MOBILE, Ala. – The Buffalo Bills are sending a quarterback to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2002, but Tyrod Taylor's impressive first season as a pro starter won’t stop them from keeping an eye out for another player at the position in this year’s NFL Draft.
Among the few coaches representing the Bills at the Senior Bowl this week (head coach Rex Ryan isn’t expected to be one of them) is offensive coordinator Greg Roman. And there's little doubt one of the primary reasons he’s here is to get a closer look at North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, the QB headliner for Saturday’s all-star game.
Wentz has gone from small-school curiosity to someone seen as having a great deal of potential to make an impact in the NFL. First, there’s his size. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. Then, there's the fact he dominated at his level of competition by leading his team to two Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) titles and completing 64 percent of his passes in his collegiate career. The second championship came after Wentz came back from missing eight games with a broken wrist.
Senior Bowl executive director and former NFL general manager Phil Savage told reporters Monday that there’s “a real buzz” about Wentz among NFL scouts. Savage went as far as to say that most of the league player-personnel people with whom he recently spoke elevated him from a second-round projection to top-10 material.
The Bills hold the 19th overall pick of the draft. But even if that puts them out of range, it makes sense to gather all of the information they can on a rising prospect such as Wentz, who will join his North squad teammates for Tuesday’s first Senior Bowl practice day.
“I think there’s obviously a lot of doubt coming from the FCS level and I just want to address that right away, prove that I can play at a high level, play at a fast level, compete with these guys and really excel,” Wentz told reporters Monday. “I have the mental and physical abilities to play at this level, and I’m really excited to prove it.
“A lot of people kind of compare us to Alabama of the FCS. Our conferences are really tough and say we’re like the SEC of the FCS so a lot of comparison based on the winning culture and the tradition that we have. Football is huge in our state. It’s big down in Alabama, but North Dakota State Bison football to North Dakotans and people in the Midwest has become a really big thing and we have quite the following and we would argue we have some of the best fans in the nation.”
For the record, the Bills found one of their all-time great players from North Dakota State when they made Phil Hansen a second-round draft pick in 1991.