2016 Fantasy Report Card: Russell Wilson

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I only owned Russell Wilson in a small percentage of my leagues last season. Still, I was a very big fan. His 2016 ADP, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, was 54th overall and he was the third QB off the board. This was a reasonable price to pay considering Wilson had finished as a top 10 fantasy QB in all four seasons of his career heading into 2016. Even better, he finished as the overall QB5 in 2014 and the overall QB3 in 2015.

Many, including myself, felt Wilson had the possibility of finishing the 2016 season as the overall QB1. So, when he was available to me in the 6th round of a few of my MFL10s, I had to swipe right. I saved my most aggressive courtship, though, for the Scott Fish Bowl. Due to the Superflex (having the ability to start two QBs) format of this league, Wilson’s proven rushing upside, and the fact the Scott Fish Bowl awarded .25 points per carry, I selected Wilson in the first round (or as the kids like to say, I “tatted” his name on it so he knew it was real). Needless to say, I was very excited about Wilson’s 2016 prospects.

2016: Season Review

So what happened in 2016 that caused Russell Wilson to finish as the overall QB16? Let’s take a look at his numbers and compare them to every other season of his career to see if we can find some answers. First off, let’s look at his passing stats:

Russell Wilson’s Career Passing Numbers By Year

Year G Cmp Att Cmp% Pass Yds Pass TDs TD% Int
2012 16 252 393 64.1 3118 26 6.6 10
2013 16 257 407 63.1 3357 26 6.4 9
2014 16 285 452 63.1 3475 20 4.4 7
2015 16 329 483 68.1 4024 34 7 8
2016 16 353 546 64.7 4219 21 3.8 11

Now, you might be sitting here saying, “Why am I staring at all of these numbers? Isn’t it your job to analyze them for me and break them down in a way that makes it easier for me to efficiently get the takeaways from this article that I want?” Well, my friend, you are exactly correct. So let’s take this a step further:

As these two graphs show, Russell Wilson’s pass attempts, pass completions, and passing yards have increased every season of his career. On a macro level, these trends are extremely promising. On a micro level for just 2016, they tell me Wilson could have actually improved on his 2015 fantasy season rather than showing significant regression. So, where did he end up falling short? One major area was his TD production:

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Wilson scored the fewest total (Pass + Rush) TDs of his career in 2016. In fact, he scored four fewer than he had in any other season. Through the air alone, he threw the second fewest pass TDs of his career and only improved upon his lowest total by one. Even worse, his 3.8 TD% (TD passes/pass attempts) was the lowest of his career. On top of all that, Wilson unfortunately also set a career high in INTs.

Wilson’s other shortcoming was his lack of rushing production. Let’s take a look at his 2016 rushing numbers and then compare them to the rest of his career:

Russell Wilson’s Career Rushing Numbers By Year

Year Rush Att Rush Yds Rush TDs Longest Rush Y/A Y/G Att/G
2012 94 489 4 25 5.2 30.6 5.9
2013 96 539 1 27 5.6 33.7 6
2014 118 849 6 55 7.2 53.1 7.4
2015 103 553 1 24 5.4 34.6 6.4
2016 72 259 1 18 3.6 16.2 4.5

I decided to highlight Wilson’s poor rushing year with this chart showing his uninspiring 2016 in terms of total rushing yards. However, the reality is his numbers were down across the board last season. Wilson finished with the fewest rushing attempts, rushing yards, yards/attempt, yards/game, attempts/game, and longest rush of his career. He also tied for the fewest rush TDs of his career with only one.

Final Grade: C- (With Context)

Wilson’s disappointing 2016 season has earned him a Final Grade of a C-. However, let’s put all of this into perspective. Now that we know what was largely responsible for Wilson’s lack of elite fantasy production in 2016, the question we must ask ourselves is whether these new data points are likely to continue or if they were a statistical outlier. “I’ma stay ride or die” with Wilson heading into next season because I believe 2016 was a blip on the radar in an otherwise stellar beginning to a fantasy career. There are a few reasons why I believe this.

For one, although Wilson played all 16 games, he was very clearly playing at less than 100% for a large portion of the season. Wilson injured his ankle in Week 1 and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported “sources originally believed” he would miss multiple games. Then just two weeks later, Wilson was tackled extremely awkwardly and suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee. It wasn’t until a Week 9 win against the Bills on Monday Night Football that Wilson started looking like his healthy, mobile self again. It’s a reasonable theory to have that these injuries played a role in Wilson producing his worst rushing output in a season of his entire career. More so, because Wilson’s mobility within the pocket was hindered, it’s possible his passing numbers were impacted to some degree in a negative way as well.

Secondly, there is variance involved in TD production from year to year. Wilson’s 22 total TDs this past season were not anything to write home about. However, we also have four other seasons of data in which Wilson never finished below 26 total TDs. In two of those seasons, Wilson hit the 30+ total TD mark and just two seasons ago, he finished with 35. That four-year sample size prior to 2016 suggests Wilson’s TD production will likely positively regress back to the mean next season, especially if he is able to stay healthy.

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Moving Forward Into 2017

Russell Wilson is a dual threat QB whose career passing trends have been increasing in terms of volume. With reasons to believe his 2016 struggles were a bit of a fluke, combined with his new reduced cost – Wilson’s ADP is currently 72nd overall and the QB8 according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com – thanks to recency bias, there is definitely a chance I will be slow dancing with Wilson again next season. I normally like to wait on taking a QB in redraft and could still employ that strategy in 2017. Still, if Wilson is available to me in the late 6th – 8th round range, depending on who is also available at the WR and RB positions, I’ll be thinking hard about giving those mobile and hopefully healthy legs another chance to prove to me what they got on the dance floor (football field). What can I say, I’m a man that likes to have options but ultimately knows what he wants.

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