I’ve been asked 2-3 times a day for the past two weeks what my take on Russell Wilson was before the season. I know many of you have read my thoughts on the Seattle quarterback, but I’m going to share those original takes, some thoughts about leadership and why Wilson could be the football equivalent of Al Pacino in the Godfather. I’m also sharing a sample of my 2012 RSP Post-Draft Overall Tiered Dynasty Cheatsheet in this post for those who are new to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio – especially those seeking a reason why they should be get the RSP publication every April.
This cheat sheet is separated into color coded tiers. Blue highlight are top‐tier picks. I expect them to make an instant fantasy impact as at least bye‐week options and within 2‐3 years develop into quality starters capable of QB1, RB1, WR1, or TE1 production. Green highlight are players that have similar upside as the top tier, but on average will need more time or work to see the field as a starter or regular contributor.
Red highlight are eventual starters, but may need 2‐3 years to attain that status. On average, this group’s upside is not as great as the preceding tiers. White highlight have the potential to develop into talented situational players within 2‐3 years. Some may exceed this projection and even become stars, but fewer in this tier have that potential than the tiers preceding them. Yellow highlight are projected backups. Just like the positional rankings, players in bold are prospects that I believe are undervalued and have the upside to develop into starters regardless of their starting point.
Next to each player is a value that I generated based on analysis of nine dynasty drafts. Note that it is so early in the dynasty drafting season that these values may not prove accurate even 2‐3 weeks from now. Proceed with caution with this designation and only consider it a guidepost. I calculated the average pick number for each player and I developed a designation is shorthand for the difference between how I value a player and his average spot selected:
- Par –
- Under X
“Par” means I valued the player within +/‐ 5 picks of his average spot selected. Over “X” means I value the player at least five spots lower than his average spot selected. The X represents the number I would add to the players’ average selected spot to feel he’s at his appropriate value according to my rankings. Stephen Hill is an “Over 11.” I think he’s overrated by 11 spots of his average selection spot. He’s average pick spot is 12.8 (pick 12 or 13). Add 11 spots to it and I think if a fantasy owner can get Hill with pick 23 he got good value. Realistically this won’t happen in many drafts, but it should help readers reconcile how to approach my rankings and average value. If Hill were an “Under 11,” then I’m recommending 11 spots be subtracted from his average selection spot and either pick him earlier or recognize there is value on the draft board. Note: Not all players will have a value designation.
|(2) Andrew Luck||Par||IND||(1) Trent Richardson||Par||CLE|
|(3) Robert Griffin||Par||WAS||(4) Doug Martin||Par||TB|
|(12) Ryan Tannehill||Under 6||MIA||(7) David Wilson||Par||NYG|
|(13) Russell Wilson||Under 27||SEA||(8) Ronnie Hillman||Under 10||DEN|
Wilson’s Value Designation of Under 27 was the largest value of the 122 players I ranked on the full cheatsheet. Admittedly, Ryan Lindley, who was second, with an Under 22, didn’t fare so well – but I would take his situation into some account as well. On the other hand, Dwayne Allen (Under 14), T.Y. Hilton (Under 14), and Chris Givens (Under 10) were pretty good. I think you can see why I liked the Colts draft this year.
Back to Wilson. My greatest concerns about him was whether there would be a team willing to buck the old-guard mentality about quarterback height. You can see this caution diminish as the pieces I share with you below progress from pre-draft to post-draft. If you’re new to the RSP blog or somehow missed my thoughts on Wilson here’s what I have been saying about him:
- Futures: Studying The Asterisk: My debut column at Football Outsiders was an analysis of Russell Wilson’s game, not at Wisconsin – where he had a line bigger than most NFL teams that dominated most opponents – but at NC State, where I believe he faced more aggressive and athletic defenses and thrived with a lesser collection of talent. In this analysis I show definitely that Wilson has the arm, anticipation, and improvisational smarts to become a starting NFL quarterback. I compared Wilson’s style to Drew Brees in his early-April analysis and then analyzed Bree’s game in this piece to show how an NFL team would have no problem finding open passing lanes for Wilson. In other words, without having to say it – the idea that Wilson was too short was hardened bullshit lodged in the minds of football traditionalists whose logic against Brees wasn’t based on the game as much as it was based on past biases ingrained in the game.
- Undersized-Underrated: This blog post explains why Wilson’s work in Wisconsin’s offense that thrives with the running game and takes its shots deep with a play action game featuring movement, would easily transfer to the NFL. The Seahawks used a lot of these play action concepts for Wilson to be successful down field this year.
- Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Prince, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and the Difficulty of Comparisons: This piece is not just about Russell Wilson, but why player comparisons are often misunderstood. This column is one I’ve still have readers mention to me months later.
- Russell Wilson’s Victory for ‘Short People’: My buddy Toni Monkovic covers my pre-draft and preseason thoughts on Wilson. Thanks Toni, I could use a little ego inflation here and there. It’s quiet around here sometimes.
- Mike Sando’s ESPN NFC West Blog: I think Mike captures my thoughts best at the point he wrote his post.
I have to say that I’m a converted Seahawks fan and Wilson’s addition and success with the team has been the final nail in the coffin of my history with the Tennessee Titans. I followed the Titans because Steve McNair, Eddie George, and a tough defense played a physically and emotionally resilient brand of football that reminded me of my beloved 1980s Cleveland Browns before Art Modell took them to Baltimore where the last vestiges of that team remains today. My wife is probably having involuntary nervous ticks just from the fact I’m putting this story out here in the universe once again, because she’s heard it so often in such a short period of time. It’s my own personal Three Stooges’ Niagara Falls story.
