NFL draft starts tonight

Published 12:52 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

By Jay Cohen

AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Jared Goff lobbed a few balls to a couple of lucky kids and practiced his coverage skills. Carson Wentz grinned as he sent a line of boys and girls through a footwork drill.

It was all smiles for the quarterbacks on the eve of the NFL draft. They might not know exactly where they are going, but they know they won’t have to wait very long to find out.

“Excited for whatever happens,” Goff said Wednesday. “It’s going to be a fun time. It’s going to be a dream come true regardless.”

Easy for him to say. After a pair of blockbuster trades at the top of the draft, Goff and Wentz are expected to be the first two names off the board when the first round starts at a downtown Chicago theater Thursday night. The only question is which one of them becomes the centerpiece for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles with the Rams, and which one heads to Philadelphia at No. 2 for a rebuilding project with the Eagles.

“Someone talked about it last night, there’s already a card with your name on it,” Wentz said after joining several top prospects for a football clinic at a downtown park on Wednesday, “and I’m just excited to finally find out where that is.”

The 6-foot-4 Goff started every game during his three seasons at California and set school records with 977 completions, 12,220 yards passing and 96 touchdown passes. The son of former major league catcher Jerry Goff passed for 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns during his final season with the Bears.

The 6-5 Wentz led North Dakota State to its fifth consecutive FCS title last season. He passed for 1,651 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior year that was shortened by a wrist injury.

“It’ll be exciting to see where we both fall, and hopefully we play each other for a long time,” Wentz said.

Goff and Wentz share the same agency, Rep 1 Sports, and got to know each other when they trained together while preparing for the draft.

“I think our careers will kind of be linked together for forever,” Goff said. “But yeah, we’re friendly and competitive, just like any other quarterbacks that train together, and had a good time getting to know him.”

For a long time, it looked as if quarterback was the least likely possibility for the No. 1 pick. Tennessee, which drafted Marcus Mariota in the first round a year ago, was connected to Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil for the top spot.

Everything changed two weeks ago when the Titans traded the top selection and two other picks to Los Angeles for a package that included the Rams’ first-round picks in each of the next two drafts. Then Cleveland traded the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia, and the top of the first round had a whole new look.

“It was exciting,” Wentz said. “Obviously you’re aware of what the teams kind of need a little bit, and my agents kind of filled me in a little bit. But it was exciting. Anytime there’s movement in the draft, it’s always fun.”

The 6-5, 310-pound Tunsil, who helped clear the way for the Rebels’ prolific rushing attack, brushed off the personal fallout from the trades like he discards would-be tacklers.

“Things happen for a reason, and whatever team I get to go to, I’ll be happy with,” he said.

After Goff and Wentz go in the top two spots, the real drama begins at No. 3 with the San Diego Chargers.

Tunsil, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, and Ohio State stars Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott likely will be among the next group of players to head to the podium for a handshake from Commissioner Roger Goodell. Offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame and Jack Conklin from Michigan State also are expected to go quickly.

And everyone thinks they are a wise selection.

“I’m versatile. I’m a jack of all trades,” said Elliott, trying to buck a recent trend moving running backs down in the draft. “I have worked on my game so that I have no holes. I don’t think when I get on the field that I have any weaknesses. That’s just how I think. You can always get better at things, but I think there’s nothing I’m bad at.”