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09 Apr 2012

Futures: Studying "The Asterisk"

by Matt Waldman

I’m fascinated by the underdog, exceptions to the rule, and ideas that run counter to convention. I believe there’s merit to the idea that once something in life becomes conventional, it’s no longer the safest path to success. So I think it’s only fitting that I make my Football Outsiders debut with a column devoted to a player Aaron Schatz labeled "The Asterisk," in FO's 2012 Lewin Career Forecast.

Wisconsin quarterback (by way of N.C. State) Russell Wilson has the highest LCF score of any quarterback –- including Robert Griffin –- since the inception of this projection tool. There are two reasons Schatz labeled Wilson as "The Asterisk": the fact that Wilson transferred programs between his junior to senior years, and the fact that he stands just 5-foot-11 (if rounding up). The odds of an NFL team drafting him within the first three rounds seems low, especially considering past history.

But the Futures column is about studying on-field behaviors more than statistical results. I document my obsession with positional technique, strategic execution, and athleticism in my annual publication, The Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I’ll be analyzing players based on my RSP methods from the opening kick of the college season through the NFL draft in this column.

This week, I’m going to show you why Wilson has NFL starter potential and why the 6-foot-0 Drew Brees is a good template for how an NFL team can win with Wilson. There's a catch though: I’m not going to illustrate my points with Wilson’s Wisconsin tape. The Badgers offensive line is bigger than all but four NFL teams, and its ground game gave Wilson luxuries as a senior that he didn’t have as frequently at N.C. State. I’m drawing my analysis from Wilson’s junior year with the Wolfpack versus North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Florida State -– three ACC powers with a recent history of good NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball.

Improvisational Skill

We all know that NFL quarterbacks must be able to make lemonade from the lemons that opposing defenses throw at them. Wilson demonstrates this improvisational skill in his game and a good example is a second-and-7 pass from a 3x1 shotgun set versus North Carolina.

UNC’s defensive front runs a twist, and the result is pressure up the middle from first-round prospect Quinton Coples. Coples will force Wilson to escape the pocket to his right, and Wilson scrambles with designs on the tight end in the right flat, outside the numbers, with coverage over the top.

Although the tight end makes no adjustment, Wilson does a great job of getting his receiver open while eluding pressure and never taking his eyes off his intended target. Wilson initially manipulates the defense when he reaches the numbers by raising his throwing elbow to a level where he can release the ball.

When Wilson’s move tips off the defender over the top of the tight end to break inside, the quarterback brings the ball down. With Coples in hot pursuit, Wilson veers to his right to not only avoid the lineman but forces the defender jumping the tight end’s route to pursue Wilson to the sideline.

This slide to the sideline opens a throwing lane for Wilson to make an underhanded throw to his tight end for a three-yard completion and a total gain of five.

Wilson’s toss turns a second-and-7 play that appeared certain to end with a negative outcome into a far more positive third-and-2 situation. Athleticism is only a commodity in the NFL when the athlete knows how to use it. This is one of several examples in Wilson’s career where he flashes improvisational savvy as a passer.

Throwing Receivers Open

The best quarterbacks in the NFL have become skilled at delivering the football to a spot where only the receiver has a chance to make a play on it. Wilson is adept at throwing receivers open in a variety of situations. Here’s a play-action bootleg against North Carolina where Wilson completes a 48-yard pass on first-and-10.

The play begins with an excellent play-action fake where Wilson not only extends the ball towards the runner, but he completes the action by turning his head towards the line of scrimmage just before he begins his roll to the opposite side of the field.

This is a level of detail that Wilson executes consistently with his play-action fakes, and it helps freeze the defense an extra beat before he begins his rollouts. On this play, the N.C. State quarterback unfurls a deep ball that he places 40 yards downfield, intentionally to the sideline, so his receiver can make the best adjustment against his coverage for the reception.

As you can see above, Wilson’s receiver is looking to the inside, but Wilson knows that he is less likely to deliver an accurate deep ball with a throw to the inside, since he’ll have to make that throw across his body. Instead, Wilson places the ball short and to the outside.

