Fantasy Football: Carson Wentz Is Set to Bounce Back in 2019
They are all in on Wentz, despite a difficult 2018 campaign that ultimately saw him walking the sidelines as the team went to the playoffs with Nick Foles once again at quarterback.
Wentz looks to be in a great spot to reward the faith the team has shown in him, and fantasy owners getting him with his average draft position (ADP) in the 10th round, per Fanball, are getting a bargain.
It can be easy to forget just how good Wentz was for the Eagles in 2017.
He was number two among all quarterbacks with a franchise record 33 touchdown passes, and also second among all quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points per game with 21.8. Sadly, he didn't play the whole season, suffering a serious knee injury in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams. But he was up there with eventual MVP Tom Brady in terms of how good a season he had before his injury.
As well as being productive, Wentz was also ridiculously efficient on a per-play basis. He improved dramatically after his rookie season.
According to numberFire metrics, as a rookie Wentz was 22nd out of 30 quarterbacks (minimum 300 drop backs) in terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back in 2016, averaging 0.06. His Success Rate, the percentage of drop backs that generated positive NEP, was 44.15%. This was good for only 24th out of 30.
Let's see his first and second year numbers side to side, shall we?
|Year||Passing NEP per Play||Rank||Success Rate||Rank|
Quite the improvement.
The Tough Road Back
Wentz recovered sufficiently quickly from his injury to return to the Eagles starting lineup for their Week 3 match against the Indianapolis Colts last season.
He played 11 games before he was shut down with a back injury. In his 11 games, he had some moments that had fans and fantasy owners believing that the old Wentz had returned. But his counting stats were somewhat lackluster. He finished 16th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game, with 17.3. In his last four games, he never scored more than 18.8 fantasy points.
As you would expect, his per play efficiency also took a dip. His Passing NEP per drop back dropped to 0.16, although his Success Rate went to up to 50.80%. It should be noted that both of these figures were good for spots inside the top ten at the position. As bad a season as it appeared to be, it could have been a lot worse.
Warren Sharp, after the Wentz contract announcement, was quick to praise Wentz for his work in 2018. Sharp stated that Wentz had the highest quarterback rating (102.2) and highest completion percentage (69.6%) of any third-year quarterback in NFL history.
What Went Wrong?
There are a whole host of reasons as to why Wentz, and the Eagles offense as a whole, took a backwards step in 2018. Wentz was, of course, recovering from an ACL injury and nursing a severe back injury. Trusted offensive assistants Frank Reich and John Defilippo were no longer around, having left for new jobs with the Colts and Minnesota Vikings. But there were also elements of the Eagles offense that held Wentz back.
For one, the team was far more pass-happy in 2018 than 2017. This volume may have negatively impacted Wentz's ability to be as efficient a passer. Last year, the Eagles pass to run ratio was 1.61, the 4th highest in the NFL. A year before, it had been 1.27, the 22nd highest. Now people may point to this and suggest that the Eagles were right to lean on their passing attack, given how poor they were at running the ball. This would seem to be backed up to an extent by our metrics.
The Eagles were 24th in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play last season, compared to their 11th place finish the year before. However, they averaged the exact same NEP per play in each season. 0.01. This would suggest that the Eagles were in no way comfortable enough with their cadre of backs to allow them to shoulder the load on a consistent basis, despite them actually not being terrible when they were given the opportunities.
There was also an absence of field flipping speed on the Eagles offense in 2018. Mike Wallace had been brought in as a free agent during the offseason to act as a deep threat, but injury ruined his season before it ever got started. He played just twice, saw three targets and caught none of them. This meant that the Eagles were lacking someone who would demand that defenses honored the deep ball, the way that they had to in 2017 when Torrey Smith was on the roster. Smith didn't put up huge numbers by any stretch. He had 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. But Wentz's numbers have been markedly different in games with Smith and without.
|Stat||With Smith||Without Smith|
|Passing Yards per game||257.6||251.4|
|Passing Yards per attempt||7.6||6.8|
|Passing TDs per game||2.5||1.35|
|Fantasy Points per game||26.5||19.0|
I'm not saying Smith was the answer, but his speed made a huge impact for the Eagles other pass catchers in 2017, not to mention Wentz himself
So What's Changed?
Wentz is down as the QB13 according to our rankings. So you may be wondering why I'm so enthusiastic about him.
For a kickoff, Wentz is healthy going into training camp for the first time since 2017. So that is something. Also, the Eagles have taken steps this offseason to address the two key areas I made mention of earlier.
Through a trade with the Chicago Bears, the Eagles acquired running back Jordan Howard. Howard has had well documented issues catching passes during his NFL career, but as a runner his production has been impressive. Only Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley have had more rushing attempts than Howard's 778 since the start of the 2016 season. Howard trails just these two players in rushing yards with 3,363, while he has also scored 24 rushing touchdowns, the 5th most among running backs in the last three seasons.
The Eagles also invested a second round draft pick in Miles Sanders. Sanders took over the starting job for Penn State from Saquon Barkley in 2018, and rushed for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns for the Nittany Lions. Both of these backs have shown that they can be trusted to shoulder a heavier workload than the likes of Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement, meaning that the Eagles pass to run ratio should become more balanced. This return to balance should aid Wentz in his efficiency.
But the Eagles biggest splash was arguably their re-signing of DeSean Jackson after five seasons away from the team. Jackson has been the quintessential deep play receiver since entering the NFL, with a staggering 60 plays of 40 yards or more since 2007. No player in NFL history with at least 500 targets has a better yards per reception mark than Jackson's 17.42. Granted, he may not be as fast as he once was, but he still led the NFL with 18.9 yards per grab in 2018. The presence of Jackson opens up all kinds of space for the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert underneath, while giving Wentz a legitimate deep threat that could put six on a scoreboard in a blink of an eye.
Wentz's health, the upgrade to the running backs and the acquisition of Jackson are all reasons to believe that Wentz should outperform his QB13 ranking come the end of the season. The Eagles benefit from not having to play a first place schedule in 2019, after finishing behind the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. As a byproduct of this, they face the 10th easiest schedule in terms of defenses according to Sharp Football.
I wrote back in May that Wentz was a player to keep an eye on with regards his possibly winning the MVP award this season. He should certainly be among the leaders at his spot in terms of fantasy points. For this Eagle, the sky could be the limit.