We're less than a month away from the 2016 NFL Draft, and as with any draft, the focus starts with the quarterback position. And, as with any year, there a number of teams looking to add a signal caller.
With the moment of truth rapidly approaching, here are five things teams looking to draft a quarterback need to know:
1) Carson Wentz is the real deal -- on and off the field.
Not many evaluators have questions about Carson Wentz on the field, with the biggest concern being the North Dakota State product's ability to adjust to the jump in competition level. And as teams continue to dig on him off the field, they've been blown away by his intangibles. In fact, off the field, he's very similar to Andrew Luck in terms of intelligence, preparation and character. That his leadership abilities, smarts and toughness are all off the charts is helping give evaluators confidence that, though it might take some time, he'll eventually figure it out and succeed at the NFL level.
I've had Wentz as my top quarterback throughout the whole process, and I think he'll make a smooth transition.
2) This year's hot sleeper is Liberty QB Josh Woodrum.
Every year, teams try to target a late-round quarterback, a developmental prospect with a high ceiling. And the name that's come up more than any other when talking to teams this year has been Liberty's Josh Woodrum.
I have more work to do on Woodrum, as I've only seen him in one game so far, but watching him against West Virginia, I could see he's a big, strong kid with a live arm. Immediately, you can tell there's something there to work with.
I think several teams believe they're the only team on Woodrum, and there's a bit more of a crowd than they realize. He's kind of a buzz guy right now.
3) The Cowboys are expected to take a QB early.
Personnel people disagree as to whether Dallas will select a quarterback fourth or 34th overall, but almost everyone in the league expects the Cowboys to take a signal caller with one of those picks (or at the bottom of the first round, should they trade back up). In terms of names you hear connected to them, Wentz comes up as an early first-round choice, given the familiarity they have with him from the Senior Bowl, where Jason Garrett coached Wentz's North squad. He'd make plenty of sense at No. 4.
Two names connected to Dallas at the top of the second round or bottom of the first: Michigan State's Connor Cook and Memphis' Paxton Lynch. I'm a bigger believer in Lynch in the long run, but as far as someone who could fill in for two or three games in a pinch next season -- which is not an especially unlikely scenario, given Tony Romo's recent history -- I'd feel more comfortable with Cook, who cut his teeth in a pro-style offense.
For Lynch, Dallas would be an ideal fit, because he could sit behind Romo and develop. However, I don't think he'll make it to the Cowboys in the second round. If they want Lynch, they'll have to move back into the first to get him. Why? Well ...
4) Paxton Lynch is raw, but he has the most upside in this QB class.
General managers who are in a relatively secure spot -- that is, they work for teams that have won recently and are picking toward the bottom of the first round -- are very intrigued by Lynch, especially if they have the ability to let him sit and develop. If you can have patience with Lynch, the payoff could be huge. Teams that come to mind that could be in a spot to add Lynch are the Cardinals, Broncos and maybe even the Chargers, though San Diego will likely feel the need to put pieces around Philip Rivers to win right now.
You want elite traits? Lynch has several, including size, arm strength and above-average athleticism. Those are pretty good building blocks to begin with. Yes, he's raw. After playing in the system he played in at Memphis, he'll need some time to adjust to the NFL. And he must continue to develop his lower body and footwork. But all of his issues can be taken care of with time. I think if you can let Lynch sit for a full season, he can be a functional starter in the NFL in Year 2.
5) Don't be shocked if the Browns wait on a quarterback.
I don't think the Robert Griffin III signing should take the Browns out of the quarterback market. In fact, if I were them, I'd take Wentz, who I believe in, with the first-round pick. But the other opinion around the NFL is that, with the reconstruction in Cleveland being a long-term project, the Browns just need to get some sure things in this draft, especially at No. 2 overall.
I think everybody's assumed the sure-thing pick, if the Browns were to go that route, would be Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey or Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. But I wouldn't rule out UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. I believe Cleveland is looking for a high-impact, low-risk player. And with Jack's medical checking out, according to teams I've talked with, he'd fit the bill.
Then the Browns could come back in the second round, where they pick 32nd overall, and snag a signal caller like Cook, who seems to be the popular choice for teams looking for a quarterback in that range. Cook's experience playing in a pro-style offense in the Big Ten, in weather that would be similar to what he'd face in Cleveland, makes that an easier evaluation.