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How Carson Wentz trade affects Colts fantasy football outlook in 2021

Carson Wentz joins the Indianapolis Colts in an offseason trade. Will he be fantasy viable in 2021.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Carson Wentz era in Philadelphia has ended. The once franchise-saving quarterback ended up regressing in 2020 to a point that he was benched, causing Wentz to demand a trade. His wish came true on Thursday, as the Indianapolis Colts gave the Philadelphia Eagles a third-round pick and a conditional second-rounder for the signal caller.

The Colts were very much in need of a quarterback after Philip Rivers retired after the 2020 season and head coach Frank Reich had a lot of experience coaching Wentz in Philadelphia. Reich was the offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2016 and 2017, Wentz’s rookie and second-year seasons. Reich helped Wentz to a competent rookie campaign and then to a breakout season his sophomore year.

In 2017, Wentz threw for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 13 games. He led the league with a 78.5 QBR, but was injured before the playoffs and had to watch as Nick Foles led his team to a championship.

Wentz couldn’t repeat his 2017 numbers in the following seasons, but he was still able to put up above average numbers — that is until 2020. There isn’t anything you can really say about Wentz’s last season with the Eagles that is positive. But you can truthfully point out that his offensive line was not good. Despite playing in just 12 games, Wentz was sacked an NFL-high 50 times. He often made things worse, as he was a turnover machine and in no way could handle the pressure as he threw 15 interceptions and lost six of ten fumbles. In his 68 games with the Eagles, he had 58 fumbles.

Will Reich turn Wentz back into his 2017 self?

Wentz looked awful last season and it’s hard to imagine him playing well ever again, but he sure landed in the best possible spot. Reich’s offense is based on a beefed up offensive line, short passing and the run game. The animated corpse arm of Philip Rivers’ was able to throw for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, which isn’t great, but was right in the QB2 range for fantasy.

Wentz should be able to improve his efficiency with the short passing game while also cutting way down on interceptions and sacks. That in itself will give him better numbers. Both Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers saw their pressure rate drop and quick pass rate improve in their first season with Reich as their OC, per Next Gen Stats.

Wentz has a better arm than Rivers and is better at evading tacklers, so we could see better overall numbers than Rivers in 2020. But, the Colts offense will continue to slow down the game and run the ball, limiting Wentz’ upside. It would be tough for Wentz to repeat his 2017, but he should be a viable QB2 in the 2021 fantasy season.

Will Wentz help or hurt the fantasy value of the offensive skill positions?

We know that Reich loves his tight ends and that is something that stuck in Philadelphia from his time there. Wentz will have no problem learning the offense and targeting tight ends early and often, as he did with the Eagles. The Colts two best offensive tight ends, Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox are both free agents, but could be re-signed. Whoever ends up leading the way at tight end will have opportunities and Wentz should be able to deliver.

The Colts will likely be looking for some help at tight end and receiver this offseason, as T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal are also free agents. But unlike at tight end, the Colts have some real talent coming up at receiver with Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman. Both have upside, but this offense loves to spread the ball around and will continue to establish the run, likely limiting any one receiver from getting a huge target load.

There shouldn’t be much change for running back Jonathan Taylor, who had a breakout second half of his rookie season in 2020. As long as Wentz can be competent, which I believe he will in this offense, Taylor’s usage and scoring opportunities will remain near the top tier of running backs.

Final thoughts

Wentz has more upside than Rivers did in his final year and could elevate the offense compared to last season. He is a volatile player as we saw on full display in 2020, but Reich should be able to bring him back to the light and baby step him back to competence.

With the Colts playmakers other than Jonathan Taylor still very much in flux, we can’t feel great about targeting any of them in fantasy, but Pittman showed well enough his rookie year that I’d take the risk on him, especially if Hilton ends up moving on in free agency.