2018 Fantasy Report Card: Russell Wilson

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Russell Wilson is the highest paid player in the NFL and undoubtedly a top-5 franchise QB in the NFL. He’s a game changer who excels as both a passer and a rusher. If my team is down in the fourth quarter with a minute left on the clock, there’s no one else I’d rather have leading a comeback drive. Well, except for Tom Brady… But number two isn’t a bad spot.

Wilson was the fourth QB taken in 2018 fantasy drafts but finished the season as the QB-9. Despite posting a career-high QB rating and throwing a touchdown on a ridiculous 8.2% of his passes, his opportunities were limited because the Seahawks focused on the run game. 2nd-and-5: RUN. 3rd-and-10: RUN. I’m pretty sure Pete Carroll’s signal for a run play was to chew gum.

Before we label Wilson’s season a disappointment, let’s take a deeper look and then hand out his Report Card.

2018: Season Review

Coming off a QB1 finish in 2017, Wilson was drafted at the top of the sixth round last year. While Andy, Mike, and Jason always recommend waiting on a quarterback, it’s difficult to pass on the reigning QB1 at his average ADP of pick 63. Russell Wilson is one of my favorite NFL players because he’s a winner and he’s a pretty good guy off the field, too. So why not take a shot at a player that’s fun to watch who has fantasy QB1 upside?

Before we look at 2018, let’s analyze his QB1 finish in 2017 because it’s misleading. After all, fantasy value is all about a player’s production relative to other players in that position. From 2014-2016, the fantasy QB1 scored an average of 21.5+ points per game. Wilson secured the QB1 spot with 18.7 points per game in a down 2017 year for quarterbacks. Wilson only provided a +1.6 point positional advantage in 2017 (compared to the average top-12 QB). To put this into perspective, Pat Mahomes provided a whopping +6.0 point positional advantage in 2018 using the same metrics! Lesson learned: pay attention to position trends when projecting fantasy production.

Fastfoward to 2018: The Seahawks were dead last in pass attempts but second in rushing attempts. The offense ran through Chris Carson (who should repeat in 2019). It’s concerning that Wilson wasn’t a bigger part of the Seahawks’ rushing attack, as he’s an excellent runner but was held to the fewest rushing attempts (67) of his career and recorded zero rushing touchdowns. Wilson’s best fantasy seasons have always come with a solid floor of rushing production.

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Wilson only had two great games this past year as defined in The TRUTH about Fantasy QBs in 2018. However, he had a good game 69% of the time and posted a consistency rank of #8.

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Wilson continued his trend of exploding in the 2nd half of the season and was the “sneaky” QB-3 from weeks 8 – 16. Those who were able to “withstand victories” in the first half of the season were rewarded. However, few players were more polarizing in the fantasy playoffs. He only scored 9 points in a disappointing week 14 matchup against the Vikings, knocking many fantasy players out of the playoffs. If you managed to survive and had the confidence to roll with Wilson, you were rewarded with his best performance of the season on championship weekend (week 16).

Wilson was the peanut butter sandwich of 2018. It started off OK and got better with every bite, but you’re still left wanting more.

2018 Final Grade: C+

Those who drafted Wilson in 2018 wish they had listened to their instincts and waited on QB. However, he still had flashes of fantasy goodness so he wasn’t a complete bust.  Wilson would have earned a B- if it hadn’t been for the Week 14 dud.

Entering 2019, his ADP has dropped a full round to the beginning of the 7th in 12-team leagues. For me, his asking price is too steep given the new offensive scheme in Seattle. I project his passing attempts will increase but his efficiency will regress. There are also a lot of question marks around him. Doug Baldwin may retire this offseason due to injuries. Tyler Lockett should post another solid season but is due for regression. D.K. Metcalf is an exciting recent addition to the team, but rookie wide receivers take years to develop and Metcalf’s range of outcomes is quite possibly the largest among NFL newcomers. Ancillary pieces like David Moore, Jaron Brown, and Will “Big Montana” Dissly may take steps forward but are largely unproven.

I won’t own any Russell Wilson shares in 2019 unless Baldwin or Metcalf shine bright in the preseason.  Wilson should remain a back half QB1 this upcoming season, so I’d rather draft an upside QB in the double digits rounds and use my 7th round pick on a WR, RB, or TE.  He will still be one of the most electric NFL players to watch in 2019.

However, I am all in on Russell Wilson in dynasty leagues. I think he’s the perfect buy low candidate between now and halfway through the season before he inevitably heats up again. I promise you that one day Wilson will return as an elite fantasy quarterback. Buy him soon while he’s still affordable!

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