In the interest of looking ahead, we previously forecasted where the Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick owed to the Philadelphia Eagles might end up in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis Colts since they sent the Eagles a potential first-round pick in the Carson Wentz trade.
As a reminder, that pick is currently set to be a second-round selection unless one of the two elevation conditions are met:
1) Carson Wentz plays 75% of the Colts’ snaps
2) Carson Wentz plays 70% of the Colts’ snaps AND the Colts make the playoffs
These conditions create an unusual rooting scenario for the Eagles. Normally, it’s fairly straightforward to root against a team whose pick you own. For example, the Eagles would love to see the Dolphins go 0-17 to get the No. 1 overall pick. That’s probably not going to happen, of course, but one can hope.
With the Colts’ pick, however, the conditions allow Indy to protect themselves if Wentz and the team around him really struggle in 2021. They’re incentivized to bench him at a certain point. It’s not necessarily likely that that outcome will be reached but the possibility exists.
Thus, in order to maximize pick positioning, the Eagles won’t want to see Wentz totally fall on his face this year. They’ll instead hope for a scenario where he’s playing well enough not to be replaced but not well enough to where the Colts are in a position to make a deep postseason run. The most realistic ideal outcome is probably a pick in the teens.
But just how realistic is such a favorable outcome for the Eagles? Let’s examine.
EARLY 2021 POINT SPREADS
The Colts are favored in 12 of their 17 games. Only seven teams are favored in more.
Week 1 - Seahawks at Colts (-3)
Week 2 - Rams at Colts (-1.5)
Week 3 - Colts (-1) at Titans
Week 4 - Colts (-1.5) at Dolphins
Week 5 - Colts at Ravens (-4)
Week 6 - Texans at Colts (-11.5)
Week 7 - Colts at 49ers (-4.5)
Week 8 - Titans at Colts (-3.5)
Week 9 - Jets at Colts (-8.5)
Week 10 - Jaguars at Colts (-7.5)
Week 11 - Colts at Bills (-6)
Week 12 - Buccaneers (PICK) at Colts
Week 13 - Colts (-7) at Texans
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - Patriots at Colts (-5.5)
Week 16 - Colts at Cardinals (-1)
Week 17 - Raiders at Colts (-6)
Week 18 - Colts (-3) at Jaguars
Going through a quick win-loss prediction, I see the Colts finishing around 9-8 or 10-7.
This projection assumes Wentz rebounds to the form we saw earlier in 2019, which might not be safe to make. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from him after such a historical regression in 2020. Maybe he’ll bounce back in a big way after being reunited with Frank Reich and having more support around him than he had in Philly.
Based on everything I’ve heard about him, though, I have my doubts such a resurgence is coming. As written at the time of the trade:
Wentz has multiple fatal flaws that should be very concerning moving forward. He hasn’t been able to fix fumbling issues (59 in 69 games!) that date back to him entering the NFL. He’s just not very good at throwing the football exactly where it needs to be, as evidenced by his poor finishes in accuracy metrics. His leadership ability has been called into question more than once.
But just don’t take my word for it. Look at this recent admission from a Colts writer over at Stampede Blue:
Wentz has been in the league for 5 years and in only one of those seasons (limited to 13 games) did he have better efficiency than Philip Rivers did last year. If I were a betting man, I would wager Wentz fails to eclipse Rivers efficiency in 2021 and as such, I think the offense takes a step back. Hopefully, I am wrong, but I can almost guarantee that IF the 2021 Colts offense matches or exceeds their 2020 scoring, it will be because Wentz improves his efficiency to be a top 10 QB, NOT because he was just “OK”.
The Colts seemingly have enough going for them to prevent them from bottoming out even if Wentz looks lackluster. We’d all agree that Reich is a good head coach. Indy’s defense finished seventh in DVOA last year. The division is likely a two-team race with the Jags and Texans not expected to contend for the AFC South title.
Still, I think the 2021 Colts season is more likely to be slightly above average than it is anything great. Assuming Wentz stays healthy, I see the Eagles getting Indy’s pick somewhere between pick No. 18 and No. 24. What say you?