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Carson Wentz could have a bright fantasy future

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect (or two) who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.

For much of the draft season, the debate raged on as to whether Jared Goff or Carson Wentz would be the first quarterback selected, and how far the other would fall. Now that the Rams have moved up to the No. 1 pick in a trade with the Titans, and the Eagles have claimed the No. 2 pick from the Browns, it appears these two are set to go 1-2 at the 2016 NFL Draft, marking the second consecutive year with quarterbacks going in the first two picks. However, Wentz makes the story more interesting, as his alma mater North Dakota State hails from the FCS, not FBS, and he'll become the highest non-FBS quarterback drafted (Steve McNair went at No. 3 from Alcorn State) if he does indeed get chosen by the Rams or Eagles. So what is it that makes this small school wonder such a hot name in the draft community, and should fantasy owners be paying attention? Let's find out.

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Wentz's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths


     » Adept at working from shotgun or under center; has strong play-action game
     » Strong arm; Confident he can beat corners on out routes and back shoulder throws
     » Accurate passer, with a slight dip while on the move
     » Solid ability as a runner

When it comes to quarterbacks, few are able to break the mold from a size standpoint like Russell Wilson, which is one reason why teams are enamored with Wentz. He stands 6-foot-5 and his 237 pounds fill out a strong, athletic frame. With Wentz's big frame comes a big arm, too, and he showed loads of confidence on difficult throws outside the hash marks, consistently beating cornerbacks on NFL-caiber throws. This also speaks to Wentz's accuracy, as when he has time he can rifle passes to his wideouts or drop them in the bucket.

While he hails from a small school, Wentz is certainly able to operate a big-time offense. North Dakota State used a pro-style system that had Wentz working both out of the shotgun and under center, which should help his transition to the NFL level. Case in point, Wentz is already skilled at using the play-action fake and showed good awareness both on selling the fake, and hitting his target deep. The former Bison's tape also shows some ability to go through progressions, and hold safeties at bay with his eyes. This is an area in which he'll still need to improve in the pros, but the groundwork seems to be there on some plays.

One more note from a fantasy aspect is that Wentz is a solid runner for his size. He showed some wheels on tape and scored 12 rushing touchdowns from 2014-2015. His future team likely won't want him running as often, but he could find his way into the end zone a few times each season as a pro.

Weaknesses


     » Has some lazy, almost air-mailed throws into tight spots
     » Will need to adjust to faster playing speed in the NFL
     » Could stand to improve his anticipation to throw receivers open

While Wentz has a rifle of an arm, there were times where he would seem to almost lazily toss the ball into tight quarters (usually over the middle or up the seam in games I watched). This is something he'll need to correct, as NFL linebackers and defensive backs will be all too ready to intercept passes like that. Speaking of NFL players, Wentz will definitely need to adjust to the increased play speed of NFL players after spending four years against FCS competition. While his confidence in his arm on boundary throws is a great trait, he will need to adjust that once he's throwing against top-level athletes and All Pro cornerbacks who are much faster on the field and mentally than what he's used to facing. Lastly, Wentz needs to improve his anticipation on throwing receivers open. There weren't enough times where he was able to read the coverage and put the ball into space for his receiver. Too often in the games I watched he was waiting for his receiver to get open downfield before letting the ball fly, or taking the checkdown. That's fine in the FCS, but against an NFL defense Wentz will need to take this next step and be able ot pick up big chunks of yardage through the air to be successful for his team and in fantasy.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits 

     » Los Angeles Rams
     » Philadelphia Eagles
     » Dallas Cowboys

Wentz could step in and play from Day 1 for a truly QB-needy team like the Browns or the Rams, but he would be better served with a bit of time to grow at the NFL level. That's why I also like the fit for teams like Dallas and Philadelphia, who already have an established starter (Tony Romo) or serviceable bridge (Sam Bradford) to give Wentz even a few games to get acclimated to professional ball.

Early fantasy draft projection

Many more astute evaluators than me believe Wentz has the highest ceiling of this quarterback class, and if your dynasty team is in need of a signal-caller for the future, Wentz could be your guy. Take him in the later rounds of the rookie draft and let him sit on your bench and (hopefully) develop. As for redraft leagues, Wentz doesn't seem destined to land on teams loaded with offensive talent or on a team where he'll start right away, so his season-long upside will be limited aside from the occasional matchup-based streaming spot start. Quarterback rules the land in the NFL though, so hopefully Wentz can come in and help keep fantasy teams afloat for years to come.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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