Mid-Season Evaluation of Carson Wentz, Part I

Note: This is a two-part evaluation of Carson Wentz. You can read part two here

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

When Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins for a pair of draft picks on April 4, 2010, it marked the beginning of a six year odyssey for the Eagles to find his replacement. There were moments of hope — Michael Vick in 2010, Nick Foles in the second half of 2013 — but the majority of the last six years has involved watching false prophets fail to rise to the occasion: from Vick, to Foles, to Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, to name a few. Watching each season with the Eagles shorthanded at the most important position in all of sports was like reading a book for a second time and hoping for a different ending. The inconsistent play at quarterback brought an inevitable sense of doom that hung over the team’s fate like an anvil.

For once, salvation seems like a realistic possibility, and it comes at the hands of a 6’5, 235 lb. rookie quarterback from Bismarck, North Dakota. It is somewhat fitting that the Eagles effectuated the trade with the Cleveland Browns to acquire that draft picks used to select Wentz on April 21, 2016, just days from the six year anniversary of trading McNabb. Wentz’s sensational start to the season provided a level of excitement this city has not experienced since McNabb’s second year in the league: a mix of reveling in the moment with dreams of unlimited possibilities in the future; 10-years of continued success, multiple Pro Bowls,  and perhaps, a parade down Broad Street.

Of course, that early season success was unsustainable, especially given the weapons at Wentz’s disposal. He was bound to regress, and regress he did. Just compare his performance through the first four games to his performance in the last five games to see the difference:

Games

Record

Y/G

Cmp%

TD%

INT%

Y/A

Rate

1-4

3-1

251.75

67.79

5.2%

.07%

7.5

104.07

5-9

2-3

222.80

61.69

1.1%

2.2%

6.38

74.54

But all hope is not lost. Wentz has not suddenly forgotten how to play football. Nor is he headed down the same path as RGIII, whose career represents the modern reincarnation of a Greek tragedy.

Instead, the numbers and tape suggests that, while Wentz undoubtedly has areas of his game in which he can and must improve, he has a chance to be a franchise caliber quarterback.

By The Numbers

I compiled the season averages for every quarterback drafted in the first two rounds since 2009 that started at least 10 games in their rookie year, and threw in Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott for good measure. While there is a difference in the amount of games played by each quarterback, these numbers still provide a good baseline by which we can judge Wentz’s performance to date.

QB

Yards

CMP%

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

Y/A

Rate

Carson Wentz

235.7

65.0

.9

2.9

.5

1.6

6.8

87.6

Jameis Winston

252.62

58.3

1.375

4.1

.9375

2.8

7.6

84.2

Marcus Mariota

234.83

62.2

1.583

5.1

.83

2.7

7.6

91.5

Blake Bortles

207.7

58.9

.785

2.3

1.214

3.6

6.1

69.5

Teddy Bridgewater

224.5

64.4

1.076

3.5

.92

3.0

7.3

85.2

EJ Manuel

197.2

58.8

1.1

3.6

.9

2.9

6.4

77.7

Andrew Luck

273.4

54.1

1.43

3.7

1.125

2.9

7.0

76.5

Robert Griffin III

213.3

65.6

1.33

5.1

.33

1.3

8.1

102.4

Ryan Tannehill

205.9

58.3

.75

2.5

.81

2.7

6.8

76.1

Russell Wilson

194.9

64.1

1.625

6.6

.625

2.5

7.9

100.0

Cam Newton

253.2

60.0

1.31

4.1

1.06

3.3

7.8

84.5

Blaine Gabbert

147.6

50.8

.8

2.9

.73

2.7

5.4

65.4

Christian Ponder

168.5

54.3

1.18

4.5

1.18

4.5

6.4

70.1

Sam Bradford

219.5

60.0

1.125

3.1

.93

2.5

6.0

76.5

Matthew Stafford

226.7

53.3

1.3

3.4

1.53

5.3

6.0

61.0

Mark Sanchez

162.9

53.8

.8

3.3

1.3

5.5

6.7

63.0

Matt Ryan

215.0

61.1

1.0

3.7

.68

2.5

7.9

87.7

Joe Flacco

185.7

60.0

.875

3.3

.75

2.8

6.9

80.3

Dak Prescott

252.2

66.5

1.5

4.8

.25

.8

8.1

104.2

You can look at these numbers in a variety of ways. I decided to break them down with charts comparing (1) Wentz’s production to the average of every quarterback listed above; (2) Wentz’s production to the average of every quarterback drafted in the top 5; (3) where Wentz ranks compared to the other 18 quarterbacks in each respective category; (4) how Wentz compares to known busts; and (5) how Wentz compares to the five quarterbacks that have gone onto have the best careers of the group.

