Inherent bias is a well-established phenomenon observed in humans. This happens primarily because it takes more effort to process new information and reverse course than it does to simply double down on preconceived notions. Fantasy football players and managers are not immune to inherent bias. In fact, the argument could be made most fantasy managers’ entire rosters are built on the foundation of inherent biases. This bias is exposed in exercises such as this:
Without using Google or any other search engine, which of these QBs is the most durable?
QB1: Foot fracture/clavicle fracture x2/calf strain x2/concussion x3
QB2: concussion/rib fracture/back fracture/ACL/ LCL
Perhaps this is shocking information to non-Packer fans, but QB1 is Aaron Rodgers, and QB2 is none other than Carson James Wentz. When this poll ran in early May, some respondents were (oddly) furious that they had chosen Wentz as the most durable of the two players. They shouldn’t have been.
What I’m Not Saying
In fantasy football, it’s easy to lose sight of the overarching point an analyst is making in an article or discussion. One way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to establish what I’m not saying. So, here is exactly what I’m not saying about Carson Wentz:
1 - He’s been the picture of health since college.
This is obviously not the case as his injuries stem back to his days at North Dakota State.
2 - Injuries haven’t been a concern.
NFL Insider and Eagles fan Adam Caplan has reported that at least part of the reason Philly drafted Jalen Hurts was due to Wentz’ injury history. I view this more so as insurance but we’ll get to that.
Most emphatically, I’m not saying this:
3 - Carson Wentz won’t ever be injured again.
As I’ve stated multiple times in the past, only 2.3% of NFL games are injury-free, so remaining completely healthy in the NFL, whether the public is aware of specific injuries or not, is an anomaly. It would be absurd to suggest any player will complete another 5-10 years of an NFL career without further injuries.
What I want to convey is that it seems Wentz has fallen into the rare category of being an injured quarterback several times over. He’s run into some brutal luck since entering the league.
Typically I’ll discuss injury histories separately from the narrative or takeaway. However, in Wentz’s case, it’s easier to state each injury followed by a synopsis of the medical literature and clinical observation.
In 2015 Wentz fractured his wrist while still playing at NDSU.
Medical Summary: Long term outcome measures for NFL prospects who had a history of a wrist fracture found 72% had normal range of motion of the wrist, 93% reported no pain, and 83% reported no stiffness. Players’ grip strength and pinch strength were 91% and 96% compared to the uninjured side. In other words, nothing to see here as the wrist has obviously not hindered Wentz in any way.
Wentz suffered a rib fracture in 2016.
Medical Summary: This injury that is so rare NFL teams only see one per season on average. How the heck does the franchise quarterback manage to be the one dude with this injury that was seen only once per team per year over a 38-year span? Bad luck. This shouldn’t (and hasn’t) followed him around to impact his performance. Not to mention this random injury shouldn’t happen to him again.
Wentz tore his ACL in 2017.
Medical Summary: From 2010 to 2013, quarterbacks made up just 2.5% of all ACL ruptures in the NFL. That mark is the lowest among all positions, which includes kickers and punters. So, if you’re keeping score at home, Wentz has suffered a once-in-a-season injury and an injury that occurs the least often to QBs. What’s more is that 72% of all ACL ruptures in the NFL are non-contact in nature. Wentz’ ACL injury? Of course it was contact in nature. Now, will the ACL (which fully matured by the 16-month mark after his surgery) negatively impact his future performance? The medical literature over the last 38 years says no. The authors of a systematic review on NFL injuries said the following about ACL injuries and the impact on QBs:
“RTP (return to play) was lower in less experienced and/or less highly skilled players, had a significant negative financial impact on future earnings, and was also associated with diminished performance following RTP in all positions except quarterbacks.”
That “except quarterbacks” piece is vital to projecting Wentz’s knee health moving forward. Despite an 18% recurrence rate for ACL tears, Wentz seems to be out of the woods and has lived to throw another day. Which is apparently also great for his pocketbook (does anyone actually still call a waller a pocketbook?).
Who can forget the cheapshot concussion of the century in 2019? Even as a Seattle fan, I disavow this hit that occurred on Wentz’s scramble.
Medical Summary: When it comes to Wentz specifically, it’s sadly rare that it happened to begin with considering that from 2012-2014 only 4.3% of all concussions occurred to quarterbacks. That’s to say for every 100 games played in the NFL, only 1.32 concussions to quarterbacks occurred. The league average for all positions was 28 concussions per 100 games played and was the lowest mark not including kickers/punters and linemen. Even stranger is that when injury rates on a per drop back basis are categorized into scrambles/designed runs/QB knockdowns/sacks, scrambles result in an injury rate just once every 107 plays. That’s compared to once every 75 plays and once every 57 plays for quarterback sacks and knockdowns. Is Wentz now more likely to get another concussion? Yes. But the hope is that another play like this never happens again and he’s not more likely to pick up another concussion compared to, say, someone like Aaron Rodgers who has had a successful career.
Listen, we can argue all day about whether that hit was incidental or not- the bottom line is that he was evading the pocket and the hit was, at best, unnecessary. Let’s also not ignore the fact that this injury came after Wentz finished his first 16 game season since his rookie year.
In 2018, Wentz suffered vertebral fractures of his lumbar spine.
Medical Summary: If there’s an injury to be concerned about at all when it comes to Wentz, the back fractures are the place to look. He reportedly had vertebral fractures in the past that started in college. Vertebral fractures are nasty injuries that are impossible to treat outside of rest and general rehab. The worst part is that they have been found to result in shorter NFL career spans, games started, and games played. But wait, there’s more!
The good news is that these players still played for 93% of an “average” career length which is to say that if a QB plays for 12 years, a player with the worst lumbar spine vertebral fractures will play for 11 years. Even better, for fantasy football purposes, is that performance was not affected by these fractures. The quick and dirty of it is that if there’s any injury that should “concern” Philly fans or fantasy managers, it’s the vertebral fractures. However, those worries should be allayed by the medical research that shows players can still have long and successful careers despite this injury.
Big Picture Summary
Why is that a quarterback has suffered three rare injuries (non-contact ACL, rib fracture, and a cheapshot concussion) but hasn’t injured his shoulder? After all, the odds of a quarterback picking up a shoulder injury in the NFL is astronomical. How is it that a player who is “injury prone” hasn’t actually hurt the part of his body his positional peers most often do? Strange, isn’t it? Furthermore, it’s very possible that all of the fractures Wentz suffered will dissipate now that he’s likely peaked in bone density, which basically is a measure of how resilient bones are to fractures. That knee is also looking fantastic based on the eye test and the literature. Coupled with the fact that quarterbacks are injured just 12 times for every 100 games played (the lowest rate behind only kickers and punters), is it unreasonable to project Wentz for a healthy 2020 and beyond? It’s not unreasonable to me.