Considering that Wilson has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to throw the ball 50-55 yards on the move with accuracy, I believe the placement of this 48-yard completion was intentionally short and to the outside to give his receiver the best chance to make the play.

Wilson also demonstrates this skill to throw his teammates open while under pressure. A good example is this opening play against Virginia Tech. N.C. State comes to the line in a three-receiver, zero-back shotgun set against the Hokies’ double A-gap blitz from their 4-3 alignment.

Wilson knows that his slot receiver at the near side of the screen has drawn a linebacker in single coverage, and he looks to him all the way. With the middle linebacker coming through the A-gap untouched and bearing down on the quarterback, Wilson makes a good throw off his back foot.

Wilson’s pass covers 35 yards from release to reception, landing 25 yards past the line of scrimmage. It's placed down the seam, just enough to the inside so that the receiver can adjust to the ball for a 31-yard gain.

Wilson’s receiver, Jarvis Williams (circled above), is originally tracking the ball over his outside shoulder, but the N.C. State quarterback delivers the ball to the inside, giving the receiver a chance to make a break on it. Dan Marino once said that if he were a scout, that he’d make prospects throw the ball off their back foot and odd angles during workouts. The reasoning being that it is exactly what they’ll have to do successfully to win in the NFL. Wilson would pass this portion of the Marino Quarterback Workout with flying colors.

Wilson throws another receiver open off his back foot later in the half for a 35-yard gain. Virginia Tech brought the same blitz as the play mentioned above on a first-and-10 with 6:27 left in the half. Wilson's throw was lofted between two defenders so that his wideout could high-point the ball for the catch. In fact, Wilson does it a third time in the half on fourth-and-9 with 5:33 left, from a two-by-two receiver, one-back shotgun set. The Hokies sent a corner blitz from the slot defensive back. Wilson targets the slot receiver the blitzer left behind to attack the pocket, and hits his wide receiver in the end zone with a 50-yard throw from the opposite hash. Unfortunately for Wilson, the wideout loses the ball in the sun and the pass ricochets off his face mask. Incomplete? Yes. Inaccurate? Not a chance.

One of the better plays of Wilson’s career is a back-shoulder throw versus Florida State at the top of the fourth quarter, after Wilson has brought his team back from a 21-7 deficit. The play begins on third-and-22 from a two-receiver, one-back shotgun set. FSU sends three and drops eight, including the near side defensive end, who drifts to the middle of the field as a spy for Wilson.

FSU’s three linemen constrict the pocket. With no path to climb the ladder, Wilson has to spin from the pocket to his right.

Wilson delivers the ball, while on the move, 36 yards downfield from release point to reception, hitting his receiver on the back-shoulder for a 28-yard gain.

Wilson’s receiver Williams turns back to the well-placed pass as the defensive back overruns the ball.

First down in the red zone.

What was most impressive about Wilson’s performance in this game is that, for most of the night, FSU’s pressure limited his downfield attempts. The defense sacked Wilson three times in the first half, but the N.C. State quarterback managed to keep his team in the game with ball control passing and his legs -– he rushed for three scores to get the team back into the game. Despite a more conservative second-half approach, Wilson still managed to pick good spots to be aggressive downfield.

Dangerous to his Left and on the Move

The examples above show Wilson making plays when moving to his right, but NFL defenses will eventually learn that they’ll pay when they force the quarterback to his left. Against North Carolina, Wilson executes a play-action boot to his left that falls long of the target when his receiver gets tangled with the corner downfield. Although the pass is long, Wilson delivered the ball 55 yards down field while rolling left.

Here’s a more accurate pass with Wilson moving to his left on a third-and-17 play from a shotgun set with a slot receiver to the left. Virginia Tech runs a five-man zone blitz with its defensive end dropping to the right flat and the linebacker and nickelback coming off the left edge.

Wilson anticipates the blitz, looks to his left, and climbs the pocket while looking to the left flat.

Wilson then delivers a pass to his left, on the move, that covers 25 yards from release point to reception.

