When Russell Wilson Knocks – Open the Door!

 

R Wilson

fr.wikipedia.org

While doing my Dynasty Detective Dashboard research for the NFC West installment, I started with the meat and potatoes of the article – Russell Wilson.  I’ll come right and tell you that I strongly believe that Wilson is a top 3 quarterback in the NFL not from a fantasy perspective, but from a true quarterback perspective.  I fell in love with Russell’s game very early.  Matt Waldman of footballguys.com boldly stated very early in his annual rookie scouting process that while the scouting and NFL communities were worried about Wilson’s height, he believed that Wilson had Drew Brees type upside as a quarterback in the NFL.  (On a side note, if you’re not already in tune with the Rookie Scouting Portfolio Matt authors every year, you’re doing fantasy football all wrong.  Fix that and click here– www.mattwaldmanrsp.com)

When asked about his thoughts on Russell Wilson as a quarterback during an interview, here is an excerpt of Drew Brees’ response:

“He’s so versatile. He’s a – what should I call it– a triple threat? Anything you would need from the quarterback position. He can throw the long ball, he can execute the intermediate passing game.”

While the preseason isn’t always the right platform for evaluating talent as we’re mainly looking at vanilla defenses, Wilson made some phenomenal passes all preseason heading into 2012 as a rookie, and I knew I was watching a star in the making. Take a look at the tape from his 2012 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans that had me screaming at my television set in excitement and waking up my infant daughter because I drafted him ahead of Ryan Tannehill while league mates thought I was crazy:

While I can look at the film and come to this conclusion, I realize that this talent evaluation approach isn’t always the same approach many might take in the fantasy community, so I’m going to let some numbers to the talking as well.  What I’m about to share will simply prove what I already knew heading into this article, the only thing that needs to happen for Russell Wilson to be one of the best fantasy quarterbacks for many years to come – opportunity.

I started crunching some numbers from both ESPN.com and ProFootballFocus.com and combined them into a quick table below:

 

 

Rank

Att

Rank

Yards

Rank

Yards/att

Rank

QB Rating

Rank

Pts/DP

Rank

Fantasy Pts

2013

22nd

407

15th

3357

4th

8.25

7th

101.2

4th

0.58

8th

289.2

2012

26nd

393

23rd

3118

4th

7.93

4th

100

4th

0.61

11th

291.6

 

The first metrics I want to call attention to surround overall passing yards. When we look at total passing yards for both 2012 and 2013, Wilson only put up enough yards to realize mediocrity at best when compared to his counter-parts in the league.  As you would guess, he didn’t throw the ball often inducing the low yardage totals.  I was candidly surprised to see that in 2013 there were 21 other quarterbacks that threw the ball more often than Wilson.  I knew this was going to come in low, but that was still surprising to me coming from a Super Bowl winning team.

Moving onto the effectiveness of the limited attempts, in both 2012 and 2013 Wilson landed 4th overall in yards per attempt.  That result coupled with his top 10 and top 5 quarterback ratings respectively prove that he’s making the most of his limited attempts.  None of these numbers are taking into account all the work he does with his feet when he has to as well.  Wilson can certainly tuck and run, but he’s looking down field on every play before he opts to run the ball (unless it’s a designed run.)  This cannot be said about a couple of his running quarterback counterparts in Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, as they’ve shown a pattern to date of looking for the first option in their reads, and then pulling the ball in to run for a first down attempt.  As true quarterbacks they may develop into pocket passers first, but Wilson is already there.

The last metrics I want to call out from the above table relate to his point production on a per drop back basis.  His 2012 and 2013 .58 and .61 pts/DP were good enough for 4th in the league both years.

The numbers above prove with certainty that Pete Carroll and company have had a strategic plan in place, and they’ve stuck to it without fail as the attempt results came in virtually the same in both of his first years in the league.  In spite of these limited opportunities, Wilson was still the 8th best fantasy quarterback in 2013.  This is when you have to wonder about and ask yourself one very important question: What would happen if Russell Wilson is given more opportunity to throw the ball?

