Why Russell Wilson Could Finish as the QB1 in 2020 (Fantasy Football)

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After reading the title of the article, I know what you’re thinking. How could Russell Wilson finish as the QB1 with Lamar Jackson‘s rushing for over 1,000 yards? I get it, he’s my QB1 for 2020, too. But, it’s important to note that the overall QB1 in total fantasy points almost never repeats the following year. The last QB to finish with back to back QB1 overall finishes was Daunte Culpepper in 2003 and 2004. It simply doesn’t happen. Patrick Mahomes is surely in the conversation as well, and even Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray are gaining steam in the QB1 conversation this summer.

Could Russell Wilson actually finish ahead of all of these guys? I believe there’s a path, and I’ll outline it below. To be clear, I’m not projecting Russ as the QB1 for 2020, but there’s a better chance it happens than most people realize. Let’s dive in.

QB Overall Finish By Year
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Russell Wilson has been an absolute monster throughout his NFL career. He’s literally never finished worse than QB11, and that was in his first full season as a starter back in 2012. With four top-4 finishes over the last six seasons, it’s more likely than not that Russ is locked in as a top-5 QB come seasons end. As a result, the QB1 overall finish isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility. After all, he finished as fantasy’s QB1 back in 2017, so he’s got the ceiling to get there and the weapons to make it happen.

Offensive Scheme

The biggest factor holding Russell Wilson back is Brian Schottenheimer’s run-first offense. Since Schottenheimer became the offensive coordinator back in 2018, the Seahawks have ranked first and sixth in rushing play percentage. Similarly, they ranked sixth and second over the past two years in rush attempts on first downs. Translation: They want to run the ball early and often. Obviously, this philosophy doesn’t support a QB’s ceiling when it comes to fantasy production, so this is certainly a knock against Russ in fantasy. But, even if Seattle wants to run the ball at a high rate, they may not be able to in 2020, and that’s the key for Russell Wilson to reach his ceiling.

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Running Back Injuries
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The top three running backs on Seattle’s depth chart are all recovering from 2019 injuries.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle’s 1st round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 14 last year. In addition to the ACL injury, Penny also picked up additional damage inside the joint, which always prolongs the recovery following surgery. Penny is a virtual lock to start the season on the PUP, and is extremely unlikely to return to his pre-injury level of play until 2021.

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Carlos Hyde tore the labrum in his shoulder while playing for Houston last year and underwent surgery in February to repair the labrum. This surgery carries a 6-8 month recovery timeline until the athlete is allowed to resume contact sports. Hyde will likely be ready for Week 1, but it’s important to understand that even with surgery to repair the injury, the risk of shoulder dislocation is elevated compared to other players who have not had this injury. The labrum is a thin piece of fibrocartilage that lines the socket of the shoulder to help create stability. When injured, there is a high risk of dislocation, especially in contact sports, so you’ll almost always see NFL players undergo this surgery if they have this injury. The risk of re-injury upon return to the field is about 10-12% depending on what research study you read, with the rate increasing in high-risk sports, such as football.

Chris Carson‘s 2019 season came to an end in Week 16 due to a fracture in his hip. Fortunately, he was able to avoid surgery, which suggests this was not a complex fracture (such as Tua’s). Most likely, the fracture was to the rim of the socket or to the top of the femur (thigh bone). At any rate, the fracture in the hip causes the athlete to be immobilized for a period of time in order to allow the bone to heal properly. For the winter months, it’s likely that Carson wasn’t able to perform the strengthening routine he’s used to because of the fracture. As a result, Carson’s offseason training routine is delayed from a timeline perspective. I fully expect Carson to be ready for Week 1, but given the delayed timeline in his offseason conditioning program, it’s fair to ask what type of “football” shape he might be in.

If you’re looking for even more detailed injury analysis, be sure to check out my Injury Report section in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

2020 Outlook

We know Seattle wants to run the ball, but will they be able to? Their top three running backs are all recovering from injury, and the defense projects to be the worst it’s been in the past decade. The Legion of Boom is no longer, and there are major question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, Seattle ranked 23rd in opponent yards allowed per game,  27th in yards allowed per play, 19th in opponent points per game, and 24th in sacks per game.

Jadaveon Clowney remains unsigned, and newly acquired defensive back, Quintin Dunbar, finds himself in legal trouble this offseason. This Seattle defense projects to a bottom 10 unit once again in 2020. Being able to rely heavily on the run game requires a defense to be able to stop opposing teams so that the offense can run the ball when winning. I expect Seattle to find themselves in a lot of shootouts this year, especially playing in the NFC West against the Cardinals, Rams, and Niners.

The formula for Russ to be the QB1 relies heavily on this narrative to hold true. If the defense is bad enough, and/or the running backs aren’t healthy enough to run the ball effectively, Russell Wilson could find himself being forced into a ton of passing situations with the Seahawks trailing in the second half. In 2017, when Wilson was the QB1 overall, Seattle ranked 16th in the NFL in pass attempts per game, so it’s not like they need to be in the top-5 of pass attempts for this to happen. Wilson’s insane efficiency and the ability to turn broken plays into huge gains gives him the upside that few QBs have in today’s NFL. Even with Schottenheimer wanting to run the ball like crazy, Russ has thrown for 35 and 31 TDs over the past two years, and he’s seen his yards per attempt grow to more than 8.0 in each of the last two seasons. With his mind-meld chemistry with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf rounding into form in his second season in the NFL, the outlook for Russ in 2020 is better than it appears.

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