Player Spotlight – Carson Wentz

The Past, Present and Future

Indianapolis and Philadelphia were linked for the past 2 months before this deal finally came together. Wentz steps into a “win-now” situation and re-unites with his former OC Frank Reich, now the HC in Indianapolis. For Indianapolis the inclination towards this decision came early in the off season when owner Jim Irsay indicated that the team would be looking towards a veteran QB who could step in and play at a high level in the NFL from day 1. The deal, and career of Carson Wentz, hinges on his performance in year 1. Wentz had a frustrating 2020/21 season in Philadelphia where he and former HC Doug Pederson had their relationship broadcasted in the media and we all know that it wasn’t a pretty one. Wentz stat line is reflective of the teams decision to bench him in favor of their 2nd round draft pick, Jalen Hurts who started 4 games down the stretch for the Eagles. Wentz finished the 2020 season throwing for only 2,620 yards 16TDS and 15 INTS.

The Deal

Indianapolis Colts receive

  • Carson Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles receive

  • 2021 3rd Round pick
  • 2022 Conditional 2nd Round pick: Becomes a 2022 1st round pick if Wentz plays > 75% of the snaps in 2021 or plays > 70% of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs in 2021

GM Chris Ballard of Indianapolis didn’t want to give up the teams 21st overall pick in this years draft and was able to stay resolute on that point. This is likely key in that the 2021 NFL Draft is loaded at a position of need for Indianapolis which is LT. Conversely, Eagles GM Howie Roseman had to navigate a difficult scenario where the writing was already on the wall regarding Wentz and the team’s future QB Jalen Hurts. Roseman and the Eagles organization’s biggest challenge was the 4-yr 128 million dollar contract which Wentz was signed to in June of 2019. Few teams around the league would look favorably at that figure given Wentz production from 2020. The Eagles need help at a variety of positions, namely along their offensive line. The deal doesn’t immediately allow them to go out and draft a franchise player but positions them well for the future given that the likely-hood of conversion on the 2022 conditional 2nd round pick is extremely high.

College Career
Photo credit: Rick Yeatts Photography

Wentz played at North Dakota State from 2011 to 2015. He became the Bison’s starting QB in 2014 as a Junior. Wentz and the Bisons won a NCAA Div-1 Football Championship game in each of his two seasons as the team’s starting QB. In 2014 16GP he was 228 for 358 on PA for 3,111 yards 25TDs and 10 INT’s. Additionally Wentz lead the Bisons in rushing yards with 642 adding 6 TD on the ground, good for a 40 yard per game average. In 2015 Wentz broke his throwing wrist during the 1st half against South Dakota and went on to miss the next 8 weeks of the season before playing in the National Championship game on January 9th. Impressively, after breaking his wrist against SD State Wentz finished the game later undergoing surgery to repair the damage. That speaks volumes to his toughness as a player.

Source: sports-reference.com
NFL Draft

Carson Wentz was drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 behind only the recently traded, Jared Goff. The Eagles were extremely high on Wentz, in fact they traded up TWICE to be able to select him at #2 overall. In the last trade they made with Cleveland the Eagles moved up from the #8 overall spot to #2 by giving up their 2016 1st, 3rd and 4th round picks. The haul for Cleveland didn’t end there as they also acquired the Eagles 2017 1st round pick and 2018 2nd round pick. This was not a popular decision amongst Eagles fans who felt that the team had leveraged their future in order to draft a QB which wasn’t viewed as a sure thing nor did he come from a big name school.

Combine Ratings
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carson_Wentz

Wentz had a great Pro Day followed by a very strong Combine. He went from a mid-first round prospect to a consensus top 2 QB in the time surrounding and following each of these days. The comparisons to Andrew Luck were flying around and intangibles like interview success and attitude were among the areas that Wentz was applauded by the associated press.

Injury History
source: https://sportsinjurypredictor.com/player/carson-wentz/7450

Whenever we review players who’s career has been altered by significant injury or by way of consistent injury a cloud seems to hang over them throughout their playing days and it reads “Injury Prone” A piece of advice – get away from using this term. Unless a player suffers a routine soft tissue injury which can be directly linked to poor conditioning or predisposed factors it really shouldn’t be used. In the case of Carson Wentz, the injuries which he’s sustained have been serious but have also been very different from each other. A variety that leads me to say that he’s dealt with a bit of everything, clearly the most serious of which being the knee injury sustained in week 14 of 2017 against the St. Louis Rams. That injury casts the biggest shadow towards his overall health and mobility going forward. Tearing both his ACL and LCL the injury also lends towards a reduction in one of his main areas of strength which is that he can effectively run the ball and pick up 1st downs on broken plays.

NFL Career

The high point for Wentz clearly came in 2017 where he led the eagles to an 11-2 position before tearing his ACL and LCL in week 14 against the St Louis Rams. Philadelphia went on the win the Superbowl that season against the New England Patriots where Nick Foles led the team across the finish line. Wentz would have to wait until week 3 of the 2018 Season before returning to action.

