* As the 2022 NFL season inches closer, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux takes a look at the fantasy football outlook of multiple Washington Commanders players. First up: Carson Wentz.
Will Carson Wentz be worth taking a flyer on in fantasy football in 2022?
Washington's NFL franchise has a new name and a new quarterback. That would be Carson Wentz, who is set to be the first signal-caller in the Commanders era following a March trade with Indianapolis.
Wentz is Washington's latest attempt at finding a long-term answer at the sport's most important position. Now with his third franchise in as many years, Wentz truly needs his tenure in Washington to work out, too, if he hopes to continue being a starting quarterback in the NFL for years to come.
Enough with the real football talk, though. When it comes to fantasy football, Wentz provides a curious case for the 2022 season. No one is expecting the Commanders' new signal-caller to be a viable fantasy starter on a weekly basis -- he's expected to go undrafted in almost every single-QB league. But, could he become one?
Over his first six seasons in the NFL, Wentz has been all over the place when it comes to fantasy value. The 29-year-old has finished as a top 10 QB just twice, highlighted by a QB5 finish in 2017. In three of his other four seasons, Wentz has finished outside of the top 20. Only once has Wentz finished between QB10 and QB20, which was a QB15 finish last season.
In Washington, Wentz has a real opportunity to reshape his fantasy value, though.
For starters, there's a real argument that Washington's skill position players are the most talented of any group he's played with in his career. That's not an exaggeration, either.
In six professional seasons, Wentz has played with just one 1,000-yard wide receiver, which came last season in Michael Pittman. No disrespect to Pittman, but he's not near Terry McLaurin's level. McLaurin, who just signed a three-year, $71 million extension with Washington, has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns while catching passes from a handful of average-at-best QBs. There's no ceiling on what he and Wentz will be able to accomplish together.
McLaurin is far from Washington's only talented wideout, though. While McLaurin missed OTAs and minicamp, rookie Jahan Dotson began to form a promising combination with Wentz. Dotson was clearly Wentz's favorite target throughout the spring, a partnership both hope will translate to many connections on Sundays.
Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown and Cam Sims figure to round out the rest of Washington's receiver room, giving Wentz several targets with different sizes and skill sets. The Commanders' receiver depth is deeper than it's been in years. Wentz should only benefit from such after playing alongside mainly pedestrian receiver rooms throughout his career.
Another theme that's followed Wentz throughout his career has been his frequency to target his tight ends, especially dating back to his Philadelphia days with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The Commanders might not have a tight end on their roster as talented as those two, but Logan Thomas, when healthy, isn't far off. After all, Thomas finished as TE4 in fantasy in 2020. If Thomas can return to his 2020 form coming off this knee injury, Wentz will surely benefit from his presence.
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Last year, Wentz's second-and third-most targeted players were a pair of running backs in Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. The Commanders have two running backs -- Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic -- that can catch the ball effectively, too. In fact, McKissic has the fourth-most receptions by a running back over the past two seasons. Even rookie Brian Robinson Jr. said he feels he can make an impact in the passing game immediately.
Whether it's at wideout, tight end or running back, Wentz has multiple talented players at his disposal in Washington. If Wentz can limit the turnovers the way he did in 2021, he has a real opportunity to be in the mix as a trusted fantasy QB.
There's one area of Wentz's game that does significantly lower his fantasy value, though, and that's in the running game. Wentz has never rushed for 300 yards or more in a season. He only has nine rushing touchdowns in six seasons, too, with five of them coming in 2020 -- the worst year of his professional career.
Rushing stats are crucial when it comes to quarterback fantasy value. Buffalo's Josh Allen has been the top quarterback in fantasy football for the past two seasons. During that span, he's rushed for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Baltimore's Lamar Jackson was fantasy's QB1, largely due to his success as a rusher.
Wentz is by no means a statue in the pocket and has made many plays with his legs throughout his career. Hardly any of those plays were by design, though. No offense Wentz has ever played in has made it a focal point to use his legs and it's unlikely that changes in Washington, either.
So, unless Wentz sets personal highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns, it's unlikely he'll be in the mix as a top 5 quarterback in fantasy again. But, as laid out above, there's a real chance Wentz can be in the conversation of being a top 10 fantasy quarterback, should he be able to put it all together.
Yes, a lot has to happen for Wentz to truly become fantasy relevant. The potential is certainly there, though.