The Russell Wilson Question

If Russell Wilson sits atop Seattle’s draft board, should they select him with their first pick?

Many of you don’t believe that Wilson could possibly rate that highly, and you may be right. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that he does. And he might, for the following reasons:

1 – Wilson is the top rated passer in NCAA history. That’s right – his 191.8 is the highest rating ever.

2 – Wilson was a 4-year starter. He threw for 11,720 yards in his career. 109 TDs to 30 INTs.

3 – in his senior year, Wilson completed 72.8% of his passes. If you watch his games, you note that he throws the ball down the field. This incredible completion percentage is not padded by a gimmicky offense. He averages something like 25-30 yards in the air per throw, rarely checking it down for short passes. It’s hard to say for sure, because there is no official measurement, but he often stands ten yards behind the line of scrimmage and throws the ball to the side-line for a 5 yard gain, the ball traveling 30 yards in the air. When he does throw to his RB, it’s often 20 yards down field. His average per attempt his senior year was 10.28 yards. As for his incompletions, he had his fair share of dropped passes, and he often threw the ball out of bounds when no one was open. He rarely made a bad or inaccurate throw (as noted by a total of 4 ints his last season in over 300 attempts).

4 – Wilson is one and a half inches shorter than Drew Brees and Michael Vick. He plays with Drew’s intelligence and Vick’s mobility. When flushed from the pocket, he runs away from DE’s or blitzing LB’s. He is a burner for a QB, and very shifty. He ran 79 times his senior year for 338 yards (4.3 average) and 6 TDs. There is nothing in his game that suggests he suffers from lack of height. He displays excellent vision and rarely has a ball batted.

5 – Wilson ran a West Coast offense his first 3 years, and a pro-style offense his last. Everything he did as a senior – pre-snap reads, snaps from under center, straight drop backs, play-action fakes, roll-outs – will all translate directly to the NFL.

6 – Wilson fits every criteria we have heard from JS or PC. They have never indicated that height was a necessity for the position (unlike their obvious inclination to obtain tall guys on the outside on both sides of the ball). Wilson is a mobile, big-armed QB with demonstrated success in an offense very similar to what Seattle wants to run.

7 – PC/JS have emphasized that they will draft a QB this year, if the right guy is available at the right time.

8 – PC made the comment in his recent presser that people will be surprised with their draft strategy. I would assert that drafting Wilson with their first pick would qualify.

9 – the QB position is the most important on the team, and for Seattle, one of the weakest (after LB, perhaps). As Derek Stephens put it in his latest Pod-cast, think of Flynn as an upgrade over CW, as the other two players (Jackson and Portis) were on the team last year and this. Flynn has started two games in his career; Portis zero; Jackson a few too many (in my opinion). Greenbay drafted QBs with Favre and Rodgers on the roster (these two QBs likely the best succeeding duo since Montana/Young, and arguably better than them). There is no doubt the current position can be upgraded.

10 – JS/PC have demonstrated time and again they march to the tune of their own draft-drummer. Witness Carpenter – he was ranked as the fifth GUARD in 2011 (not even a tackle); Durham and Baldwin weren’t even rated within the top 30 at the position (Lockette was 29th with a 2-star rating). Sherman comes in at 29th at the position, non-rated. They judge for themselves, and draft accordingly. Last year after the draft they were crucified in the press. Today they look like draft geniuses.

11 – we believe that JS/PC rate every prospect based on a number of variables, one of them being the strength of the position on the roster, and also the importance of the position. Presumably every prospect has a rating, one that allows them to put them in rank order. We also believe that JS wants the draft to come to him, and not act out of desperation or need.

So after reviewing these considerations, let me re-ask the question: what if Russell Wilson is the highest ranking prospect on their board when they are ready to pick for the first time? Let’s also assume, for the benefit of this discussion, that they will trade down if they get a reasonable offer, so whenever they are ready to pick, Wilson is the top-rated prospect on their board. Let’s also assume that they have decent intelligence on other teams, and believe Wilson will be available in the third round, or even later. What do they do?

My answer is this: you trust your board and your process, and you take him when your process says to take him. You don’t risk losing your top-rated player because you misjudged another team’s intentions. They have access to the same information you do. They are perfectly capable of reaching the same conclusion. Half the league will draft a QB next week. If somebody ranks Wilson as the third best in the draft, they may take him long before the 3rd comes around.

In the past couple of drafts, I didn’t consider Locker, Ponder, Dalton, Gabbert or Tebow first round quality QBs, but (except for Dalton) that’s where they went. (Full disclosure – I thought Mallett might be first-round worthy, and didn’t think Newton would succeed in his first year and thought he didn’t rate a first overall pick.) In recent drafts, the only first round guys have been Stafford, Bradford, and this year, Luck (I won’t question RGIII – I was wrong about Newton, and would likely be wrong to question RGIII’s ability to transition from his college offense to the one he will play in Washington). Of all those guys, I would consider Wilson a straight-up first round value.

Concerning his height, and the lack of short franchise QBs, I don’t think history has anything to do with it. Russell Wilson is a terrific football player, and it strikes me that PC/JS are looking for terrific football players, regardless of the standard prototypes.

In making this argument, I realize the length of the limb I have crawled out upon. It is very possible, likely even, that the Seattle draft team values Wilson like everyone else does: somewhere in rounds 4-6.

I think Russell Wilson has the potential to match the career of Drew Brees. If he is drafted by Seattle, he will get every opportunity to reach whatever potential he has. If he goes somewhere else, perhaps not. Drafting him near the top of the draft accomplishes two things: ensures he plays for Seattle, and renders the man the respect he has earned.

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