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Measuring Russell Wilson’s value through his first 6 seasons

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What have only Russell Wilson and Lawrence Taylor accomplished?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

“Don’t get bored with consistency.” – Russell Wilson

Post-game dinners at Met Grill, Tuesdays at Seattle Children’s, and “Go Hawks” after every interview. Russell Wilson is a creature of habit. He embodies what is arguably Pete Carroll’s most coveted quality in his players: grit.

The ability to sustain consistent effort towards a long term goal.

Not surprisingly, that consistency has also manifested itself on the football field. There are a plethora of statistics we could use to demonstrate this, but arguably none better than the Approximate Value (AV) stat, developed by the great folks at Pro-Football-Reference.com.

What is AV?

AV applies a single number to the seasonal value of every NFL player based on a detailed but relatively straightforward formula: offenses are credited with AV points based on offensive points per drive scored relative to league average, and those points are distributed amongst individual offensive players based on their volume of contribution. Similarly, defenses are credited with AV points based on defensive points allowed per drive relative to league average, and individual defensive players are credited with AV points based on games played as well as sacks, fumble recoveries, interceptions, TDs, and tackles. Players can earn bonuses if they are particularly efficient, or if they earn a spot on the All-Pro team.

As is the case with any NFL statistic, AV is by no means perfect (and it stresses this by literally including “approximate” in its name) but as is also the case with many other NFL statistics, over large sample sizes, AV tends to mirror the consensus opinions we have about players. For example, the three Seahawks players with the highest career AV just happen to be the three Seahawks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Steve Largent (140 AV), Walter Jones (127 AV), and Cortez Kennedy (122 AV). So where does Russell Wilson stand in Approximate Value?

NFL Quarterback Approximate Value, seasons 1-6

Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
1 Russell Wilson 2012 2017 3-75 SEA 96 6 100
2 Peyton Manning 1998 2003 1-1 CLT 96 6 94
2 Cam Newton 2011 2016 1-1 CAR 93 6 94
4 Dan Marino* 1983 1988 1-27 MIA 87 6 90
5 Matt Ryan 2008 2013 1-3 ATL 94 6 86
6 Daunte Culpepper 1999 2004 1-11 MIN 74 6 84
7 Jeff Garcia 1999 2004 TOT 85 6 81
8 Steve Grogan 1975 1980 5-116 NWE 85 6 77
8 Jim Kelly* 1986 1991 1-14 BUF 86 6 77
10 Boomer Esiason 1984 1989 2-38 CIN 85 6 76
pro-football-reference.com

In his first 6 seasons, Russell Wilson has earned 100 AV points. No other QB has earned more than 94 (Peyton Manning, Cam Newton) and only one other QB has earned more than 90 (Dan Marino).

Not only is Wilson the most valuable QB through his first 6 seasons, he is the 3rd most valuable player – from any position:

NFL player Approximate Value, seasons 1-6

Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
1 LaDainian Tomlinson* 2001 2006 1-5 SDG 95 6 106
2 Emmitt Smith* 1990 1995 1-17 DAL 93 6 102
3 Russell Wilson 2012 2017 3-75 SEA 96 6 100
3 Lawrence Taylor* 1981 1986 1-2 NYG 89 6 100
5 Thurman Thomas* 1988 1993 2-40 BUF 94 6 97
6 Edgerrin James 1999 2004 1-4 CLT 81 6 94
6 Peyton Manning 1998 2003 1-1 CLT 96 6 94
6 Cam Newton 2011 2016 1-1 CAR 93 6 94
6 Reggie White* 1985 1990 1-4 PHI 89 6 94
6 Patrick Willis 2007 2012 1-11 SFO 92 6 94
pro-football-reference.com

2017 marked the fifth season of his career that Russell Wilson earned 16 or more AV points. Only 17 players in post-merger NFL history have ever had 5 or more seasons with 16+ AV points; Wilson becomes the 18th - and the first Seahawk - to appear on that list:

Most seasons with 16+ Approximate Value points

Rank Player Draft From To Tm Seasons
Rank Player Draft From To Tm Seasons
1 Peyton Manning 1-1 1999 2014 IND/DEN 12
2 Tom Brady 6-199 2007 2017 NWE 8
3 Drew Brees 2-32 2004 2017 LAC/NOR 8
4 Lawrence Taylor* 1-2 1981 1990 NYG 8
5 Ray Lewis 1-26 1999 2009 BAL 7
6 Reggie White* 1-4 1986 1998 PHI/GNB 7
7 Brett Favre* 2-33 1994 2009 GNB/MIN 6
8 Anthony Munoz* 1-3 1981 1989 CIN 6
9 Philip Rivers 1-4 2006 2013 SDG 6
10 Rod Woodson* 1-10 1989 2000 PIT/BAL 6
11 Derrick Brooks* 1-28 1999 2005 TAM 5
12 Marshall Faulk* 1-2 1994 2001 IND/STL 5
13 Jerry Rice* 1-16 1989 1995 SFO 5
14 Aaron Rodgers 1-24 2009 2016 GNB 5
15 Barry Sanders* 1-3 1990 1997 DET 5
16 Emmitt Smith* 1-17 1991 1995 DAL 5
17 LaDainian Tomlinson* 1-5 2003 2007 SDG 5
18 Russell Wilson 3-75 2012 2017 SEA 5
Note: every player with an asterisk by their name is a Hall of Famer. pro-football-reference.com

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Wilson’s Approximate Value is that he’s never had a “bad” season by AV. In 2016 (Wilson’s worst season by AV), he still earned 14 points. Manning, Newton, and Marino all had seasons with 11 points or fewer at some point in their first six years. Wilson’s AV consistency is so rare that he and Lawrence Taylor are the only players in NFL history to earn 14+ AV points in each of their first 6 seasons.

Wilson’s career AV of 100 also makes him the 5th most valuable player in Seahawks history:

Most valuable Seahawks by Approximate Value

Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
Rank Player From To Draft Team Games Years AV
1 Steve Largent* 1976 1989 4-117 SEA 200 14 140
2 Walter Jones* 1997 2008 1-6 SEA 180 12 127
3 Cortez Kennedy* 1990 2000 1-3 SEA 167 11 122
4 Jacob Green 1980 1991 1-10 SEA 178 12 106
5 Russell Wilson 2012 2017 3-75 SEA 96 6 100
6 Joe Nash 1982 1996 SEA 218 15 98
7 Dave Krieg 1980 1991 SEA 129 12 97
8 Matt Hasselbeck 2001 2010 6-187 SEA 138 10 94
9 Jeff Bryant 1982 1993 1-6 SEA 175 12 90
10 Richard Sherman 2011 2017 5-154 SEA 105 7 86
pro-football-reference.com

After a 9-7 season and missing the playoffs, it might be easy for Seahawks fans to not be that impressed by all of this. But like Russell says, don’t get bored with consistency. The wins and rings will come, and nothing can change this reality:

Through his first six seasons, Russell Wilson is the most valuable QB by Approximate Value in NFL history.