Wilson hits the wide receiver just under the defensive back for the 24-yard completion.

Athleticism and the skill to throw on the move to his left will make Wilson a tough player to defend in the NFL, because he can hurt teams when forced to either side of the field. Wilson repeatedly made accurate throws to his left in this game. In fact, he made this kind of throw on the very next play, a first-and-10 pass from a shotgun set with a slot receiver to his left.

Wilson feels pressure and begins to break the pocket up the middle only to see the Virginia Tech defensive tackle coming free.

Wilson bounces the play to his left, locates his receiver turning up the flat to the end zone, and while on the move, lofts the ball over two defenders for a 34-yard touchdown.

The Quick Play-Action Game

A valid criticism of Wilson’s game is that there aren’t as many examples of him making plays where he adjusts to pressure within the pocket. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t examples of him making plays from the pocket. Here’s a demonstration of excellent timing on a 29-yard play-action pass completed to his receiver in the middle of the field, over the middle linebacker and under the safety. The play begins on second-and-7 with 2:00 in the first quarter, from a bunch right set with 10 personnel.

Wilson begins the play with a great sell of the run fake as he completes a three-step drop.

Note the way Wilson has his back to the defense and his shoulders hunched over as if he’s completing the exchange with the runner. Wilson finishes his drop, takes a hitch step, and delivers a ball with excellent timing to his wide receiver on the deep cross.

Drew Brees: The Ideal Way Wilson’s Game Translates

Like Wilson, Drew Brees’ game is about manipulation of the pocket and the secondary with the help of movement: play action, short drops, bootlegs, partial rolls, and misdirection. I charted the Saints offense in the 2010 NFC Championship game, and 70 percent of Brees’ 33 pass attempts feature movement by the quarterback in order to manipulate the defense. The purpose of this movement is not just to fool the secondary, but also to create wide passing lanes. When a team can consistently create these types of passing lanes, height isn’t as much of an issue for the quarterback. If Wilson can develop the same feel for pressure and build on his read and recognition skills, then the things Brees displays below are well within Wilson’s capability as a passer.

Creating Passing Lanes with Designed Partial Rolls

The Saints begin the game with consecutive partial rolls. The first one takes place on first-and-10 with 9:27 in the opening quarter. The Saints offense has the ball at the far hash with the line occupying the narrow side of the field.

With three receivers on the wide side, Brees has a large area of field to make throws with wide-open passing lanes if he drops to his right, and that’s exactly what he does with a partial roll-out.

The Vikings front seven is essentially left behind and Brees has a wide-open passing lane for an easy, five-yard gain in the right flat. This isn’t dramatic pocket movement, but it’s something Russell Wilson can execute to either side of the field.

The next play is a second-and-5 throw from an I-formation set, with 9:03 in the first quarter. This time Brees executes a play-action pass with another half-roll to the right.

Both the play fake and the half-roll help manipulate the shape of the pocket by inducing the defense to follow the running back to the left side of the line. This creates a pocket with fewer bodies to the right and creates wider passing lanes for Brees to release the ball.

Brees looks initially to his left to hit a deep target, but the progression takes the quarterback’s eyes to the right side of the field, where he delivers a pass that covers 28 yards from its release point to the receiver breaking at the right sideline.

The pass is a little long and falls incomplete, but the photo above is another illustration of what the Saints accomplish with an athletic, mobile passer capable of delivering accurate throws after stretching the boundaries of the pocket. New Orleans’ third play in this series is also play action with a partial roll to the right. It ends with the completion of a wide receiver screen for a first down on third-and-5.

These same concepts also work effectively with the deep passing game, and Brees is among the best vertical passers in the league. Considering the examples from Wilson’s junior year in the Atlantic Coast Conference where he’s effective on deep passes off play action, throws receivers open, and improvises on the move, his potential to develop into an NFL quarterback is better than his height may indicate. Still, it is reasonable to approach Wilson’s NFL prospects with skepticism. Brees never overcame doubts from the organization that drafted him, so it’s likely that the Lewin Career Forecast’s Asterisk will initially be considered a draft day afterthought. However, as Brees, Tom Brady, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, and several others have demonstrated, careers don’t end due to an inauspicious beginning.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 09 Apr 2012

44 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2013, 9:10am by Pixdawg13

Comments

1
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:05pm

Hey folks. Working on making sure the photos are in the right places. New column, lots of photos. Bear with us for a couple minutes...

