PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Quarterback Russell Wilson #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to pass in the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
"D" is for DangeRuss Wilson.
I must admit, I was over at Danny's place on Day 2 of the draft and started freaking out around the 70th or so pick (Round 3). I had been getting excited over the possibility of Russell Wilson for months and was debating where the Seahawks could possibly take him. When the Chiefs took Tackle Donald Stephenson one pick ahead of Seattle, I breathed a sigh of relief. I hooted and ran up and down the wide hallway in Danny's flat, or whatever you call his pad- the type of pad you enjoy when you have no children. (DK edit - he was literally pacing up and down the hallway for about 15 minutes before the pick was finally made, toward the end he was certain, and demoralized, that KC would take Wilson).
I was actually okay with Seattle taking Wilson in Round 2, and was shot down a bit for that view. And I understand why. In the end, even if perhaps the Seahawks placed a 2nd round grade on Wilson (John Schneider has admitted that Wilson was the 3rd QB on their board and I think it's plain who #1 and #2 were) Seattle knew they could wait. Waiting until Round 4 was undoubtedly a consideration, but Pete and John had suspicions, that were later confirmed, that Wilson would have been gone by the time Day 3 came along. Round 3, Pick Number 75 seems just about right in the end.
In Russell's first week as a Seahawk, he made an appearance on air on KJR950, I believe it was with Mitch Levy. Mitch asked something along the lines of - "give me some things Russell needs to work on, or things he looks to emulate in Drew Brees" (as a followup question to Wilson saying he studies Drew Brees extensively). Russell didn't hesitate - and mentioned "footwork in the pocket".
I watched this attached clip of Drew Brees over and over, and instead of focusing on the ball - I tuned in closely to Brees' footwork. What a thing of beauty. I think Russell has good footwork for a college QB, but if Wilson is Justin Timberlake with his footwork, Brees is Michael Jackson. Brees is a true master with his footwork. Words that come to mind regarding his footwork include - energy, urgency in his drop, great balance, always centered, quickness, efficiency, perfect pivots, perfect reset, an ability to slide in all directions. There is more, but you get the point. His head and eye movement are also amazing.
I went ahead and watched Tom Brady and Peyton Manning - two other HOF QBs who are as good or slightly better than Brees as NFL QBs - their footwork just wasn't the same. I am not saying it was bad, but it seemed like because of their height and arm talent, they could just stand tall and deliver. Brees had to develop this to survive.
Russell knows this footwork aspect will be critical for his success, and Drew Brees is his model.
I think Wilson has good footwork now, but if he wants to be Elite, which he does, he has the roadmap in Drew Brees. Wilson already has superior arm talent to Brees when comparing what Wilson is today to when Brees came out of Purdue. Schneider has confirmed the fact that Brees has developed a stronger arm over the past 11 years in the NFL. I remember Brees playing my Huskies in the 2001 Rose Bowl - Brees was highly regarded and very accurate- but of course, not what he is today. In San Diego, Brees was not what he, in partnership with Sean Payton, has developed into today.
Additionally, what Payton has created in tandem with Brees is a system built around his strengths, and undoubtedly is tweaked away from Brees' limitations. Darrell Bevell, or whoever the offensive coordinator is, I believe, should do the same thing with Russell Wilson. The height may not limit greatness, but to say it is a zero factor is simply an overstatement in my opinion.
Wilson has many other similarities to Brees: intelligence, commitment to preparation, leadership on the field, leadership in the locker-room, leadership in the community, strong communicator, good interview skills, accuracy, anticipation, athleticism - and the list goes on. Perhaps his accuracy is a touch below Brees, but his athleticism is superior. I also think Wilson could possibly add five to ten pounds of good weight over a period of years and possibly improve his arm strength is he so desired.
Interestingly, as I am reading Brees' book, the reason why no Texas school took Brees was because he tore his ACL and missed his Junior Year in high school. In his Senior Year, Brees went bananas and was, I believe, undefeated, but all the big colleges in Texas had already locked down their QB recruits. During his high school rehab for the ACL, Brees put on about 20 pounds of muscle and also developed the determined mindset he would use again in the NFL to come back from a radically reconstructed throwing shoulder years later.
I will end with a little bit of tempering of my enthusiasm. If you were to ask me - "What are the chances Wilson develops into a Top 10 NFL Quarterback?" I would honestly have to answer "Less than 50%." I would say that about most rookie QBs. I would have, probably wrongly, said that about every QB that came out in 2011 and 2012 except for Luck and RG3. But, it's not a knock on Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder or Cam Newton.
And I remain under 50%, but I also think the floor in Wilson's success chance is better than 20%. I definitely think it is better than 10% or 15%. I really think that though the odds are still stacked against him, Wilson has a chance. Wilson may not be the odds-on favorite, but I feel very comfortable laying a bet on his future success. Some days you wake up and feel like betting on the underdog.