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Re-visiting “The Asterisk”: How close was the infamous Russell Wilson pre-draft projection?

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

One month before Russell Wilson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, Football Outsiders released their annual Lewin Career Forecast (LCF) which provided estimates for how much passing DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) draft-eligible QBs projected to be taken in the first three rounds will have from year three to year five in the NFL. But in 2012, there was a “problem” with the LCF:

Wilson’s projection of 2,650 DYAR was the highest their formula had ever recorded.

Because of Wilson’s likely middle-round draft status, and the fact that he transferred into a different system his senior year, and due to his height, it led them to consider the projection an outlier, and to famously label the Wilson results as “The Asterisk”:

“I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the ridiculous projection that the Lewin Career Forecast spits out for Russell Wilson. Yes, that projection is even higher than the one for Robert Griffin. No, it doesn't particularly mean that Wilson is a sleeper prospect.”

Reading that now in light of the career trajectories of Wilson and RG3 is pretty fascinating. Ever since I read this article I have been tracking Wilson’s DYAR progress and hoping the projection would end up being accurate. Now that we’re a week away from the end of year five - how close were their projections to reality?

Projected vs actual passing DYAR of 2012 draft QBs

Wilson earned 503 passing DYAR in 2014, 1,190 in 2015, and is currently at 515 for 2016, for a total of 2208. Barring the greatest passing performance in NFL history against the San Francisco 49ers, unfortunately Russell Wilson will fall short of 2,650 passing DYAR (but with a great performance he’ll still come relatively close). Prior to the Green Bay Packers game in week 14, Wilson was within 16 DYAR of his projection, but the five-INT performance earned him -205 passing DYAR, predictably setting him back quite a bit. If not for his early season injuries, there’s no doubt in my mind Wilson would’ve finished years three-five with well over 2,650 DYAR.

Of course a huge chunk of Russell Wilson’s production comes from rushing. What happens when we add rushing DYAR to the total?

Combined passing + rushing DYAR of 2012 draft QBs

Russell Wilson needs just 33 (!) DYAR against the 49ers to hit a total of 2,650 and 62 DYAR would put him at the fourth-highest year three-five DYAR out of all 70+ QBs drafted between 1997 and 2012, behind only Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford ... all of whom were taken in the first three picks of the draft:

Passing DYAR leaders, years 3-5 of their career (1997-2012)

Not too bad for the asterisk. Not too bad for LCF either.