UPDATE: I believe we're all fixed now.

2
by ebongreen :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:20pm

Umm, not quite. The first picture under Drew Brees is a dupe of an earlier Russell Wilson pic; it seems out of place. :-,

4
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:25pm

But it does support the argument that Russell Wilson is just Drew Brees in makeup.

5
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:27pm

OK. We were missing one photo. I think we've got it set right now.

6
by Joseph :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:29pm

First photo of Brees is still showing Wilson. May have been fixed since I started the comment.

3
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:25pm

I like Wilson for many of the same reasons I like QBs who had success in the MAC -- he was a successful QB with a lot of practice playing against teams with better defenses than he had an offense. I think the hurdle to the NFL is easier if you're used to defenses who play faster than your skill players.

Not many highly-touted college QBs have experience playing for shitty teams. Wilson did well at NC State under those circumstances (these weren't Phil Rivers' teams) and excelled at Wisconsin once he was surrounded by Andrew Luck-level teammates. Griffin is something of a similar story, but the leap from rags to riches is less stark.

7
by Jimmy :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:35pm

Nice article. As far as the visual presentation (ie the photos and blurbs) it works. It is a bit like a football comic but in a good way.

8
by John Courage :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:38pm

First and foremost, really enjoyed the article. Welcome!

All the pictures are a really nice touch. X's and O's are one thing, but at least to me, this illustrates things so much more effectively. Especially the little things, like where he's looking and how well he sells the play action. Hope we can expect this every article. It would be nice to see this in other articles as well. I'm thinking of Word of Muth in particular, although it might be more difficult to get shots that show all the subtle O-line techniques as well.

Also, great idea to look at his NC State games to highlight his strengths.

It seems like you have high praise for Wilson. You seem to think he has a very high ceiling, but of course there's no guarantee about how he'll actually pan out at the next level. So, where would you take him, and are there any teams in particular that you think would be a good fit? What if you're a team like, say, Minnesota, Seattle or Arizona that has a fairly high pick and no real solution at QB? Would you grab him in the 2nd/3rd round? 4th/5th? Will he be around that long?

18
by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:49am

Minnesota has a lot of picks in the 4th round - as a Vikings fan, I'd love to see them take Wilson if he's still on the board. They should be drafting with success in 2014 in mind, I believe, and by then they ought to know what they have in Ponder and perhaps they'll have given another developmental guy enough snaps to make a decision between the two.

9
by Jimmy :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:40pm

Nice article. As far as the visual presentation (ie the photos and blurbs) it works. It is a bit like a football comic but in a good way.

10
by Joseph :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:40pm

Matt, welcome to FO. Love the column. Like the pics that illustrate what you're talking about.
Based on your Drew Brees comparison, which team should take him in the middle rounds later this month? IMO, it needs to be a team which has a good interior line like the Saints. If he goes to the NFC, my best guess would be PHI--no long term investment in the QB, solid O-line, Peters' injury notwithstanding. In the AFC, I don't know enough to project well, although NE, SD, JAX, NYJ, BUF, DEN, PIT, BAL, TEN, and IND have to be out. Prob. OAK & HOU also.

16
by PerlStalker :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 8:17pm

If he falls to the third or fourth round (especially the fourth round), I could see DEN drafting him. They're a little thin at QB and they could take a guy like Wilson to develop and groom over the next few years until Manning retires.

11
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 1:45pm

Good stuff but I'm a little confused as to what the yellow and blue lines (shading?) represent in the last few photos. Is it sight-lines?

13
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 2:11pm

I think its more showing the direction that the D headed in due to the playaction.

12
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 2:10pm

Thanks for the feedback...

