Recently I was part of what I considered to be a futile discussion with another passionate fan about the value of a second-year quarterback.
That QB was instrumental in his team’s success and even got into the Rookie of the Year discussions by the end of the season.
In the second half of the season after he had taken full control of his team, he scored 20 TDs, had 1,650 passing yards, another 360 rushing yards, and only two turnovers.
Projecting those stats over a full season he would score 436 fantasy points based on six points per score, one point per 25 passing yards, one point per 10 rushing yards, and -2 for each turnover.
Let’s compare that to some other fantasy studs at the position from 2012:
Drew Brees: 427 fantasy points
Aaron Rodgers: 428 fantasy points
How about another great runner like RG3: 362 fantasy points
Or Cam Newton: 367 fantasy points
That second-year QB is Russell Wilson and clearly he would be at or near the top of the pack.
So the question becomes whether we can actually expect anything close to what Wilson did in 2012 or if this was the best season he will ever have.
First I would like to play devil’s advocate with a position I just don’t believe to be true. Wilson cannot duplicate his 2012 numbers, or in this scenario actually improve on them by doubling only the second half of the season, for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that Wilson was leaned on more heavily in 2012 than he will be in 2013. The Seahawks were figuring out their true identity as a strong running team and the duo of Lynch and Wilson was nearly unstoppable.
Seattle did not have any weapons after those two players and so both of them were required to take on a workload that was unexpected. Anyone who carries the ball nearly 100 times like Wilson did would of course have great rushing stats. Even Aaron Rodgers was able to see the same yards per rush as Wilson.
Second, Wilson will develop into more of a pocket passer, especially with the option to throw to Percy Harvin. This is going to heavily reduce his rushing stats as well as his rushing scores. The eight or more scores he would be projected to get on the ground simply will not happen.
Finally, and most importantly, anyone playing QB in the NFL that rushes the ball as often as Wilson does with the frame that he has, will undoubtedly get hurt in the very near future. Wilson is one hit away from being a Michael Vick-esque casualty in the QB position. Seattle will decrease his role as a runner or will pay for it through his injury.
OK, is that a strong enough argument? Does it sound legit enough? I hope so. It’s complete crap, but I hope I made it sound at least half-way honest.
The truth of the matter is that Russell Wilson will end 2013 as a top five fantasy quarterback with the potential to be No. 1 in the league. Here is why:
First, Wilson’s carries should decrease some, but it will be because he can pick and choose when he runs and when he utilizes his new weapon: Percy Harvin.
Wilson ran the ball nearly 100 times, but it was because he had nothing else to do.
When Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are your top two options in the passing game, there is often no better option than to tuck that ball and run.
With Harvin, Wilson will have another speedster on the field who can also be used in the running game to take some of the risk off of Wilson. Harvin was a top 10 wide receiver in 2011 and was a top five receiver before getting hurt in 2012. And that was with Christian Ponder leading the offense.
Instead of ending the season with 3,000-3,200 passing yards, Wilson is going to have the potential to see 3,500-3,800 passing yards and quite a few more passing scores than he did in 2012.
Second, because Wilson gets to pick and choose when he carries the ball, we will likely see fewer carries but very similar rushing yards. There won’t be as many zero to three yard scrambles to try and escape a collapsing pocket with no receiver options down field.
Now Wilson will only run the ball on designed plays or when the field is wide open. So while he may see a decrease in carries to around the 80 carry mark, he could easily see an increase to around 6.0-7.5 yards per carry, actually improving on his rushing totals from 2012.
Third, Seattle not only boosted their offense with Harvin, but their acquisitions of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on defense will (crazy as it seems) improve one of the best defenses in the league. This is going to lead to better field position for Wilson and therefore more scores.
Fourth, there are no signs that teams have figured out how to stop Wilson. If they had, then why would the second half of the season been better than the first? This was another argument from my counterpart. But just because a defense knows exactly what to expect doesn’t mean they can stop it.
Do teams stop Brady or Rodgers even though they know there isn’t much of a run game to lean on? Were teams able to stop Cam Newton from once again reaching 700 rushing yards on the year even though he had done it to them in 2011?
Finally, this idea that Wilson is going to get hurt simply because he likes to run the ball is absurd. He is 5’11” not 5’3”. He is actually built like a running back able to be low to the ground when needed and absorb hits. In fact his counterpart, Marshawn Lynch, is almost the exact same size (same height, about 10 pounds heavier).
A quarterback that runs does not equate to one that will get hurt. Cam Newton didn’t get hurt and he runs more than any QB in the league. It is about when you run and the decisions to make. Michael Vick likes to make bad decisions. Russell Wilson on the other hand will be running only when the situation is ideal.
So what will 2013 bring? Well, I want to go on record as saying that Wilson will end the year with 3,600 passing yards, 28 passing scores, 580 rushing yards, 11 rushing scores, and around 16 turnovers. Total? 404 fantasy points and likely good enough for a top three to five spot.