For the next exercise, let us go ahead and play out a few scenarios in which Russell Wilson earns more opportunity to drop back with the ball.  To begin, here are the assumptions we’re working with:

Actual

Rank

Drop Backs

Pts/DP

2013

21st

502

0.58

2012

25th

477

0.61

Using the above actual drop backs and pts/DP for the last two years, let’s see what would happen if Wilson is given additional drop back opportunity keeping in mind that his points per drop back were .58 and .61:

Hypo A

Rank

Drop Backs

Pts/DP

Rank

Fantasy Pts

2013

15th

579

0.58

3rd

336.1

2012

15th

572

0.61

3rd

349.1

In the above hypothetical, we’ve given Russell enough drop backs to pull his total drop back result up from the 21st-25th rank in previous seasons to 15th – middle of the road.  To come up with the drop backs I simply used the next highest drop back result from the quarterback currently ranked at this spot, just adding enough drop backs to put Wilson one step ahead.  Using his points per drop back results from years past, we’re able to assume that Wilson emerges as the 3rd best fantasy quarterback going forward based on both 2012 and 2013 data.  This puts Wilson behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in terms of total fantasy points.  Let’s go ahead and play out a couple more scenarios in which Wilson is able to drop back enough times to put him as the 10th and 5th ranked quarterback in overall drop backs:

Hypo B

Rank

Drop Backs

Pts/DP

Rank

Fantasy Pts

2013

10th

639

0.58

3rd

371.1

2012

10th

604

0.61

1st

368.4

 

Hypo C

Rank

Drop Backs

Pts/DP

Rank

Fantasy Pts

2013

5th

672

0.58

2nd

390.5

2012

5th

670

0.61

1st

409

As you can see above, Wilson becomes a potential 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ranked option in the above scenarios.  After running the numbers, however, we only need him to achieve the “Hypothetical A” scenario to play out in order for Wilson to get to the top 3.

Here’s the overall take-away and super-objective from this exercise below:

Take-Away

DP % Imp

Fantasy Rank

DPs/Game Needed

2013

15.34%

3rd

4.81

2012

19.92%

3rd

5.94

In order for Wilson to take that leap into the fantasy elite, he only needs a 15.34% improvement in terms of overall drop backs.  At first glance, this might seem just a hair too unrealistic for many, but when you slice this further what does this equate to in terms of drop backs per game?  4.81.

4.81

As fantasy owners, all we need to have happen for Russell Wilson to become a perennial fantasy quarterback elitist is for him to actualize an additional 5 drop backs a game.  That’s it!  I know we all watch the games: we see first-hand how conservative the Seahawks are at running the offense through the run game in order to open up the pass game.  BUT, getting Wilson an extra 5 drop backs a game isn’t something that is unrealistic – at all.

When I take a look at players for my dynasty teams, I always let talent trump situation.  While I don’t deny or ignore situations, situations in the NFL can change at the drop of a dime.  What would happen if the Seahawks sustain some injuries as every team in the league does?  What if the Seahawks had to fight through a backfield that became hobbled?  This hypothetical could also be said about the defensive side of the ball as well.  Will the run game be as effective once Marshawn Lynch is no longer a Seahawk?  Here’s a list of defensive players on the Seahawks’ roster that have expiring contracts upcoming according to spotrac.com, and this is yet another potential impacting factor that can induce additional drop backs:

Michael Bennett

DE

2014

Walter Thurmond

CB

2014

Tony McDaniel

DT

2014

Brandon Browner

CB

2014

Chris Clemons

DE

2015

Earl Thomas

S

2015

Richard Sherman

CB

2015

Byron Maxwell

CB

2015

Malcolm Smith

OLB

2015

Bruce Irvin

OLB

2016

Bobby Wagner

ILB

2016

I understand what has played out to date – I really do.  What makes great fantasy players are the ones that are able to read between the lines and identify those “What-if” situations that others are not looking at.  You want to have Wilson on your teams when this opportunity becomes a reality.  If you don’t open the door now it just may be too late tomorrow, and all you have to look forward to at your front door tomorrow is the next batch of girl-scout cookies.

Russlemania,

Fantasy Gumshoe

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Reads Listens Views 7/10/2014 | The Rookie Scouting Portfolio

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