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Is Carson Wentz Ready to Win You a Championship?

By Matt Schauf 10:06am EDT 6/11/19

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What You Need to Know:

-- Wentz returned from the back injury that ended his 2018 in time for OTAs in May.
-- He delivered career highs in completion rate, yards per pass attempt and passing yards per game in 2018.
-- Wentz fell from leading the league in passing-TD rate in 2017 to ranking 13th in 2018.
-- He delivered top-12 fantasy numbers after Alshon Jeffery returned in Week 4.


Durability

The biggest knock you’ll hear on the Eagles QB is that he can’t stay healthy. Wentz finished 2017 on IR after tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee. He then finished 2018 on the sideline with a fracture in his back. Before those injuries, Wentz sustained a hairline rib fracture in the 2016 preseason and missed much of his final college season after breaking a bone in his right wrist.

The good news: None of those injuries seems to have led to further issues. Wentz did sit out the 1st 2 games of last year while working back from the knee-ligament tears. But he then played with a brace on that knee and no apparent lower-body problems.

This offseason, Wentz made it back in time for OTAs -- where HC Doug Pederson said he played with “no limitations.” That means a full spring and summer of work, which the QB didn’t get a year ago.


More ground work?

Wentz has also shed the knee brace from last year, which could mean a rebound in rushing production. The Philly QB ranked 16th at the position in rushing yards as a rookie and then 9th in 2017, despite missing the final 3 games that year. Wentz finished 2018 just 32nd at the position in rushing yards per game.

His attempts per contest fell from 4.9 to 3.1. His yards per carry dipped by 2 full yards, also falling 0.6 short of his rookie-year rate. After scoring 27.0 and 29.9 fantasy points on rushing production alone his 1st 2 years, Wentz tallied just 9.3 last season. He went from 1.7 rushing fantasy points per game in 2016 to 2.3 in 2017 and then 0.8 last year.

Wentz has averaged just 13.6 rushing yards per game in the NFL so far -- but 23.0 per game in 2017. He averaged 40.7 per game over his final season and a half in college, with 12 rushing scores. There’s significant upside in this area.


Oh yeah, and he can throw, too

It’s not a bloated rushing expectation that has Wentz high in our QB rankings right now. We project him for just the 15th most rushing yards at the position and only 1 TD. But we also have him 9th in passing yards and 8th in TD throws.

Despite the knee injury that cost him the 1st 2 games and put a brace on his plant leg, Wentz punched his 2018 completion rate 7.2 percentage points higher than his previous best. He ranked 3rd in the league in that category.

That followed a 2017 in which Wentz led the league with a 7.5% passing-TD rate. He took a predictable fall from that perch in 2018 but still checked in a decent 13th -- in an offense that went from 3rd in scoring and 9th in yards per play in 2017 to just 18th and 17th after OC Frank Reich left.

How much did Reich’s departure actually move those lines? We’ll learn more about that in 2019. But his move was far from the only factor. Wentz began and finished the season hurt. Alshon Jeffery missed the 1st 3 games. Jay Ajayi suffered an ACL tear in Week 4. Mike Wallace -- the latest attempt to answer the speed question -- played in just 2 games, thanks to a foot injury.

This year’s Eagles sport a healthy Wentz and Jeffery, reloaded the backfield and imported the best answer yet to the speed question under HC Doug Pederson.

Even with the issues of last season, Wentz still tallied 21.8 fantasy points per game in the 10 contests he played after Jeffery returned. That scoring average would have ranked 12th for the season. Remove the goofy 5.4-point outing at New Orleans, and that average jumped to 23.6. Wentz would have ranked 7th among fantasy QBs with that number.


The (D-Ja)X Factor

In his 11 pro seasons, DeSean Jackson has led the league in yards per reception 4 times. Nine of his 11 teams have ranked among the league’s top 11 in yards per pass attempt, including five top-6 finishes and three among the top 2.

Washington jumped from 25th in YPA the year before acquiring Jackson to 4th in his first season. Then it finished 7th and 2nd. Tampa Bay ranked 16th in YPA in 2016 before jumping to 9th with Jackson on board in 2017 and checking in 2nd last year.

Are we chalking all of that difference up to Jackson? Of course not. But the guy has led the league in yards per catch in 3 of the 5 seasons since he left Philly, averaging 17.8 per reception over that span. The Eagles, meanwhile, haven’t had a player top 15.0 per catch on 10+ receptions since Jeremy Maclin (15.5) in 2014.

Philly has already climbed from 30th in YPA in Wentz’s rookie year to 15th in 2017 and 11th last year, with Torrey Smith and then Wallace as the chosen speed complements. Jackson serves as a clear upgrade over both of them. He vaults the scoring ceiling for Wentz, who hasn’t been afraid to throw deep. The QB tossed the 8th most deep balls in the league in 2017 -- with Torrey Smith around -- despite just the 23rd most total attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. That made him the 5th most frequent deep thrower among QBs with at least 100 total attempts. Wentz ranked 10th in deep accuracy among that group.


Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Carson Wentz delivered the 3rd-best fantasy scoring average among QBs in 2017, his 2nd season in the league. He posted top-12 per-game numbers again last year, despite injuries around him and a brace on his repaired left knee. A healthy Wentz returns in 2019 to find upgrades throughout the offense, including a 1st-round OT and 2nd-rounders at RB and WR. His health could mean rushing upside beyond what we’ve seen from Wentz in the pros to date, and DeSean Jackson opposite a healthier Alshon Jeffery answers the downfield-threat question the team has been trying to address since Doug Pederson arrived.

Wentz carries as much fantasy upside as just about anyone at his position. The likelihood that you’ll find him around QB12 in ADP when you draft only makes him a more attractive target.

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