With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at the Seattle Seahawks’ do-it-all franchise quarterback.
After a few years of contending for the top spot among fantasy quarterbacks, Russell Wilson went off in 2017, finally managing to score the most at the position. With Brian Schottenheimer taking over as offensive coordinator, can Wilson repeat in 2018?
The Makings of Wilson’s QB1 Campaign
Wilson was the lone bright spot on a Seattle team that failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. His ability to completely carry the offense was on full display as he threw 34 passing touchdowns and took another three in on the ground. The Seahawks managed just one other rushing touchdown all season, meaning Wilson was responsible for 37 of their 38 offensive touchdowns. Wilson’s 4,569 combined passing and rushing yards also accounted for a 80.6% of Seattle’s offensive yardage. If that sounds impressive, it’s because it is; no quarterback has topped that mark in the past decade.
The reason behind Wilson’s historical usage is pretty obvious: Seattle had a useless running game. Take away Wilson’s 586 yards on 95 carries and Seattle is left with 1,043 rushing yards (which would be the lowest total in a 16-game season ever) at 3.3 yards per carry. Not only could Seattle’s backs not score from in close, they couldn’t even get going in the right direction: On 12 carries inside the 5-yard line, they rushed for negative 11 yards.
This comically bad rushing “attack” forced Wilson to attempt the most passes of his career (553) and become wholly reliant on Jimmy Graham in the red zone. Wilson’s passing volume was also affected by the defense beginning to falter for the first time in his career. Seattle ranked a mediocre 13th with 20.8 points per game allowed in 2017, their first season outside the top-three since Wilson was drafted in 2012.
What’s Changed Entering 2018
Seattle appears to be flipping their 2017 script on its head by eyeing a run-heavy approach. Schottenheimer is a run-heavy coordinator, and spending a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny, a sturdy 220-pounder who runs a 4.46 forty and was highly productive at San Diego State, backs this up. Along with the return of Chris Carson, the addition of Penny should provide an immediate upgrade on the ground and help the team become more balanced.
The most noticeable switch will come near the end zone, where Graham and Paul Richardson were featured in place of a rushing attack. The duo combined for 21 targets inside the 10-yard line last season but have since departed in free agency.
The defense is likely to continue to decline — especially if it ends up losing the final bastion of the Legion of Boom, Earl Thomas — and keep Seattle from fully carrying out their run-heavy plans, but based on their offseason moves, the Seahawks are primed to take the air out of the ball a lot more than last season.
All signs still point to a decline in Wilson’s numbers. Remember that 80.6% share of his team’s yardage? Every other player in the top-10 accounted for a lower portion of their team’s output in the following season. Natural regression also suggests the Seahawks will get more production out of their running game, and every touchdown a running back scores is essentially one that last season would have gone to Wilson.
His rushing ability will likely keep him firmly in the QB1 mix, but this isn’t necessarily the year to go against conventional late-round-quarterback wisdom and spend a premium pick on Wilson.
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Pictured above: Russell Wilson
Photo credit:Troy Wayrynen – USA TODAY Sports