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Player Spotlight: Russell Wilson

A detailed look at Russell Wilson's fantasy prospects for 2013

Russell Wilson had a great rookie season, but I wonder if he can post similar numbers this year.  Wilson had a slow start to his NFL career, but that had to be expected.  He entered the league as a lower round draft pick (third round) and had to compete to start, but he did earn that right by the end of the preseason and hit the ground running – or so it might seem.  Looking back at the numbers, I was intrigued by how little he did as a passer in his first season.  Wilson was a game manager, dropping back to pass usually 25 times or less (only in four of 18 starts did he attempt more than 25 passes) and finishing most games with under 225 yards passing.  Over 18 starts including the playoffs, Wilson managed just one game over 300 yards passing (the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta) and was under 225 yards in 14 of 18 starts. 

Seattle made some nice moves to surround Wilson with better talent for this season. The Seahawks made a bold move in trading for Percy Harvin, who instantly upgrades the Seattle passing game and the offense as a whole.  Golden Tate and Sidney Rice are solid receivers, but they are much better as second and third options rather than as the top two wideouts on an NFL roster – especially one with Super Bowl aspirations.  A healthy Harvin will likely be a Top 10-15 wide receiver in fantasy this year, which should boost Wilson’s fantasy numbers as a result.

Even if Wilson posts similar numbers – will that be enough to justify him as a fantasy starting quarterback in 2013? Wilson finished 2012 as the 11th overall fantasy quarterback, which means that he could have been a starter for a fantasy team last year – but just barely.  His fantasy numbers were helped out by his 26 touchdowns (against only 10 interceptions) and also his great rushing stats (94-489-4).  Even if Wilson produces a carbon copy of those numbers for 2013, I would struggle to pick a fantasy lineup with Wilson as the starter over say one that has 8-10 other bigger names.  Wilson’s big value was that he was a major surprise and sleeper as a late round fantasy pick in 2012 who delivered great production at a cheap price.  Now by drafting him as a QB10-12 type player, the upside is minimal and there is a great downside to his numbers.

That leads me to my biggest question and concern for Wilson in 2013 – will he run as much?  Wilson had almost 500 yards rushing on nearly 100 attempts, including four touchdowns.  With Harvin, Lynch, Turbin and Michael all options out of the backfield (and Harvin will be in the backfield at times), Seattle is unlikely to have many designed runs for their starting quarterback.   That leads me to believe that Wilson will run less (but may throw a little more) and fewer rushing yards and touchdowns will greatly diminish his fantasy upside.

POSITIVES

  • Percy Harvin was brought in by Seattle, adding a true feature wide receiver and a WR1 for Russell Wilson, improving the overall passing attack for the Seahawks
  • Wilson enters his second NFL season as the clear starter for Seattle, which will set his mind at ease plus give him the entire offseason and preseason to work on becoming a better starter
  • Wilson is surrounded by good running backs, starting with Marshawn Lynch and two strong backups in Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael 

NEGATIVES

  • With Harvin and three strong tailbacks, Wilson may not have to run as much this year, which will lower his overall fantasy value
  • There will be no “sneaking up” on teams this year.  Wilson’s rookie season was strong, but some of it came out of nowhere and may have surprised a few teams.  That will not happen this season.
  • Seattle has a tough late schedule this year, including a very late bye week (Week 12) which could impact some high stakes league players.  Weeks 13 (New Orleans), 14 (at San Francisco) and 15 (at the New York Giants) could be a rough fantasy playoff stretch
  • The Seattle defense is very strong, which means that Wilson will not be in that many shootouts, so it would be hard to expect many big passing games from him this year
  • Wilson had minimal passing games more often than not last year.  In 18 starts (including the postseason), he only attempted 30 or more passes four times and had just one game over 300 yards (the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta).  In fact, Wilson had less than 25 passing attempts in half of his starts and had fewer than 200 passing yards in 11 of 18 contests

FINAL THOUGHTS

Russell Wilson is a solid NFL quarterback on a team with Super Bowl aspirations for 2013, but I hesitate to consider him a fantasy QB1 for this coming year.  The upsides (mostly Percy Harvin) are far fewer than the downsides (probably less rushing attempts, higher price to pay in fantasy drafts).   Wilson could easily match the numbers he posted last year and be a borderline fantasy starter or Top 10 quarterback, but all of his fantasy value last year was because his ADP was incredibly low.  Most people thought Matt Flynn would win the starting job in Seattle, but Wilson surprised plenty of folks and won out.  Now everyone has rose colored glasses when it comes to Wilson, but if you look at the numbers with an honest eye, his per-game fantasy performance was not very good (11 of 18 games under 225 yards passing, less than two touchdown passes and 25 attempts in 50% of his games).  What gave him extra value was his rushing ability (94-489-4), but if Seattle tries to keep him healthier and rely on their three running backs and Harvin to run, then most of Wilson’s fantasy upside disappears.  I would take Wilson no higher than 12th off of the fantasy board and even then I would be using him in a quarterback by committee – which is a headache for many fantasy owners.

RUSSELL WILSON PROJECTIONS

 

CMP

ATT

PYD

PTD

INT

RSHYD

RSHTD

Jeff Pasquino

275

440

3400

24

13

400

4

David Dodds

285

456

3388

26

12

479

3

Bob Henry

285

450

3500

30

10

600

6

Jason Wood

303

480

3575

24

12

450

4

Maurile Tremblay

294

460

3426

24

14

459

4

Message Board Consensus

285

447

3649

29

10

428

4

OTHER THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Vincent Frank of ProFootballFocus looks at The Best Fantasy Option: C. Kaepernick or Russell Wilson?

I personally believe that both Kaepernick and Wilson will be top-eight fantasy quarterbacks in 2013. You would be much better off going with them a bit later rather than picking up Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in the first round. This would give your fantasy lineup more of a well-rounded feel and enable you to maybe even go WR2 and TE1 earlier than your counterparts.

Christopher Harris of ESPN.com looks at Assessing dual-threat QBs in fantasy:

But what if you could draft a player who can throw like an above-average QB and also threaten double-digit TDs with his legs? Now that they've been unleashed upon the NFL, Kaepernick, Newton, Wilson and Griffin have that kind of potential. Let's call them the Sprung Guns. Only two QBs posted three games of 30-plus fantasy points in 2012: Newton and RGIII. Freak athletes like this can practically win you your week by themselves.


More from Jeff Pasquino:

The Dynasty Draft Calculator - February 19
For The Win: Super Bowl - January 30
For The Win: Divisional Round - January 9
Eliminator Pool: Week 18 - January 2
Against The Spread Pool: Week 18 - January 2
Eliminator Pool: Week 17 - December 27
Against The Spread Pool: Week 17 - December 27
For The Win: Week 17 - December 26
Money Talks: Week 17 - December 24
Eliminator Pool: Week 16 - December 19