Karl - the yellow lines were just to signify the open area for the Saints on that one play. I wanted to highlight the open space for Brees when he executes that half roll. As for the blue lines - it was to show where the defense would be manipulated to go.

Joseph - I agree Philly, NO in the NFC. With Josh Johnson gone, TB could be an interesting fit as a back up to Freeman although that kills his value early on. Seattle is also building a nice line, but you have think they feel set at QB. AFC? Buffalo and KC are two teams that could use a better back up with potential to challenge for bigger role down the line. Chan Gailey has a history with mobile QBs.

John - AZ/SEA/MIN are all logical on some level as options, because I don't think any of those teams are looking at a QB in the first two rounds. I think Wilson has second or third-round talent, but he'll likely go in rounds 4-6, which is a nice bargain for a team that can develop and perhaps one day trade him if they don't start him.

I like the football comic description. As long as I don't get into using the `60s Batman TV show/John Madden "Boom!" "BAM!""POW!" We'll be okay.

14
by grady graddy (not verified) :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 7:44pm

Matt, curious how you would compare him to the mobile QB's who came out last year, Kaepernick and Pryor. Think he's a better long-term prospect than either of those two?

17
by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 8:54pm

My thoughts on Pryor last year: http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2011/06/15/remove-the-beer-goggles/

Kaepernick has upside to develop into a solid pocket passer, but I think Wilson is a more refined player from the pocket. As collegians, Wilson maneuvers the pocket with more skill and that to me is one of the most important factors to watch for QB play. Kaepernick has the more appealing physical dimensions that fits the QB prototype. However his mechanics, experience with a pro style system, working under center, and the play action game are all areas where he needed more work than Wilson.

Wilson is more NFL-ready, but lacks the high upside of Kaepernick's physical skill. I'm more in the camp where if you have two prospects with good athleticism but one of them is noticeably more refined at the craft of the position, it's generally better to opt for the player with better technique. Certainly there are logical reasons to opt for the raw player, but I don't have the luxury of interviewing players and I don't own a team where I have a certain offensive set that I'm trying to match personnel.

15
by Willsy :: Mon, 04/09/2012 - 8:09pm

This is a great article and another example of FO's rise to world sports journalism domination.....

With the comics you could have some nice captions e.g. from the Vikings sideline, Robin "Jumping juniper berries Batman, look at the stiffs the Vike's have trying to stop the Saints"

Batman "To coin a phrase, there's less here than meets the eye, Robin"

Viking's coach - "Huh??"

Robin - "Holy Toledo coach! Send in a play!"

Batman - "Turn on the Bat-Play-Analyser, we need to understand the Vikes defensive gameplan"

Viking's coach - "Huh??"

Drew Brees (dressed at The Joker) - "Hello Vikeeeeeessssss. Tell me Robin. What does an NFL quality defensive unit and the Minnesota Vikings defence have in common?"

Robin - "Holy hole in the zone. I'm not sure Joker"

Drew Bress - "That's the joke! Nothing! Ah ha, ha, ha, ha!!"

Last image shows Saints celebrating in the end zone.

Viking's coach - "Huh??"

19
by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:09am

You mean the Vikings defense that held the Saints to 68 yards rushing and Brees to under 200 yards passing? The same defense that held an admittedly great Saints offense to 28 points in regulation despite 6 fumbles and 2 interceptions by the offense? The only defense in that game not currently getting annihilated by the league for being a bunch of miserable cheaters?

huh.

38
by Cat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 3:56pm

The same Saints offense that got the ball somewhere around six times on their own side of the field due to turnovers. If it's only twenty yards to a TD, that's all you get.

20
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:56am

Yeah, this is one of my favorite articles in a long time.

I've noticed one of the problems with these kinds of in-depth, informative articles is that they don't generate as much discussion as an opinion piece or a stat ranking. Mostly people can only say, wow, that was cool, thanks. Ben Muth's articles always have short threads; Doug Farrar's scouting pieces used to be the same way.

Still, I love these kinds of articles, even though they don't generate any rollicking fist-fights in the comments, and this was a particularly good specimen.

