Matt Waldman’s RSP Pre-Draft Scouting Report of QB Carson Wentz

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares its pre-draft scouting report of Eagle quarterback Carson Wentz.

System fit is a huge part of projecting a player’s success. Looking back at my scouting report on Carson Wentz, I anticipated that Wentz’s success would hinge on how well he managed change. This may be true, but another truth emerged that was harder to anticipate: The Philadelphia Eagles changed its offense to maximize Wentz’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.

This included more pistol and shotgun throws with modified drop plans to get Wentz into a quick throwing position and deliver targets quickly and in rhythm. This minimized the frequency of wide stances he drops into that leads the ball to sail. Even so, if he dropped quickly with poor spacing, he didn’t adjust.

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Wentz mechanics: not a quick fix

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The Eagles know that Wentz still has work to do as a technician. However, his intelligence, athletic ability, and big-play skill on the move when he can buy time inside and outside the pocket lead to big plays that outlast the defense.

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Where Wentz excels

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As you can see, I’ve interspersed video of Wentz as a pro throughout this introduction and his pre-draft analysis for visual context.

3. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (6-5, 237)

Wentz is arguably atop many teams’ draft boards for quarterbacks, but he’s the headliner of a small second tier of signal callers in the RSP’s rankings—or a deeper third tier of passer. The “third tier” sounds like Wentz is a bad prospect, but this is not the case. In a perfect world, he would earn a full year on the bench with small doses of playing time as a rookie.

Wentz has 1-2 skills that aren’t as refined as prospects like Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota or Cardale Jones. With enough surrounding talent, Wentz could perform adequately as a rookie starter and develop, long-term, into a capable starter that a team can build around. Like Goff and Jones, Wentz has a playmaker’s mentality, overcomes mistakes, and thrives in meaningful moments.

Wentz has the basics to draw upon. His delivery is compact and he throws the ball over his shoulder with good speed. The ball snaps off his hands. The North Dakota State offense gave Wentz experience with a variety of plays run from center and shotgun.

Compared to Cardale Jones and Jared Goff, Wentz has better on play fakes. He’s used to executing on the move on a bootleg play action game from center. Wentz uses either arm well for play fakes. He can jab the ball with intensity towards the runner, extend his free arm and hide the ball, and sell the action with his pads. The overall work with the pads and shoulders can improve with more consistency of effort with the details. Wentz doesn’t have the consistent problem of being a formulaic thrower who releases the ball in rhythm like a kid spouting his multiplication tables. He displays some patience on slants and other short, man-to-man routes to ensure that his receiver will break open. If it means Wentz has to take punishment to ensure he’s throwing to an open man, so be it.

Wentz reads the field and routinely looks to the safety, works to one side of the field, and returns to the opposite side for the primary receiver.

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Good third down read for Wentz

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I also like the pacing and internal clock he displays on red zone plays. He understands that this part of the field requires an accelerated timeline. Where Wentz notably struggles— and it’s a big difference between him and the first two quarterbacks on the list—is his pre-snap reads of coverage.

Wentz often missed obvious one-on-one opportunities for receivers located on the same side of the field as his primary read. Instead of targeting these easy opportunities for chunk plays, he’d continue to target the more difficult routes for lesser gains. There were multiple games where Wentz missed wide open seam routes and tried for curls or outs in tight coverage when the alignment of the defenders should have been enough indication for Wentz to make the adjustment.

This blind spot in Wentz’s diagnostic skills could also be further ingrained by the fact that Wentz has good tightwindow accuracy when he throws in rhythm. His ball placement has touch and/or velocity in the short and intermediate zones of the field. This also true when he rolls right or left on designed plays where he can set his feet. Because he throws so well in rhythm and has demonstrated success in tight windows, he may be less inclined to deviate from the script, but it’s this willingness to veer from the play design at the right time that underscores the differences between Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith.

Wentz doesn’t do this often, but he can throw the ball off-platform with a sidearm delivery or on the move. He much prefers to set his feet and throw. There might be a greater desire for structure in his game than what might be evident on the surface because of his size and ability to run the football.

Wentz can get tentative with his feet, taking an extra step or cutting short his climb or hitch at the wrong moment and the result is an inaccurate throw. If the feet are a reflection of the quarterback’s mind, Wentz isn’t always thinking fluidly or he’s a little resistant to reacting to the stimuli around him.

It’s as if Wentz sees everything occurring around him, but his body refuses to take action that deviates from his initial plan Instead of resetting his feet, he’s turning with his feet planted in the original position to deliver the ball and the accuracy suffers. Another symptom of this behavior occurs with simpler mechanics, such as setting his feet too wide after his initial drop.

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Wentz continued drop -accuracy issues

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He doesn’t make the minor adjustment like Goff does to throw from a stable base. The arm is there to deliver the ball with good placement on tight-window targets, but he has to be more decisive about setting his feet in the right spot or resetting them as things change around him.

