Bledsoe: Why small-college QBs like Wentz may be at an advantage

Carson Wentz could be the first quarterback taken in this year's draft. But critics wonder if playing in a small-college program hurts him, and former star quarterback Drew Bledsoe has the answer.


(Drew Bledsoe photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)

Talk of Fame Network

One of the knocks on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz is that he played in a small-college program – with logic saying he's a risky top draft pick because he could struggle at the next level.

Except that former quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the first pick in the 1993 draft, doesn’t follow that logic. In fact, he believes there may be an advantage to playing quarterback at a lower level, and he explained why on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“Coming out of a bigger school,” he said, “you’re used to playing in larger environments. So maybe it’s not as awe-inspiring when you get to an NFL stadium. (That) would be the one difference that I would really point to.

“But the one difference that really struck me each time I made a step -- whether it was from high school to college or from college to the NFL -- is that it’s still just football. And, as a quarterback, you’re seeing the same pictures. It doesn’t really change all that much in terms of how you’re making the reads and how you’re making the decisions. The only thing that happens at the NFL level is that those decisions have to be made more quickly, and the windows you’re throwing into are a lot smaller.

“In terms of looking at a guy, I honestly feel like that there is at times some advantage to coming from a smaller program, especially if you’ve had to play against some superior talent where maybe you don’t have as much time to make those decisions; you have to throw under duress and you have to deal with things that aren’t ideal.”

Wentz and Jared Goff are the top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Goff went to Cal; Wentz to North Dakota State. Both have the arms, the size and the pedigrees. Except there are those who will choose Goff because of the size of the program. He played in the Pac-12; Wentz in the Missouri Valley Conference.

But Bledsoe, who played at Washington State in what was then the Pac-10, doesn’t believe the size of the program matters. In fact, he believes it could work against a quarterback.

“One of the things that would scare me a little bit,” he said, “would be taking a quarterback from one of the powerhouses . Carson Palmer’s a great quarterback who came out of 'SC. But you’ve seen some of these 'SC quarterbacks … you see some of these other quarterbacks who come out of these powerhouse programs … struggle a little bit, and part of it I think is they get used to throwing with nobody around them, and they get used to throwing to guys who are wide open.

“And that’s really not the case when you get to the NFL. Even if you’re on the best team in the NFL, you’re going to get hit, and you’re going to have to throw into tight windows. So I honestly would be a bit nervous as a guy making that decision if I drafted a guy who didn’t get hit very much and was always throwing to wide-open receivers. That would make me a little nervous.”