Carson Wentz and Andy Dalton are two quarterbacks in largely similar situations. When Dalton was drafted by the Bengals in 2011, he was meant to be the successor to Carson Palmer, Cincinnati’s previous franchise quarterback of eight years. Quoted as saying, “I don’t have to play football for money,” Palmer was clearly agitated by both the team’s lack of success and the threat to his position, and eventually forced a trade to the Oakland Raiders. In Wentz’s case, he was drafted after incumbent starting quarterback Sam Bradford had already signed a contract extension. Rightfully so, like Palmer, Bradford also became disgruntled, and eventually got his wish of a trade when he was flipped to the Minnesota Vikings for draft picks.
In addition to this, Wentz’s supporting cast is closely reminiscent of Dalton early in his career. Last season, Wentz’s surrounding talent featured a striking juxtaposition between a daunting offensive line and a flimsy receiving corps. Even with Lane Johnson’s suspension, a big-time step up by guards Allen Barbre and Brandon Brooks kept Wentz clean–he was only sacked 33 times all season. However, the receivers were a mess; though Jordan Matthews was solid out of the slot, youngsters Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham were major letdowns. When Dalton entered, his supporting cast was also fairly mediocre. Though pieces like Andrew Whitworth and rookie phenom A.J. Green were there, many future contributors like Kevin Zeitler, Marvin Jones, and Tyler Eifert were not on the team yet, and even Whitworth and Green had yet to enter their prime.
Finally, Wentz and Dalton have very similar skillsets and play styles. Both are generally adequate quarterbacks with one key strength and a few weaknesses that are masked by their supporting casts. Dalton’s major strength is his mental processing, especially pre-snap. This was his major selling point out of college, and has allowed him to make reads quickly, work out of exotic formations (especially in the Hue Jackson Era), and get playmakers the ball. On the flip-side, however, his accuracy is only average, and his arm is weak. Though this rarely evident on the stat sheet, as Dalton has teammates like Green and Eifert to pluck jumpballs out of the air, it leads to him putting the ball in harm’s way more often than he should. Wentz, on the other hand, has excellent arm strength. Even as a rookie, Wentz’s arm strength was clearly evident on intermediate throws and allowed him to hit fast-closing windows. On the flip-side, he struggles in terms of mechanics, sensing pressure in the pocket, and throwing with consistent precision. However, the Eagles’ strong offensive line and the addition of Alshon Jeffery as a deep threat should allow Wentz’s strengths to shine through. So, faced with the choice of two similar quarterbacks in similar situations, drafting one or the other for fantasy looks like a toss-up.
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The Case For Dalton
Dalton does not only feature a superior mental process to Wentz, both pre- and post-snap; he also has experience on his side. While Wentz is only going into his second season as the starter, Dalton has been around. With six years experience, Dalton has not only faced the league’s toughest pass rushers, but has also competed in numerous primetime and playoff games. This is not to be understated, especially since one of the causes of Wentz’s inconsistency last year was reading defenses and making sound decisions. Dalton’s offense also features an upgraded group of playmakers. Though Marvin Jones is gone, his successor is first-round rookie John Ross, whose skillset combines blinding 4.22 speed with solid hands and sharp route-running in the vertical stem. With A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard returning from injury, and with the addition of Joe Mixon, a skilled receiver out of the backfield, in the draft, the Bengals’ offense is one to be reckoned with. Though Dalton is not necessarily a prolific deep passer, he has solid touch and knows how to place a deep ball, so Ross, coupled with Bernard and Mixon as checkdown options, should make for an uptick in his production.
The Case For Wentz
Though he did enough for the Eagles to win seven games last year, Wentz was still fairly unimpressive last season, even for a rookie. Under new head coach Doug Pederson, the offense was essentially taken out of Wentz’s hands. In a quick-hitting, short-throwing, checkdown-style scheme that Pederson no doubt adapted from his days coaching in Kansas City, Pederson turned Wentz into his Alex Smith. However, seeing that Wentz’s best traits are arm strength and using said arm strength to force the ball into tight windows downfield, it is safe to say that this style of offense will not last long. With the additions of Alshon Jeffery, Mack Hollins, and Torrey Smith as “home run” threats, Wentz’s supporting cast should afford him more ability to take chances and let loose. Seeing that Wentz’s ball placement and short-range accuracy were still mediocre at best last season, it is safe to say that going vertical can only help him. Wentz also figures to be more of a running threat than Dalton going forward. Though Wentz only had 150 yards on the ground last season, there should be significant growth in that area of production. LeGarrette Blount should open running lanes, and Wentz’s 6’5”/240-pound frame and experience as a designed runner in college offer far more rushing upside than Dalton.
Although it is close, the pick should be Carson Wentz. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the Eagles have a greater sense of direction in how they are building their offense. Wentz has too strong an arm and too many flaws mechanically and accuracy-wise for his skillset to be maximized as a game manager. He has to transition to a vertical style of play, and the kind of offseason that the Eagles have had should help to smooth that transition. Meanwhile, all of the other strengths of the Eagles’ offense have remained in place. The offensive line is intact, and even though some pieces–namely Darren Sproles–have begun to age out, successors are in place with new additions like rookie Donnel Pumphrey. The Bengals, on the other hand, look like they are running on a treadmill. Though they upgraded the receiving corps, the offensive line is in shambles after the group’s two key stars, Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth, left in free agency. So, while Andy Dalton still has A.J. Green, John Ross, and Tyler Eifert to throw to, he will be under more pressure next season than he has ever faced in his career. Furthermore, Dalton was extremely lucky this past season with interceptable throws. Against Washington in particular, Dalton threw as many as five passes that were dropped by defenders. So, his total of eight interceptions was not a sustainable number, and will likely go up. Dalton will also likely lose a share of the production, as having Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill all there to start the season could shift the Bengals’ offense to being more run-centric. Therefore, with all this in mind, Wentz is the better, safer option: he has the superior organization around him, and should play more to his skillset, while Dalton will likely regress statistically. Ultimately, the divide is not enormous, and both are still upper-level QB2 options, but Wentz should be the way to go.
4,000 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions
170 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 5 fumbles lost
Total points: 233 (14.56 points/game)
4,100 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions
220 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns, 6 fumbles lost
Total points: 256 (16 points/game)
1 point for every 25 passing yards and every 10 rushing yards
4 points for passing touchdowns
6 points for rushing touchdowns
-2 points for interceptions and fumbles lost