Russell Wilson Is Poised for a Bounce-Back Fantasy Football Season
While finishing just outside the top 10 would be cause for celebration for most guys, it was a disappointment for Wilson (and his fantasy owners). Per Fantasy Football Calculator, Wilson's average draft position (ADP) among quarterbacks was third in 2016.
Plenty of things didn't go Wilson's way last year, but there are reasons to believe he will bounce back in 2017.
I Know What You Did Last Fall
Before we get into the reasons behind Wilson's likely resurgence, we need to look at what went wrong last season.
While Wilson set career highs in completions, passing attempts and yards, he put up career lows in touchdown percentage, yards per attempted pass, and quarterback rating. Wilson is known for his miraculous, sack-avoiding passing plays, but he's also known for being an able runner who is nimble on his feet.
Clearly, Wilson did not run the ball well last season, or at least as effectively as he had previously. He posted career lows in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. What changed?
Well, to start, the Seattle Seahawks' offense lost Marshawn Lynch to retirement (or what seemed like retirement at the time). Wilson not only lost his reliable running back, but he played behind the worst offensive line Seattle has had since he entered the NFL. Per Football Outsiders, the Seahawks ranked 26th in run blocking and 25th in pass blocking.
In addition to all that, Wilson was hampered by injuries for the first time in his career, which may have been the biggest reason for his drop in rushing numbers. Wilson spent most of the season playing on a sprained ankle and a sprained MCL.
If we dig deeper and look at numberFire's Net Expected Points metric, we can emphasize just how poorly he performed in 2016 compared to his career averages.
Last year wasn't his worst passing season, but he racked up more than 150 more pass attempts in 2016 than he did in his rookie season, yet his NEP was slightly higher in 2012. Simply put: Wilson threw a ton more passes last season, but he was far less efficient.
This efficiency -- and his overall fantasy output -- would have been better if it weren't for a surprisingly low touchdown rate of 3.8%. Counting last season, his career average is 5.6%, and his single-season touchdown rate was below 6.4% just once prior to 2016.
On top of the struggles through the air, Wilson's Rushing NEP was by far the worst clip of his career, but he also attempted just 72 rushes, another career-low mark.
He threw for less touchdowns, and he didn't have the running chops to prop up his fantasy numbers -- it was a double whammy.
Regression Is Coming
The word regression usually has a negative connotation, but based on Hustle Russell's career averages, we should see some positive regression in 2017.
If you were to take Wilson's career averages across the board, you'd have the following numbers.
Again, this is just an exercise, but if Wilson were to perform at his career-average level in each statistic, he would score 314.22 fantasy points in 2017. That amount would have been good for fourth among quarterbacks in 2016. Wilson has finished as at least a top-11 quarterback in all five of his seasons, including a pair of top-three finishes, so this isn't outlandish by any means.
Last season, if Wilson had better touchdown luck, he could've once again finished as one of the top fantasy signal callers despite the career-worst rushing numbers.
Wilson's current ADP, which is 8th among quarterbacks, doesn't reflect his track record or the likelihood that his touchdown rate rebounds. In fact, numberFire projects Wilson to finish sixth among quarterbacks.
At his current ADP, Wilson isn't necessarily a huge steal, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he will at least meet his current price and possibly exceed it.