Over the weekend, news broke out of Indianapolis that Colts quarterback, Carson Wentz, had injured his foot at practice. He will undergo surgery to remove a bone fragment that is likely to sideline him for at least the start of the 2021 season. This is not only troubling news for the Colts, but also the Philadelphia Eagles whose maximum value from trading Wentz this offseason was dependent on his health in Indy for the 2021 season.
Carson Wentz has now torn his ACL in 2017, suffered a broken back in 2018, and exited his first career playoff game with a concussion in 2019. Because of this history, the Colts agreed to send their 2022 first-round pick to the Eagles if Wentz played 75% of the team’s snaps or 70% of the snaps in addition to the Colts making the playoffs.
While that may affect both teams in the 2022 NFL draft, Carson Wentz’s recovery timeline has significant fantasy football implications for the 2021 season that fantasy managers should consider as a result of his latest injury.
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Fantasy Impact of Carson Wentz Injury
The top player on the Colts in fantasy football this season is Jonathan Taylor. The second-year running back is a projected first-round pick for many managers in 2021. From Weeks 11-17 in his rookie campaign, Taylor was the RB3 in fantasy football and finished as RB6 overall. Most notably, he caught everybody’s attention with an insane 253 rushing yards on 30 carries in Week 17, adding two scores on the ground, as well.
Without Carson Wentz, there have been a lot of questions regarding Taylors ability to maintain that success. I say yes, while being cautiously optimistic.
Taylor was able to carve out success late in 2020 with 38-year-old Philip Rivers, and his aging arm, at quarterback. In seven games where Taylor carried the ball 16 or more times in 2020, Rivers noticeably threw the ball less than his season average in six of those contests. Furthermore, during Taylor’s final six regular-season games, he averaged at least 5.2 yards per carry four times. When the team could not, or did not have to, lean on Rivers, Taylor confidently took over.
Carson Wentz is supposed to be an upgrade over Philip Rivers. While we wait for him to take the field, the Colts will likely rely on Taylor to step up again while Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger, or a quarterback not yet on the roster, fills in for Wentz. Running behind arguably the best offensive line in football, Taylor should remain the most reliable and valuable piece of this offense.
The only real credible threat to Taylor’s touches in the backfield is pass-catching option, Nyheim Hines. His role shouldn’t be any different than last year’s. I’m still treating Taylor as a low-end, top-10 running back with a higher ceiling if Carson Wentz returns sooner than later.
Michael Pittman Jr. carries an ADP of WR44 in PPR formats. That’s typically a ninth- or 10th-round draft pick, depending on your league size. Unfortunately for Pittman, he is the biggest loser from the Carson Wentz injury fallout. If his ADP remains the same in the next few weeks of fantasy football drafting, it would be hard to select him over other receivers on the board in those rounds such as Jarvis Landry, Laviska Shenault, and Darnell Mooney.
Many believe Pittman could be headed for a second-year breakout as the Colts’ top receiver. He saw six or more targets in five of his 13 regular-season games in 2020 and 10 in the Colts’ lone playoff game. Without Wentz, however, it’s going to be hard to trust Eason or Ehlinger to consistently get the ball to the 6’4″ 245 lb pass catcher.
The same goes for third-year receiver, Parris Campbell, who never made it past Week 1 last season after hauling in six catches for 71 yards. He suffered a multi-ligament knee injury that ended his season in Week 2. Campbell is likely going undrafted, until further notice, but especially with question marks at the Colts’ quarterback position.
Veteran, T.Y. Hilton, may benefit the most amongst the wide receiver group as the team waits for Carson Wentz to return. At his WR52 ADP, which is likely to drop even further, he may provide the best return on investment, if you were going to spend a draft pick on an Indy pass catcher. While his 2020 stat line is nothing to celebrate, he still saw 93 targets in this offense last season. His speed, plus the need to move the ball by whoever is at quarterback, could warrant weekly, boom-or-bust flex consideration at a 13th-or-later round price tag.
Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox are not serious considerations for the 2021 fantasy football season. That statement holds true even before the Carson Wentz injury news. At a position that fantasy football managers can usually only start one player at a time anyway, most would rather take a flier on a younger, potential breakout rather than these two. It’s just too hard to predict when they’re going to put up numbers worth having in your starting lineup, if at all.
Rookie fourth-round pick, Kylen Granson, is starting to gather attention early on in training camp. His collegiate stats at Southern Methodist University jump off the page and he could be a future pass-catching option in this offense. Depending on the size of your bench in a dynasty format, he may be worth the stash. If Carson Wentz is the future at quarterback for this team, he has proven success utilizing that type of player in Zach Ertz, although Granson is more physically comparable to Trey Burton.
The Big Takeaways
Jonathan Taylor is still a top target at the running back position for the 2021 fantasy football season. While he was coming off the board in the 1st round of early drafts, he may now slip into the 2nd. It’s understandable to reconsider those around him with the lack of clarity at who is leading the Colts offense. Taylor’s volume is still enough to justify using one of your first two picks on him if you can.
It is probably best to try and avoid all of the Colts pass catching options at the moment. If I had to pick one right now, at his current ADP, it would be T.Y. Hilton. That’s not saying much since it would likely be my last draft pick before selecting a kicker and a defense. If Pittman doesn’t slip later into the draft, I will likely fade him if Wentz’s recovery looks to be closer to 12 weeks.
It should go without saying that no quarterback on the Indianapolis Colts is worth drafting right now in fantasy football. There is always the chance the team makes a trade for a veteran to try and lead this team back to the playoffs.
If that happens, it would likely be sooner than later to familiarize that player with Indy’s 2021 plans. If that were to happen, Taylor’s value will likely get a slight boost and a whole new consideration would be given to the Indy pass catchers.
For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
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