Pro Football Focus’s annual “PFF50” list of the 50 best players in the NFL is trickling out, with the top ten to be revealed tomorrow. We wont have to wait that long to find out where the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback ranked, as he landed at the respectable position of twenty-second. Per Sam Monson of PFF:
“Since the start of the 2018 season, the only active quarterback with a higher overall PFF grade than Wilson is Patrick Mahomes. Wilson’s season unraveled pretty quickly down the stretch last year, but before that point, he was the front-runner for MVP and had been playing at an incredibly high level for a couple of years. Wilson has the highest big-time throw rate in the league over the last three years at 7.9%, and only Aaron Rodgers has a lower turnover-worthy play rate than Wilson’s 2.3%.”
Russ ends up one spot behind Chargers’ pass rusher and former third overall pick Joey Bosa, and one spot ahead of Denver defensive back Justin Simmons. He is only the third quarterback to make the list thus far, ranking ahead of Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. In addition to this, he is currently the only Seahawks player to make the list. Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner made appearances last year (Adams was still listed as a Jet at the time), and both are candidates to crack the top ten, but we will have to wait another day to see if PFF agrees. What we do know right now is that Wilson dropped fourteen positions from his preseason ranking last year when PFF had him in the top ten (seventh overall). This brings up some questions, but mainly... are there really twenty one players going into the 2021 season who are better at what they do than Russell Wilson?
The Seahawks finished 2020 on a cold streak offensively, and we all watched as the same team that set the scoreboard on fire for the first half of the season struggled to adjust to an improved slate of defenses in the second half. But after posting team- and career-record stats along with leading his squad back to another NFC West title and postseason appearance, I find it difficult to imagine why Wilson is ranked significantly lower heading into the coming season than he was last year. Factoring in his rushing, he combined for over 4,700 yards of total offense and 42 touchdowns. And there is little reason to think that his pace will slow down; new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s scheme is already receiving rave reviews from players, and the passing attack will once again feature two of the most talented wide receivers in the league in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, along with explosive rookie D’Wayne Eskridge. Wilson will turn 33 in November, but after posting two of his most statistically impressive seasons in ‘19 and ‘20, he looks every bit the part of a signal caller who has many productive years ahead of him. And the rumors of the demise of his ground game are wildly exaggerated; last season, Wilson posted over 500 rushing yards for the first time in three years, and tied for his second best YPC with 6.2. His PFF rushing grade of 75.9 was the second best of his career, falling just a hair behind his rookie score of 76.1.
Further regarding PFF scores, Wilson has received his two highest overall grades in the last two seasons. While his score did drop slightly in 2020, he still managed to surpass 90 for the second consecutive year. By all accounts, Russ is trending up if he is trending any direction at all. Few players can sustain such a high level of play throughout their careers, and those who do are uniquely talented. Which, again, brings me back to my original question; is Russell Wilson really the twenty-second best player in the NFL right now? In no particular order, here are a few players who are listed above Wilson:
- Fred Warner - LB, San Francisco 49ers
- T.J. Watt - EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Chris Jones - DL, Kansas City Chiefs
- Derrick Henry - RB, Tennessee Titans
- Jaire Alexander - CB, Green Bay Packers
All phenomenal players in their own right, but are they better than Russell Wilson? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Wilson effectively shattered the prototype of what an NFL QB looks like, paving the way for players like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to get drafted first overall despite lacking the prerequisite extra inches of height that teams used to treat as the gold standard for signal callers. And he continues to perform at a high level, arguably improving his game with each successive year in the league. Of course, preseason lists are mostly arbitrary and are more of a reflection of the Football media zeitgeist than anything else. But I still find myself curious as to why PFF seems to be much lower on Russ heading into this season than they did last year.
2021 will certainly be an important year for the veteran QB. After a flurry of trade speculation in the offseason that ultimately fizzled out, Wilson is set to enter his tenth season as a Seahawk. For a player who has often performed his best in the face of adversity, I leave with one final question... has the disrespect been well noted?