Wentz v. Average of All 19 QBs

Name

Y/G

Cmp%

TD%

INT%

Y/A

Rate

QB Avg

213.09

59.13

4.05

3.01

7.0

80.87

Wentz

235.7

65.0

2.9

1.6

6.8

87.6

Wentz v. Average of QBs Drafted with Top 5 Pick

Name

Y/G

Cmp%

TD%

INT%

Y/A

Rate

Top 5 QBs

225.91

58.73

3.79

3.24

7.08

79.68

Wentz

235.7

65.0

2.9

1.6

6.8

87.6

Wentz’s Rank in Each Category (of 19 total QBs)

Name

Y/G

Cmp%

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

Y/A

Rate

Wentz

5th

3rd

8th

13th

3rd

3rd

10th

5th

Wentz v. Average of Busts: Sanchez, Ponder, Manuel and Gabbert

Name

Y/G

Cmp%

TD%

INT%

Y/A

Rate

Busts

169.05

54.42

3.57

3.9

6.22

69.05

Wentz

235.7

65.0

2.9

1.6

6.8

87.6

Wentz v. Average of 5 Best QBs: Newton, Wilson, Luck, Mariota, and Ryan

Name

Y/G

Cmp%

TD%

INT%

Y/A

Rate

Top 5

234.26

60.3

4.64

2.78

7.64

88.04

Wentz

235.7

65.0

2.9

1.6

6.8

87.6

No matter which chart you look at, the same general conclusions emerge: Wentz is playing at a high level for a rookie quarterback, recent regression be damned. That is especially true when it comes to completing passes and protecting the football.

The two areas of below average production — Y/A and TD% — deserve a dose of perspective.  As I wrote about two weeks ago, Wentz’s low Y/A can partially be explained by Pederson calling a fairly conservative gameplan. He is content on attacking defenses with the short passing game and relying on his defense to keep the game close, and has limited the opportunities that Wentz has to attack defenses downfield. The low TD% is the result of a number of factors: the Eagles receivers have dropped several easy touchdowns, the Eagles tend to rely on the run once inside the red-zone, and Wentz has left some plays on the field (as we will see in a moment). In other words, there is no reason to expect that Wentz cannot improve in these areas as he continues to grow as a player.

Here are 5 other observations from these numbers:

  • Wentz ranks in the top 3 (of 19 quarterbacks — or top 15%) in 3 out of 8 of those statistical categories (Cmp%, INT, and INT%), the top 5 (approximately top 25%) in 5 out of the 8 categories (the aforementioned 3 categories plus yards per game and QB rate), and the top 50th percentile in every category except two: Y/A and TD%. That’s high marks considering the quarterbacks on this list.
  • The “five best” group was picked based on personal preference, but I don’t think the end result would change too much if you tinkered with that list. Regardless, Wentz is right on par with the production we saw from Newton, Wilson, Mariota, Luck and Ryan during their rookie seasons.
  • While it is too early to crown Wentz as a franchise quarterback, it might not be too early to breath a sight of relief that Wentz is not a bust. Look at the chart comparing Wentz’s production to the “busts” then consider this article written by Bill Barnwell on Wentz and Prescott. Barnwell used data to attempt to answer how soon we can know whether a young quarterback is destined for stardom. While you usually need to wait two years for the best to separate from the pack, you don’t have to wait long for the worst quarterbacks to stick out like a sore thumb: “The lesson to take away from all of this, as best I can tell from history, is that the excitement around Prescott and Wentz is justified, in part because they’ve managed to avoid failing immediately. The washout rate for players who struggle at the very beginning of their professional careers, even first-round picks, is higher than I expected. Whether by a lack of opportunity or an inability to adapt, cases like that of Brees (who struggled early then rebounded to become a Pro Bowler) are few and far between.”
  • Anyone else notice how the quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 have worse averages than the group as a whole?
  • Part of that is because Dak Prescott is playing at a historic rate. It’s fair to question how much Prescott benefits from the talent around him (especially his offensive line). And it’s fair to wonder what would happen if we had Wentz and Prescott switch teams. But we cannot completely write off Prescott’s production, either. He is playing extremely well and the Cowboys look like they found their quarterback of the future.

Again: it’s early. We are only at the halfway point of Wentz’s first season. As Barnwell suggested, we likely need 2-3 seasons before drawing definitive conclusions. But from an historical perspective, the early returns are promising.

 

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2 thoughts on “Mid-Season Evaluation of Carson Wentz, Part I

  1. Pingback: Mid-Season Evaluation of Carson Wentz, Part II | Eagles Rewind

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