Another cause of Wentz’s inaccuracies is when he has to make a notable turn from one receiver to another in a progression and fire the ball in a hurry. Wentz doesn’t get his body in the right position with his turn to make the accurate throw and he delivers from awkward stances or contortions from his body. Some of these are obvious at first glance, but when you follow his motions it’s more apparent.

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Old college issue for Wentz

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When Wentz’s footwork gets sloppy or he’s altering his body without getting his feet under it, his throws wind up a step inaccurate in any variety of directions. On deeper routes, Wentz also has a tendency not to bring his upper body over the top of his base and the ball can sail. His placement on deep routes is one of his greatest opportunities for improvement and if he can refine the skill, it will open his game tremendously.

The one area where Wentz doesn’t display confidence is throwing on the move to open receivers running through tight windows. Give him an open man where an anticipatory throw on the move will complete it and Wentz either hesitates or opts for a different solution. If you’ve never seen Wentz, the arm isn’t the problem. He has the arm to deliver an opposite hash throw without resetting. He throws with velocity on- and off-platform. And he delivers passes with opposite hash accuracy from a set base at distances ranging from 35-44 yards from pitch to catch.

Wentz throws pinpoint passes on designed rolls that cover 20 yards from his pitch point. When he can set his feet and throw on-platform, Wentz has the range to reach a receiver at 50 yards, but his accuracy loses quality and consistency beyond 35 yards. Beyond that range, his receivers have to adjust to the ball and the coverage rather than running under the ball in stride. This is an anticipation and trajectory issue for Wentz. He throws the ball with enough air under it for the receiver to work to the ball, but he’s still learning to strike the correct balance with velocity on deeper throws. This anticipation works well on quick-hitting plays— short, intermediate, or deep. On these plays, Wentz hits the seam routes with touch to loft over the defender even when pressure is in his face.

Wentz displays comfort in the pocket with space closing around him, but that issue with his feet remaining glued to the floor haunts him in the accuracy department. It’s like he thinks he’s the captain who has to go down with the ship. The positives of this intractability is that Wentz will throw the ball into the face of pressure. When the pocket is open enough for Wentz not to feel nailed to the ground, he will climb and/or flush from pressure. Because of his size, he’s confident about working through contact in the pocket. That confidence can cross the line into recklessness with ball security because he doesn’t tuck the ball close enough when he’s eluding opponents in these tight confines.

One of the assets of his game that will make the average fan or commentator coo like a football baby how quick and nimble Wentz is for his size. Wentz is one of the best runners at the quarterback position in this class and he might be the most functional, intelligent runner at the position in several classes. Wentz runs with balance and skill to get the corner, bounces off glancing blows, and even runs through wraps from pursuit. Once in the open field, Wentz practices good ball security and his burst and change of direction are wide receiver-like at 237 pounds.

Wentz has no problem working the middle of the defense on designed runs and has the fluid agility of a former running back capable of setting up a defender and then making a hard cut. While it’s nice that Wentz can run up the middle, make hard cuts, and even hurdle the occasional defender, he’ll need to get better at sliding and diving so he doesn’t take the punishment that costs him weeks from a starting lineup.

Wentz is definitely close to earning an opportunity in an NFL starting lineup—and probably much sooner than an analyst of my ilk would recommend. It’s likely that Wentz will get paired with a rebuilding organization and if the offensive coordinator is not a good match, Wentz could easily have the kind of the first season that Blake Bortles experienced—and a second and a third if the team isn’t as wise as Jacksonville about making the change.

Wentz’s deep game needs work, but it should eventually be a game-changing asset because opposing teams will not take away his short game as easily. Sitting behind Eli Manning in New York’s modified West Coast system would be a good fit. Denver and Gary Kubiak is another ideal situation. Philadelphia has younger receivers that can work a precision game and expand to a more consistent deep game over the course of Wentz’s development.

If Wentz succeeds as an NFL starter it will ultimately come down to how he manages change: Learning fast from his mistakes; displaying greater flexibility with his
footwork when forced to alter his plan; and going with opportunities that present themselves as better options than the play call.

Carson Wentz highlights

RSP Film Room

Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Wentz might be the first quarterback selected in the NFL Draft. Based solely on my depth of talent rankings, Wentz is a late-second or early-third round dynasty choice. But your league isn’t going with the gospel of the RSP and you shouldn’t expect that ever to happen.

If you want Wentz, you’ll likely have to take the plunge around the same point as Goff. If your league is a little more reasonable, you might get him in the early second round. I think Wentz can develop into a franchise starter with a good people around him. In fantasy terms, it means his production will be no worse than 12th -15th as a starter from year to year. I like to deal in worst-case scenarios with quarterbacks, making Wentz draftable, but likely
overvalued as a top 20-25 pick in your league.


Categories: 2016 NFL Draft, Matt Waldman, Players, Quarterback, RSP PublicationTags: , , ,

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