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The 2021 NFL season may barely be in the books, but Dave Richard is already getting a jump on his 2022 preparation by highlighting at least one key statistic to know for each NFL team that had a major bearing on their 2021 performance and could mean a great deal for their 2022 outlook. In this space, Dave dives into the Washington Commanders.

More Early Prep (AFC): BAL | BUF | CIN | CLE | DEN | DET | GB | LAR | MIN | SEA | NYG | WAS

More Early Prep (NFC): ARI | ATL | CAR | CHI | DAL | HOU | IND | JAC | KC | LAC | LV |

Washington Commanders stats to know

The Commanders knew they had to improve on their passing game this year, even if it meant settling for Carson Wentz after missing out on other big-time quarterbacks. 

On the plus side, Wentz is 29 years old, has 140 touchdowns in 85 career games and has shown plenty of flashes through the years. 

On the downside, he's dealt with injury after injury since 2017, including playing through a foot injury and simultaneously sprained ankles in the first half of 2021, and he's on his third team in as many seasons after frustrating his coaches in each of his prior stops.

If Washington takes the step to draft a quarterback in April, there wouldn't be a guarantee Wentz would play 17 games. If Washington doesn't, then he's at best a bridge quarterback. 

Somehow, the Commanders believe he's a solid upgrade over fellow 29-year-old Taylor Heinicke

  • Wentz in 2021: 62.4% completion rate, 6.9 yards per attempt, 5.2% touchdown rate, 1.4% interception rate; 50% completion rate when pressured, 11% of pass attempts thrown 20-plus yards
  • Heinicke in 2021: 65% completion rate, 6.9 yards per attempt, 4.0% touchdown rate, 3.0% interception rate; 48.2% completion rate when pressured, 13% of pass attempts thrown 20-plus yards

I'm not sure how Wentz is supposed to make Terry McLaurin better if he and Heinicke are coming off similar seasons, but that's the hope plenty of Fantasy managers have. Unfortunately, Wentz has done TOO good of a job spreading the ball around over the course of his career. 

Percentage of targets to a specific position

  • 2021 (IND): 22.7% RB | 56.5% WR | 20.5% TE
  • 2020 (PHI): 18.0% RB | 51.8% WR | 30.0% TE
  • 2019 (PHI): 18.7% RB | 42.6% WR | 38.6% TE
  • 2018 (PHI): 14.9% RB | 48.5% WR | 36.4% TE
  • 2017 (PHI): 13.3% RB | 57.3% WR | 29.4% TE
  • 2016 (PHI): 18.1% RB | 51.0% WR | 30.7% TE

In every season except 2017, Wentz has ranked in the bottom-10 in percentage of passes to wide receivers among qualifying quarterbacks. 

Wentz does have the tendency to focus on his most talented pass-catchers and may especially have an affinity for bigger targets. Michael Pittman last year, Travis Fulgham in late 2020, Alshon Jeffery for several seasons, and of course the burly tight ends Philadelphia had at his disposal all count toward players Wentz seemed to favor. 

Again, this doesn't spell out promised success for McLaurin, who is 6-feet tall and 210 pounds. Calling him a "big target" doesn't seem to fit, at least in terms of size, but everyone knows he's Washington's most explosive playmaker in the passing game. Anticipating 7.6 targets per game for McLaurin, which he had in 2021, is safe. Maybe even expecting an increase in overall PPR points is fair, but he's never had north of 15 PPR points per game through three seasons and Wentz connected for 1,000 yards with a wide receiver for the first time in his career last year with Pittman. 

Wentz's arrival isn't a needle-mover for McLaurin, who remains a top-24 type of Fantasy receiver. However, I'd keep an eye out for whoever the Commanders prioritize at tight end since Wentz does have an extensive history of throwing in that direction.