22
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 1:57pm

Not exactly a surprise. How many other people have watched at least 3 games scouting Russell Wilson? Probably not a ton.

My question is this: If Russell Wilson were 6-2, where would he go in the draft? Is he a legitimate top 5 pick if he had the requisite height? Or are there some holes in his game that weren't detailed in this article?

25
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 2:55pm

That's a really good question because he ticks pretty much every other box. Good arm, accurate, athletic, mobile, good touch, quick release, has produced in a couple of very different schemes, outstanding playaction fakes and good footwork, so it really might come down to: can he see over the line?

23
by Theo :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 2:22pm

It's not a surprise.
Opinions are discussable (if that's a word). Subjective rankings are.
But "guy runs here, he blocks that guy." is not. It's really cool, but not up for discussion really.
"no he didn't"
"yes he did"
"no he didn't"
"yes he did"

Only the how you grade the outcome is up for discussion.

26
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 3:53pm

I disagree. First off, we only got the positives from these particular games. For instance, not mentioned in the article was the fact he went 21 of 49 with 3 interceptions against Virginia Tech.

Secondly, someone watching a different 3 games can come to a completely different conclusion. What if you had watched his 10 of 30 for 105 yard performance against Central Florida and his 26 of 52 and 3 pick game against East Carolina as well as the Virginia Tech game above? I'm guessing you might have a different opinion of Russell Wilson's ability. You might not, I didn't watch those games either and have no idea what occurred.

To the author's credit, he didn't pick Wilson's 3 best statistical games and used games against quality defensive personnel to make his evaluation, but this evaluation makes it seem like he's a top 5 pick if he was tall enough. Is he?

27
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 3:58pm

Yeah that's the problem, none of us have done as much work as the article writer, so we're at an information disadvantage.

29
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 6:15pm

Having grown up in the midwest and gone to grad school in the ACC, I've watched a surprising number of Wilson games. The Brees comparison is a decent one. He's not quite as talented, I don't think, but he also never played in a system quite as friendly as the early years of Purdue's Basketball On Grass.

Russell is prone to being a turnover machine, but he was also being tasked with carrying all the offense for a woeful NC State team. Read through the recaps, and note how incompetent his receivers were. He was occasionally guilty of forcing the ball trying to win a game by himself. He tore it up at Wisconsin once he had the systematic talent advantage guys like Luck, Pryor, Bradford, Tebow, and Oregon QB always had, and guys like Mallett, Newton, and Griffin usually had. Basically, he could turn shit into shinola and gold into platinum. At very least, he's competent NFL backup caliber.

30
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 6:22pm

Sorry, I did mean "most of us," not "none of us."

31
by Dude with iPad (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:52pm

"Prone to be turnover machine...."

You do realize your referring to the holder of the FBS record for consecutive attempts without a pick?

I'll grant that Wilson can occasionally have a multiple turnover game but these have usually been when his defense has left him with a deficit to overcome.

33
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:53pm

Weird, huh?

It's like he was playing for two entirely different programs in his junior and senior years.

28
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 4:20pm

I think that's a good thing.

21
by Theo :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 1:46pm

Ok, if the argument is that he has improvisational skills and field vision - good.
But manipulating corners with Defensive Ends in your back and underhand passing - that is not what makes NFL coaches excited.
[edit] I also have doubts about the second outside shoulder throw - exactly where the corner is hiding? The ball should be thrown away from the defender - not at him. That was across the body and a longer path for the ball... hmmm maybe the receiver was having a brain fart. I wonder if his coach was happy about it. It was a completion sure, but not one you want to throw on a consistent basis.

I sound too negative - I liked the column and am looking forward to the next.

24
by Dork Matter :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 2:47pm

I'd suggest Houston as a good landing spot for Wilson in the mid-rounds. With the offensive line flowing to the side and opening holes for two All-Pro backs, Schaub and Yates had a lot of success rolling out and finding open passing lanes.

