Carson Wentz Doesn't Have a Very Promising Outlook
We know what it took to get here. There’s no use harping on that now.
What matters for the Philadelphia Eagles is what Carson Wentz, their new franchise quarterback that was just selected second overall, currently is as a passer and what he could become. That, too, is up for debate.
Those high on Wentz -- which includes the Eagles’ staff -- will point to his frame, one of a prototypical NFL quarterback -- he’s listed at 6’6” and 235 pounds. For reference, Cam Newton is 6’5” and 260 pounds, and Ben Roethlisberger is 6’5” and 240 pounds.
Wentz also has the arm strength many covet at the professional level, as well as the ability to tuck the ball and run.
He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s athletic.
It’s a talent evaluator’s dream.
There are throws Wentz makes that justify why those high on the quarterback feel the way they do. Those are the throws that have been and will be in all the highlight reels of Wentz’s strengths.
There’s this play against South Dakota State:
And here’s one to the other side against Jacksonville State in the 2015 FCS Championship Game:
Though he only ran a 4.77 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, he has the ability to be a run threat with the ball in his hands. It’s easy to envision Wentz as a Newton-like runner on zone-reads and quarterback keepers.
Wentz has the tools, but the talent and production don’t always mesh. Earlier in the offseason, Jim Sannes took a look at the college production of a few top draft eligible quarterbacks. Wentz was third among the five quarterbacks studied in efficiency stats such as the Passing Efficiency Rating (PER) and Adjusted Yards Per Attempt. The numbers from the article are presented below in table form:
In the study, Wentz’s statistical comp was Brandon Weeden, another raw, strong-armed quarterback prospect. One of the knocks on Weeden was his age, as he was 28 years old when he was drafted. Wentz has the opposite knock, which is inexperience. Of those five quarterbacks, Wentz was the only one to not reach at least 30 games played, and that says nothing of the competition Wentz faced in those games at the FCS level.
Where some of that inexperience shows is under pressure. Wentz isn’t always one to get through his progressions in the pocket when a pass rush is coming, and it can lead to rushed throws. When he’s flushed out of the pocket by the rush, Wentz will run to run, not run to throw -- an adjustment great mobile quarterbacks like Newton and Russell Wilson have made to improve production.
Wentz oftentimes saw great protection behind his offensive line at North Dakota State, but when he wasn’t, mistakes happened.
There were times when Wentz tries to get rid of the ball quickly without stepping into his throw, leading to passes with too much touch:
Or he’ll force a ball into his predetermined read:
One place where Wentz does succeed at a high rate is in the short and intermediate throws. Of the five quarterbacks in the earlier study, Wentz was the leader in career completion percentage.
Wentz, though drafted highly, is considered a developmental project, and the current plan is to sit him for at least a year before he sets foot on the field. Sam Bradford is under contract with the Eagles for another two years, though Bradford is unhappy about that, plus the Eagles would save $17 million on the cap by letting him go after the 2016 season should he stay in Philadelphia as the starter this season. Bradford was 25th among 46 with at least 100 drop backs in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back last season, which doesn't leave the Eagles with an immediate need at the position, though it leaves plenty of room for an upgrade.
The Eagles believe sitting Wentz will allow him to learn and develop the skills needed to be a successful passer at the NFL level. That can be great in theory, and the success stories of Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers will be thrown around, but the "sitting a rookie" thing either rarely works, or rarely sees fruition.
There's only been two quarterbacks in the past 10 years drafted in the first round who didn't start in his rookie season: Brady Quinn and Jake Locker. When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Blake Bortles third overall in 2014, the plan was to sit him for a year behind Chad Henne. Bortles made his first appearance in Week 3 and made his first start in Week 4 of his rookie year. Bortles was bad in his rookie season -- he ranked 42nd out of 43 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs in Passing NEP per drop back -- but with some playing time under his belt, he took a step forward in 2015 and last year ranked 27th within the metric. He didn't suddenly become a top-10 quarterback, but his time on the field helped.
Wentz can sit all the Eagles want, but the flaws stopping him from becoming a passable starter in the NFL are things he'll only improve upon on the field. Heightened awareness under pressure probably isn't going to be fixed with a clipboard on the bench.
The Eagles will hope Wentz can develop into a player worthy of the second-overall selection, but they're not going to know until he gets on the field.