Source: https://www.nfl.com/players/carson-wentz/stats/career
Source: https://www.nfl.com/players/carson-wentz/stats/career

In the seasons following his knee injury Wentz has a combined 17-21-1 record as a QB with most of his performance based metrics trailing off significantly since 2018. 2020 was a bad year for the Eagles in all accounts and Wentz went through a humbling experience eventually being benched for rookie Jalen Hurts. His 72.8 QB rating was the lowest of his career and his 57.4 Completion percentage was well below the league average of 65.2%. Situationally Wentz faced a lot of pressure, getting sacked 50 times in 12 games played. While this contributed to his poor showing it can’t be a single focal point of blame as PFF ranked the Eagles the #19 O-line in the league ahead of a handful of teams whos QB’s had much better season’s than Wentz.

The meat of Wentz career has been surrounded by ambitious expectations as a player and for The Eagles as a team. From 2017-2019 Wentz lead the Eagles to 2 division titles and a 2nd place finish. With Wentz in the fold the Eagles made the playoffs each year and even won a Superbowl in 2017 while he was out of action with a torn ACL/LCL. During that 3-yr stretch Wentz had an individual record of 25-15-0 with a 99.1 Passer Rating and 3.85 : 1 TD : INT ratio.

The Contract
Source: https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/indianapolis-colts/carson-wentz-18950/

The contract for Wentz becomes a focal point in Indianapolis who came into this trade with one of the largest amounts of available cap space. By comparison to his recent performance the contract jumps out as being lofty but with Philadelphia eating the entire 2021 dead cap amount of $33.8 million Indianapolis doesn’t really get their hands dirty until 2022. Indianapolis’ willingness to take on this contract shows that they believe that Wentz can return to his MVP contending form from 2017.

The Future: Indianapolis

This is an exciting opportunity for Wentz who gets to come into a very similar environment to that which Phillip Rivers did in 2020. At 39 y/o Rivers went 11-5 with Indianapolis passing for 4,169 yards 24TDs and a 97.0 Passer Rating. If you watched Colts games in 2020 you saw that Rivers was mediocre in many ways. His arm strength wasn’t what it used to be and the veteran QB looked rooted inside the pocket, brining very little to the table on the ground. Much of the Indianapolis success was understood on the ground where Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines combined for 1,996 yards and 20 TDs. Additionally, on the defensive side of the ball Indy ranked inside the top 10 in many of the major categories namely having one of the leagues best run defense. These are all points which bode well for Wentz to walk into.

Reuniting with Frank Reich, now the Indianapolis HC is a positive for Carson Wentz. In 2017 when Frank Reich was the OC for the Eagles Carson Wentz ranked 3rd in the NFL among QB’s in FPPG. The Colts new OC is Marcus Brady who was the QB coach in Indy until Nick Sirianni left for Philadelphia. Brady has a background in the CFL as both a player and as an offensive coordinator. Coming off a season working with Phillip Rivers and seeing a promotion to OC bodes well for Carson Wentz and the Colts who will have a confident coordinator hand picked by Frank Reich.

Looking ahead at the 2021/22 Season Indianapolis projects to win approximately 10 games. When you look at a winning record for a team it typically correlates with the majority of their time spent playing with the lead. For Wentz that will mean that less emphasis will be placed on the pass game and that more of the offensive focus will remain on ball control over the span of long punishing drives. Wentz will be taking less risks in this scenario and should gain confidence as the season goes on. The first areas where this should show up is in the amount of turnovers, sacks and QB pressures which Wentz faces. In 2020 Wentz fumbled the ball 10 times, 6 of those were lost. The Colts offensive line which features Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith was PFF’s #7 ranked unit in 2020/21 allowing only 19 sacks over the course of the entire season. With the extra layer of protection Wentz will be better able to pass with confidence and ideally be able to drive the ball downfield against single coverage with success knowing that Indianapolis will continue to face amongst the most 8-man boxes in the NFL. His targets this year will include Michael Pittman Jr, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal and Mo-Allie Cox. UFA TY Hilton returning on a hometown discount would be a positive for the team.

My estimation for Carson Wentz in the 2021 NFL season is that he passes for 3,920 yards 24 TDs and 7 INTs with a passer rating of about 95. I believe that its also possible for Wentz to become a dynamic threat in the Red Zone for Indianapolis who didn’t have the ability to call any QB reads with Rivers under center. I like Wentz for an additional 5 TD’s on the ground. All this comes together for me to view Wentz as a mid range QB option. From a fantasy perspective he’s someone I’m looking to draft in the last 4 rounds of redrafts knowing that his ceiling is likely capped by the strong ground game of Indianapolis. For SF leagues he’s a mid range QB2 at the moment with the ability to rise towards the beginning of the year should Indy sign any positive additions when FA begins March 17th.

Thanks very much for joining me to profile Carson Wentz and his career to date. To say that Wentz could be in the running for “comeback player of the year” is lofty, but something I hope we can follow these points with in late 2021!

Dave Carey

Follow me on Twitter @87_Carey

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