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Carson Wentz to the Colts - Fantasy Impact

On Thursday, another shoe dropped in what's already turning out to be a wild offseason at the quarterback position.

With Philip Rivers retiring, the Indianapolis Colts were left with question marks at QB. They attempted to answer those questions on Thursday, dealing a third and a second -- with conditions that could turn it into a first -- to the Eagles for former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz.

Wentz isn't a slam-dunk option for the Colts, but he's played at an MVP level before, so the Colts are betting on him to bounceback, while the Eagles appear set to roll with Jalen Hurts as their starter. So, with the dust settled from this deal, what's the situation from a fantasy angle?

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How Carson Wentz Impacts The Colts

It's tough to really know what to think of Wentz in Indianapolis because it's tough to know what to think of Wentz.

He just turned 28. He should be in his prime. But his 12 games this year were just atrocious compared to the rest of his career. Just take a look at his five seasons in Philly via Pro Football Reference:

So, Wentz posted the lowest completion percentage of his carer. He threw the most interceptions of his career. He has his lowest touchdown rate since his rookie season and highest interception rate ever.

All the major stats that we use to evaluate quarterbacks showed that 2020 was just a disaster for Wentz, though we can't fully blame it on him, as he was sacked a league-high 50 times despite playing only 12 games. The Eagles offensive line was 31st in adjusted sack rate per Football Outsiders. Wentz's lack of mobility made him an easy target for defenders.

The good news? The Colts o-line had the seventh-best adjusted sack rate. Wentz should be kept a lot more upright.

Of course, Wentz was just 36th among quarterbacks in clean pocket completion percentage last year, so him getting more space and time to work with doesn't necessarily mean his numbers will skyrocket.

I would view Wentz as a mid-to-low QB2 when drafting. I do think there's upside here -- this is the guy who in 2017 threw 33 touchdowns in 13 games, with a league-best 7.5 touchdown percentage -- but I don't think anything about the past two seasons has shown me that I should be drafting Wentz at his ceiling. Something is broken with Wentz, but a new home could help fix that, and his interception rate could get back to the sub-two percent mark it was at over the prior three seasons. But even in 2019, Wentz was just 19th in true completion percentage and 22nd in true passer rating.

The one thing I do like about Wentz in Indianapolis: what this does for Michael Pittman Jr.

Wentz was third in air yards per attempt last year and while his deep ball completion percentage of 31.6 percent ranked just 28th, the fact that he's willing to throw deep can help out this offense. Philip Rivers has a reputation as a gunslinger, but last year was 28th in air yards per attempt. Wentz can push the ball down the field, which should allow this team to use Pittman in more creative ways. He wasn't a deep threat last year, garnering just seven deep targets. But with a 93rd percentile speed score, I'd expect the Wentz/Pittman deep connection to be something that happens a good bit this season. Pittman's currently one of my favorite breakout options in 2021, though part of me worries he'll get too much hype.

As for other players, I think people might think that the Colts' tight ends get a boost from this because of how much Wentz targeted Zach Ertz in Philly, but I think part of that was just that Ertz was really, really good. The Colts don't have an Ertz-level tight end, so I don't see too much changing there. And as for the running game, Jonathan Taylor should still be set for an RB1 season, regardless of the quarterback.

 

Jalen Hurts Is (Probably) The Quarterback In Philly

On the other end of this, Jalen Hurts is likely set to be the quarterback in Philly. That would be good news for anyone with Hurts on their current roster and also bad news if you're interested in any of Philly's receivers.

First, let's acknowledge that while Hurts definitely was fun to watch at the end of last season, we can't guarantee he's the starter. The Eagles have the sixth pick in this year's draft and while the trio of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson will almost certainly be gone by then, what's to say that the Eagles won't look for a quarterback with more upside than Hurts, like North Dakota State's Trey Lance? Let's keep that in mind.

But for the rest of this article, we're assuming Hurts is now the starter, at least for 2021.

In that scenario, Hurts seems like a low-end QB1 based on his rushing ability and his aDOT. Take a look at his 2020 game log as a starter:

He ran the ball a lot, which helped compensate for the fact that he never completed more than 56.67 percent of his passes in any game he played. Hurts was eventually benched against Washington -- something that caused a LOT of contention and might have been more about tanking than about Hurts -- after he completed just 7 of his 20 pass attempts for 72 yards and a pick, but not before he scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Now, Hurts isn't Taysom Hill, in that I at least have hope that Hurts can become a good-enough NFL passer to allow him to stick in the league. But he's also not going to become a Lamar Jackson-level thrower, if we want to compare him to another quarterback whose game is predicated on his rushing ability.

Still, despite accuracy issues, Hurts had a pair of 300-yard games for the Eagles, though he threw two picks in one of those. He can make plays down the field -- his 9.5 intended air yards per play ranked second in the league last year, behind just Joe Flacco (lol what). But his completion percentage above expectation was fifth-worst, behind Dwayne Haskins, Carson Wentz (hmmmmmm), Drew Lock, and Jimmy Garoppolo. None of those guys are getting talked about as high-end NFL passers.

Those accuracy issues make it hard to trust any Eagles receivers. Even in his 338-yard, three-touchdown game, 15 of his targets went to tight ends, and then he spread the ball out a lot between other guys. Alshon Jeffery's 63 yards were best by a wide receiver, while Jalen Reagor's five receptions topped the position group.

Reagor in particular is the most interesting guy for me. Drafted in the first round, Philly will likely ask him to be Hurts' No. 1 option, but in the four games that Hurts started, Reagor didn't reach 50 yards a single time.

Now, it's hard to have a complete read on the situation until we know what's up at tight end. Will the Eagles move on from Zach Ertz? If so, will they try to bring in another tight end and continue relying on multiple tight end sets? That scenario seems like it might be a way of making things easier on Hurts by giving him more blocking and larger targets, and it would hurt the wide receiver position.

But also, who even are the receivers in Philly beyond Reagor? Greg Ward Jr. and Jalen Hurts showed some good rapport -- is Ward part of the team's future?

So far, I think we're left with more questions than answers in Philly. The one answer I think we do have: if Hurts starts, I'm ranking him as a QB1.



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