Three weeks into the 2016 NFL season and no rookie has people talking quite like Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. He, the second overall selection, was selected by the Eagles after Philadelphia coughed up the equivalent of both kidneys for his rights.
When it happened, the casual fan population lost their collective minds: “He played at North Dakota State!” The reaction for the draft media community was mixed, as well. Some, like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, loved the move (Mayock made an inflammatory statement before the draft suggesting Wentz might be the best quarterback prospect to come through the draft process since Andrew Luck).
Many others decried the move and decision as a reach; a byproduct of another sub-par quarterback class. Yours truly? My personal evaluation fell somewhere in between.
Wentz has been ready to play much quicker than expected
One of the more common themes behind any and all thought processes of the Wentz case study prior to the draft was he would need time. Many threw out the “speed of the game” as an issue. Sure, Wentz ran a pro-style offense, but he also played at the FCS level. But it’s increasingly apparent thus far into his rookie year that Wentz has some intangibles that those outside of NFL offices couldn’t have foreseen.
Wentz has been credited by rookie head coach Doug Pederson for his football intelligence. It has also been cited that Wentz’ photographic memory has been useful in his ability to handle the playbook. Not too many folks outside of the high up media could have analyzed and spoken knowledgeably about these intangibles.
It’s understandable for those on the outside to be skeptical of Wentz’s legitimacy as a pro quarterback as a result. With some of the misses the NFL has had in early quarterback evaluation, it’s to be expected. But Wentz is looking like a candidate to shrug that trend like it was a potential sack.
My personal evaluation was both right and wrong
Below you’ll find my personal evaluation of Wentz. For those unfamiliar with my process, I try to blend an extensive film study with a number of analytic scores and metrics to construct an all-inclusive approach and factor as many possible variables as possible. Wentz scored well in all of the analytic and metric components: he was an above average athlete with prototypical size, strong production and quality experience as a starting quarterback.
As you can also see, Wentz finished my evals from last year with the 14th highest score. Did I think he was a transcendent prospect? No. First round values are typically indicative of that caliber of prospect, I average 14-16 a year in that respect.
So where was I right thus far? Wentz has shown quality awareness to extend plays. His touchdown to Darren Sproles is an excellent example in that regard. Obviously, he has made strong decisions with the football; he sits at 102 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. He continues to show improved ability using the full field of play in comparison to his Junior season.
Where have I been wrong to this point? His vertical passing is much improved. He’s produced a number of daggers down the field through three weeks. His first career touchdown pass is an example. So was the long touchdown he delivered to wide receiver Nelson Agholor (another NDT Scouting favorite).
And this past week against Pittsburgh he delivered a picture perfect throw to Dorian Green-Beckham. It’s a stunning development for Wentz; adding a new layer to his skill set. And more importantly, I suggested he’d be best suited finding himself on a team that could afford him the chance to sit and develop. Oops! I made mention of the “speed of the game”; as so many others did.
What to watch from here
We need to be honest with our expectations: Wentz is not going to light the world on fire for 16 games. But can he continue to show comfort in the pocket? Can he limit the hits that loom as a threat to keeping him on the field? Can he continue to sustain his success as a vertical passer? If he does, he’s going to keep the field and playbook wide open, helping keep defenses off balance. I would like to afford myself a pat on the back for this one but if anyone speaks with Mike Mayock, ask him how that Wentz tea tastes for me.