excited for whatever team wants to draft me, and I’m excited to make an impact right away.”
Wentz will make a greater leap than Goff because he played lower-level college football. Still, he won’t sell himself short.
“I’m confident,” Wentz said. “I believe in myself to be a franchise quarterback.”
Goff is convinced he could help rewrite the depressing narrative surrounding the Browns, who went 3-13 last season and have started 24 quarterbacks since 1999. He likes the idea of playing for coach Hue Jackson, Cal’s offensive coordinator in 1996.
“It starts with coach Jackson,” Goff said. “I think he’s a great coach, and that if he ends up choosing me or whatever quarterback he ends up choosing, I think he’s going to be able to make the guy successful. I think he’s a great coach, a great offensive mind and a great quarterback guy. As far as myself, I’m confident in my abilities wherever I go, honestly.”
He’s also accustomed to helping spearhead turnarounds. Cal went 1-11 during Goff’s freshman season, then 5-7 and finally 8-5 last season. He went 14-23 as a starter, completing 62.3 percent of his passes with 96 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
“It starts with hard work, hard work in the offseason and no shortcuts really,” Goff said. “We were 1-11. We were terrible. We had to really start from the floor and build everything up, and we were able to go 8-5 and win a bowl game. It was tremendous.”
Although Wentz didn’t play at a big school or against elite competition, he’s from an ultra-successful program. North Dakota State has won five consecutive national titles, and Wentz went 20-3 as the starter the past two seasons, finishing his career with a 64.1 completion percentage, 45 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
“I think the track record speaks for itself as a winner,” Wentz said. “So when I think of a franchise quarterback, not only do I think of the physical ability, but I think of being a winner, winning ball games, taking command, being a leader.”
Wentz certainly looks the part, and the official measurements taken Thursday supported his appearance. He measured 6-foot-5¼ and weighed 237 pounds.
Goff measured 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but his 9-inch hands are under scrutiny. NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler noted NFL teams usually want quarterbacks to have 9½- or 10-inch hands. Wentz’s hands measured 10 inches.
Ryan Tannehill (9 inches), Derek Carr (9 1/8) and Colin Kaepernick (9?) are among the NFL quarterbacks with less-than-ideal hand size.
Goff scoffed at the attention his hand size received.
“I’ve played football my whole life and never had any problem with that,” said Goff, who fumbled 23 times in college but pointed out he improved with just four last season.
On Wednesday, Jackson said hand size is important, especially for quarterbacks in the AFC North because they play in snow and rain. Denver Broncos General Manager and legendary quarterback John Elway agreed hand size matters. He measured his hands three months ago at 10?.
But Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown said Goff’s hands aren’t a deal breaker.
“If a guy can throw a ball in college, he’ll be able to throw it in the pros,” Brown said Thursday. “I don’t think that will be a problem for Jared, but it’s something you do look at.
“All these measurements and things you can get distracted by. The important thing is not to divorce yourself from what’s most important: How did they play on Saturdays over the last two or three years in college? He played well, as a number of these guys did. We’ll look at [hand size], but not weigh it too heavily.”
Brown also insisted he isn’t turned off by a quarterback who needs grooming instead of starting right away, which is notable because most analysts believe Wentz will require more time than Goff to be ready for the next level. Brown pointed out the franchise has the luxury of counting on veteran Josh McCown as a bridge starter.
“We’re not in any panic or rush to find a guy that’s got to go out there and play right away,” said Brown, who added he’ll attend the pro days of the top quarterbacks next month.
In the meantime, Goff and Wentz will have a chance to back up their words Saturday when quarterbacks throw at the combine. All eyes will be on them.
“I always want to go out there with something to prove,” Goff said. “I always have a chip on my shoulder, and I always want to go out there and prove people wrong, prove people right.”
“As a competitor, everyone wants to be the top guy, no doubt about it,” Wentz said. “But what matters to me is the team that picks me that believes in me. I want to go somewhere where they believe in myself to be that franchise quarterback whether right away or down the road.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.