News & Analysis

Fantasy football reactions to the Philadelphia Eagles trading Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts

Nov 1, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks for a receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles have agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Colts in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick. The latter pick becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% of the snaps, or 70% and the team makes the playoffs.

It’s certainly not the return the Eagles were reportedly hoping for, but this is as close to a best-case scenario for Wentz from an on-field perspective. All Wentz did the last time he worked with new-head coach Frank Reich was function as one of the best QBs in the league:

  • PFF passing grade: 86.4 (No. 4 among 45 QBs with at least 100 dropbacks in 2017)
  • Yards per attempt: 7.5 (No. 13)
  • QB rating: 101.9 (No. 5)
  • Big-time throw rate: 0.06% (No. 3)
  • Fantasy points per game: 21.7 (No. 2)

Wentz has obviously regressed over the past three seasons; just realize he wasn’t the only problem in Philly. This was particularly true in 2020, when key contributors such as Miles Sanders (12 games), Jalen Reagor (11), Dallas Goedert (11), Zach Ertz (11), Alshon Jeffery (7) and DeSean Jackson (5) were all heavily limited due to injuries.

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Yes, Wentz led the league in turnover-worthy plays in 2020. Also yes, nobody had a higher percentage of their passes dropped than Wentz (6.8%).

I get it: Wentz was truly one of the league’s bottom-10 signal-callers in 2020. Just realize the supporting cast around him was at times comically bad.

Arguably the biggest problem surrounding the 2020 Eagles offense was their failure to control the line of scrimmage. This hole was exposed in Week 1 when Wentz took an absurd eight sacks against the Washington Football Team’s ferocious front. Overall, only the Giants (39.7% pressure rate) and Jets (44.9%) yielded more pressure than the Eagles (39.3%) on a per-snap basis.

Pressure tends to be more of an indictment on the QB than the offensive line. In 2017, PFF charged Wentz with just one sack compared to 11 in 2020. Still, it’s fairly clear that Wentz was under constant duress regardless of how long he held the ball, as the Eagles ranked 22nd in pressure rate on the season and also 22nd when the ball was released in fewer than 2.5 seconds after the snap.

We’ve seen Wentz play for five years at the NFL level. He ranks 20th in PFF passing grade among 67 QBs with at least 300 dropbacks during this span — 18th if you want to be kind and remove his rookie season.

This is probably what we should expect with the Colts: an average to above-average QB. We’ve only seen one season of Wentz looking like a bonafide world-beater, and we’ve also only seen one (non-rookie) campaign where he resembled a truly awful player.

Lost in Wentz’s horrific 2020 season was the reality that he wasn’t *that* bad in fantasyland thanks to his newfound willingness to take off and run. The former No. 2 overall pick has consistently functioned as an upside fantasy QB2 throughout most of his career.

  • 2016: 13.3 fantasy points per game (No. 27 among QBs with at least eight games)
  • 2017: 21.7 (No. 2)
  • 2018: 17.5 (tied for No. 17)
  • 2019: 17.2 (No. 14)
  • 2020:16.5 (No. 20)

Sometimes Wentz’s tendency to hold the ball and try to create a big play leads to sacks or a reluctance to take easier yardage. Other times it produces big plays that only a handful of other signal-callers can make. The talent ability here shouldn’t be in question: Wentz can make pretty much any throw on the field, and we saw a number of instances of off-script goodness as recently as 2019.

The Colts’ seventh-ranked offensive line in pass blocking grade is a noticeable upgrade from the Eagles’ banged-up unit. Still, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal join tight ends Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox as free agents.

Both the Colts and Eagles possess bottom-five receiver rooms at the moment, but the Colts have anyone’s idea of a more stable coaching staff and offensive line. It’s a bit too early to project the likes of Michael Pittman or Parris Campbell for huge seasons; we need to see how free agency and the draft changes this depth chart. The same goes for the tight end position: The Colts were one of very few teams to consistently utilize not one, not two, but three inline talents throughout the 2021 season.

In fantasy football, volume tends to trump talent nine times out of 10. This passing game again appears to be trending toward one that will be spread out and fairly hard to predict. The stock of both Pittman and Campbell is up with the addition of Wentz in the sense that he’s a more proven commodity than Jacoby Brissett or a rookie; just realize Reich’s offense is unlikely to force feed any particular receiver. I’m fine with targeting Pittman and Campbell as upside WR3 and WR4 options, respectively, but anything more than that is a bit of a reach with 1) volume concerns, and 2) Wentz’s volatile nature.

Wentz shouldn’t be prioritized in single-QB fantasy leagues. He’s also not a prime target in two-QB leagues as he enters a run-first offense that isn’t exactly overflowing with skill-position talent. The good news is Reich and the Colts’ offensive line presents Wentz with a great opportunity to get back to his 2017 form. The bad news is that it’s been three-plus years and counting since we’ve seen that player.

Wentz presents more upside than your typical fantasy QB2 because your typical QB2 hasn’t been a legit MVP candidate within the last half decade; just don’t get carried away with a player that we’ve seen be average to above-average for the majority of his career.

As for Jalen Hurts? We’re looking at a legit fantasy QB1. Perhaps the Eagles add another option under center; just realize the demonstrated dual-threat nature of Hurts’ game is about as fantasy-friendly as we could hope for. The man largely did nothing other than ball the hell out from a fantasy perspective in his three complete starts:

  • Week 14: fantasy QB10
  • Week 15: QB1
  • Week 16: QB16

Losing Wentz is a slight downgrade for the likes of Reagor and Goedert, who project to be the offense’s top-two target hogs ahead of 2021. Still, Hurts managed to clear 300 passing yards in two of his three full games; it’s not like the man is incapable of moving the offense through the air.

Arguably the biggest loser from the Eagles is Miles Sanders. Rushing QBs aren’t good for fantasy RBs because they generally 1) steal rushing volume, and 2) scramble instead of dumping the ball down in the passing game. We’ve already seen a general reluctance from the Eagles to fully feature Sanders as a three-down back, and meow he’ll have to deal with a new signal-caller as well as coaching staff.

Hurts could very well be this year’s prime late-round QB option if the Eagles decline to invest any other serious resources to the position. I’m also inclined to take shots on Reagor around the WR3 borderline and Goedert as a legit top-10 option at tight end. Consider Sanders more of a boom-or-bust RB2 as opposed to the three-down RB1 that his skill set suggests he’s capable of being.

Offseason NFL madness in February. You love to see it. 

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