32
by StevenBTP (not verified) :: Tue, 04/10/2012 - 11:01pm

This is awesome, Matt, great work. These are some prime examples of what makes Russell such a special player, and it also illustrates some the pass protection...ahem...issues that he had to deal with on a yearly basis. He had no run support to speak of, and especially during his JR season, his workload was enormous, which hurt his efficiency and increased his raw INT totals.

I'm glad he had the opportunity to showcase himself a bit at Wisconsin. His NFL career is going to be fascinating to watch.

(One minor correction: in the first play examined, that's actually fullback Taylor Gentry (47) who makes the grab.)

36
by Matt Waldman :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 1:36pm

Thanks - we originally had him as a FB, but in this set he was lined up as a TE so we changed it to TE.

34
by NativeWolf (not verified) :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 11:27am

This was a very impressive article. Someone asked was missing from his game if he was 6-2 or 6-3. I think the more pertinent question is what other attributes he brings and I think that the clear factor here is the leadership quality.

Russell is a leader. I've been a small business owner and high end consultant for years. Rarely do you meet someone that you just see as a leader right off the bat. Colin Powell and Schwarzkopf had that in the military sector, Michael Dell had that too, etc. Wilson is only going to strengthen any locker room lucky enough to bring him on board.

Obviously I'm a bit biased but anyone who has meet him would understand.

Thank you again for a great analysis.

35
by speedegg :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 12:30pm

Great article. Could also be a case of what happens when a coaching staff/organization doesn't know what to do with talent in the case of San Diego and Brees. They never seemed to fully integrate him into the offense.

Really want to see Wilson get drafted by a team that knows how to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses, so PHI and NO would be interesting. Not sure if DEN would use a pick, but would cringe if Cleveland drafted him.

37
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 04/11/2012 - 2:32pm

Very much enjoyed the article, the format worked well for the points you were trying to make.

Personally if he is there late in the 4th I'd be fine if the Packers grabbed him with one of the two compensatory picks they have at the end of that round. I actually think their actual 4th rounder (#123) is going to end up disappearing in a rare trade up in the first round. I think they are going to try and move up from the 28th pick to try and get a high impact 3-4 end or OLB. But I'd still be OK spending a pick on Wilson as a back-up (a 4th might be high but I think it might take that for him). I think they are a team that can develop him and they do a fair bit of pocket manipulation as it is and are used to a QB who can make plays with his feet too. I think the Packers are taking a QB at some point (perhaps only a 7th round flyer) but I could see Wilson being legit competition for Graham Harrell and Nick Hill for the back-up spot.

39
by arias :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 3:39am

So RW beat out Flynn and we'll get to see how he does vs RG3, Luck, Osweiler, Tannehill in the most rookie starting QB's in decades, certainly as far back as I can remember. Barring injury I could see him competing for ROY.

40
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 7:23am

There have never been more than 2 rookie quarterbacks starting on opening day since the merger. 3 rookies started in 68 and 69, and according to Elias that is the most in NFL history for any year. Though exactly how players were counted as rookies back in 22 I'm not sure since the teams that formed the NFL all existed already so either everyone was an NFL rookie or they were only rookies if that was their first year as a professional player. I believe that later method is the commonly accepted way.

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by Rabid Buc Fan Larry (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 9:47pm

Another great article Matt - no matter the location your preparation and insight come through in your work. Keep the info coming it is much appreciated.

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by Matt Waldman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 9:22pm

Thanks Larry.

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by A. Simmons (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2012 - 4:31am

Seems Football Outsiders was both right and wrong at the same time. Their statistical analysis was correct, while their assumptions concerning Russell Wilson were incorrect. I love it when stats prove conventional wisdom wrong once the real games are played.

Russell Wilson is awesome. I'm looking forward to watching him for the next decade or longer. It's good to be a Seattle fan right now.

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by Pixdawg13 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 9:10am

The Lewin Career Forecast is looking pretty good. I think we can do without the asterisk now--looks as if RW's year at Wisky was the real Russell Wilson. (a/k/a "DangeRuss") First week of playoffs over, he's the last rookie QB standing.

Appears that PC and JS figured out how to use him. :)