Why Russell Wilson Is Insanely Undervalued in Fantasy Football
I'm fairly new to Twitter. I'm mainly on it for fantasy football purposes, to further my awareness as a writer to others, and to see what the fantasy football community is thinking.
I honestly never thought I'd get an idea for an article from it.
Then, yesterday morning, I found myself going back and forth on Twitter with fellow numberFire contributor, Graham Barfield, about Percy Harvin's average draft position being in the fifth round, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Graham was insistent that he loves Harvin, but can't justify the injury risk at such a high cost. And then it hit me: the best way to mitigate Harvin's injury risk and snag his upside is simple: draft Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson: Efficiency Machine
After two years in the NFL, Wilson is already a Super Bowl champion and has won a ton of games, going 24-8 in his first two seasons. Our JJ Zachariason even postulated that Russell Wilson could be the greatest young quarterback ever. Often overlooked in fantasy football circles (more on that later), Wilson has been incredible from an efficiency perspective during his first two years in the NFL. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, he's performed swimmingly with limited offensive weapons.
|Year||Passing NEP||Rushing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back|
|2013||74.66 (6th of 30)||22.19 (6th of 15)||0.17 (6th of 30)|
|2012||84.01 (8th of 30)||28.81 (4th of 25)||0.20 (6th of 30)|
Passing numbers are among quarterbacks with 300 or more drop backs, while rushing numbers are among quarterbacks with 25 or more rushing attempts.
From the table above, you can see that, not only is Wilson winning on the field, but he's winning the metrics game as well, ranking sixth among quarterbacks with 300 drop backs in Passing NEP last year and eighth the season prior to that. He's also using his elusiveness as a runner effectively, too. With this in mind, the question becomes, given Wilson's efficiency and effectiveness as a fantasy football quarterback the past two years, why is he being drafted in the later rounds of fantasy football drafts?
An Unreasonable Cost?
You have a quarterback who won a Super Bowl in his second season, has an offensive coordinator who could potentially take the kid gloves off his star pupil, and has his best receiving weapon coming back from injury. And he's going in the 10th round of 12 team fantasy drafts? Well, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Wilson is coming off of draft board at pick 10.03, or as the 15th quarterback taken in fantasy drafts.
It appears as though folks believe Wilson has a limited ceiling. There seems to be two likely culprits for this: the Seahawks' propensity to run the ball, and Harvin's propensity to get injured.
However, both of these arguments are somewhat flawed. First, the Seahawks relied on their stellar defense and unstoppable running game out of necessity in Wilson's first two years. The defense has lost a few pieces upfront due to salary cap moves to keep the core intact in the secondary, and they may not be as effective as in 2013 (though they are looking very solid thus far).
Seattle led the NFL in carries with 509 a season ago, and their pass-to-run ratio was second-lowest in the NFL. The addition of Harvin should even that out some, getting Wilson's attempts up from 2013. Additionally, we already know what Wilson's floor is without Harvin and with a run-focused approach: a top-5 to -10 quarterback. He also has an ambitious goal this season, as he wants to to complete 70% of his passes in 2014.
When you add in the "noise" that Harvin potentially creates by his elite speed and motion on the field, the game gets simpler for Wilson as his options become more bountiful. I witnessed this first hand at the Seahawks-Bears game last Friday night, and it's best summed up here by The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer.
Brewer notes that, now with Harvin and their offensive personnel spreading out opposing defenses, a defense has to choose between stopping the power running game or the passing game. And when they focus on, say, stopping the run, Wilson is able to thrive in the passing game. If they play against the pass, Wilson's ability to run - as shown by his Rushing NEP metrics above - allows for fantasy points to continuously be had.
Russell Wilson's 2014 Projection
Here at numberFire, we aren't skittish about making projections. To that end, our fantasy projections have Wilson performing as the seventh-best quarterback in fantasy this year, with 496 attempts (up 45 from 2014) for 3,655 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
From a rushing perspective, the algorithms expect Wilson's carries to be similar to 2013, with 89 carries for 471 yards, and 3 touchdowns. All of this would equate to 285 fantasy points, putting Wilson squarely in the second tier with four other quarterbacks behind the elite three fantasy quarterbacks.
Maybe Harvin is right to compare his quarterback to Brett Favre. Or maybe he's even selling him short.