I can’t cheer for the Ravens because in my heart that city didn’t get my team the right way. Baltimore should have known better than city not to lure a team away from city with a tradition as deep as Cleveland’s. I’m not mad at Ravens fans. It’s not their fault, really. It’s just the nature of business. But It’s painful watching the Ravens. I love Ray Rice’s game. I was chopping wood for his bandwagon as early as Russell Wilson’s. I went to the University of Miami, so don’t even talk to me about Ray Lewis. He should have been a Brown. He is a Brown. They just sent him to the wrong city. Ozzie Newsome was one of my all-time favorite players. The fact he’s such a good GM for what was my team, feels like he’s the NFL Anakin Skywalker turned Darth Vader thanks to the evil emperor Art Modell.
Again, I know it’s just business. Modell isn’t the only one at fault here. The Cleveland city government and Modell were like two dysfunctional spouses screwing up their kids – the people of the city – at every turn. So for those of you who are all about loyalty, and stuck with the team in Cleveland known as the Browns I respect that. Perhaps one day I will have a team I’m loyal to again, but nearly 20 years with the Titans has been a good run. I hope to have the same kind of run with the Seahawks.
I share this with you because the resiliency is hard not to notice with Wilson. He’s the beacon for this team. Watching him in the season opener against a Cardinals defense that gave the Patriots fits later that month, Wilson had that game won for the Seahawks if not for a Braylon Edwards’ dropped pass. Wilson put that ball exactly where it was supposed to go and you could tell by his reaction that he expected to win this game. He’s such a polished guy when it comes to the way he interacts with others, but what I notice is that quiet, laser-focused intensity.
If I were to characterize the five rookie starters from this draft class, here’s what I see and understand this is infotainment more than hard-hitting analysis:
- Andrew Luck: The Colts quarterback is the type of guy that you probably want to hate based on all the hype of him being the most prepared NFL prospect with the most smarts for the game since Peyton Manning. But as you get acquainted with him, you realize that he doesn’t take that shit seriously. What he does care about is football and he’s a football player first, quarterback second. He’ll knock the slobber out of defenders as a blocker and if he throws an interception, he’ll try to put that guy on the sideline for the rest of the game with a good hit. You can’t hate him for being a front-runner because he earns that title every day.
- Robert Griffin: Griffin’s the guy that you know has potential to be a tall tale in every way and when he arrives in your locker room, you still can’t believe it. Everything is off the charts: speed, agility, execution, intelligence, and most of all the willingness to humbly grind yet balance it with leadership that belies his years. He’s also a nasty-tough player with Steve McNair-like toughness that turned Dr. James Andrews into a soap opera starlet last week.
- Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill is that kid in backyard pickup games who looks like an average guy but when it’s time to pick teams he does himself no favors by telling the captains to pick him first because he’s the best player of the bunch. They dismiss what they think is noise and wait to pick him last. He then proceeds to make a strong case to prove his point, which is exceedingly painful to the competition while you’re feeling pretty lucky that you didn’t let him slip by. I think that’s what Tannehill did at Texas A&M as the walk-on when he told Mike Sherman the coach made a mistake not to award him the starting job over Jerrod Johnson. Still, he accepted the role of wide receiver and was the best one on the team. When he got his shot at quarterback, he was excellent at times. There’s a lot to like about Tannehill’s NFL future.
- Brandon Weeden: There’s a laid-back, Cowboy thrill ride going on with this guy. He likes being aggressive and he doesn’t worry about making mistakes. There’s a little Brett Favre in him in that respect – both good and bad. I kind of see him as Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove. There are times he freaks you out, but you can’t help but like his daring.
Then there’s Wilson. To me, Wilson is like the Godfather. Quiet, charming, refined, but he’ll rip your heart out. I’m sitting with 20 of my best Footballguys in Vegas two weeks ago, and we’re watching the Seahawks fall behind early, but I didn’t even worry because Wilson is all business. I initially thought the same thing when Atlanta was up 13-0 and Brian Billick was commenting on the lack of emotion on the sidelines. While I wasn’t optimistic at half-time, there is one thing I recognize with Wilson that I learned in my days a manager: teams adopt the attitude of strong leadership.
Let me emphasize that I said strong leadership, not good leadership. In my past business life, I knew a manager who was a strong leader, but he thrived on chaos. He got great short-term results but he wore everyone out at every turn and he burned bridges. He was eventually promoted and his successor turned out to be a good leader. The successor was a strong leader but he was quiet about it.
He focused on the details. He believed that separation from the competition came from preparation and focus. He also believed it mean staying calm and focused on the little adjustments when things weren’t going well and eventually you’d be back in game. When his bombastic boss would try to to instill his brand of over the top leadership (and don’t get me wrong, high intensity, vocal leadership can also be great) based on chaos to this manager’s operation, he’d quietly ask his boss to meet with him about something urgent in an office and then light into his boss. I saw it and it was pretty impressive in this situation because he fought for ownership of his style, had proof of results, and set the boundaries of expectations for his boss’ behavior while managing upward.
This quiet leader’s team took on his persona and that operation was one of the best of its kind that I saw in my years in that industry. Russell Wilson reminds me of that guy. Pete Carroll shared with the media that Wilson told the Seahawks that he had issues with past coaches and went into detail. Carroll liked this about Wilson, while it worried others. I don’t know what Wilson said, but I’d bet money that Wilson’s issues were things he shared openly, honestly, and professionally with coaches and Carroll like that because he’s not some 1950s, square-cut throwback in a leadership role who doesn’t really know anything about leadership. As long as Wilson stays healthy and the Seahawks can continue to develop talent around him, he’ll be special.