Russell Wilson on way to being fantasy's top QB in 2017

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Minute

By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports

“I need a hero.”
-Bonnie Tyler

We tune in to professional football with hopes of witnessing real-time heroics. In recent weeks, the tingling sensation of the sublime sports moments has been overpowered by a nauseating sensation triggered by the real-time fall of proven heroes.

Cam Newton has more interceptions than touchdown passes.

Aaron Rodgers’ clavicle was pulverized into the turf.

Derek Carr’s Hall of Fame bust was lost in the mail.

Drew Brees staring down Ted Ginn.

Deshaun Watson?

More than any group of sports fans, Fantasy Football enthusiasts are particularly desperate for a new hero, and Watson is not the guy. Watson is a rookie quarterback who posted video game numbers against the NFL’s weakest pass defenses, much of it in garbage time. Based on the well-documented challenges faced by every NFL rookie quarterback since the Big Bang, Watson is destined to hurtle back to earth like a meteorite streaking across the sky.

We need an NFL champion. We need a true clutch performer. We need a proven producer with years of efficient quarterback play on his resume. We need the most efficient quarterback on PlayerProfiler.com over the last five years.

We need Russell Wilson.

Next Generational Quarterback

Healthy for first time since 2015, Russell Wilson is back doing Russell Wilson things averaging more than 20 fantasy points per game. While Wilson is running less than he did early in his career, he remains top-5 in rushing yards among NFL quarterbacks. Now a savvy 28 years old, Wilson’s success is primarily derived from his arm, evidenced by a top-10 ranking in numerous key efficiency metrics on PlayerProfiler.com.

Metric Value Rank
Money Throws 17 #1
Adjusted Yards Per Attempt 4.7 #5
Total QBR 60.0 #6
True Passer Rating 105.1 #8
Fantasy Points Per Dropback 0.47 #9

Wilson has been part man, part machine since he entered the league, excelling both as a runner and a passer. Disregarding his injury-plagued 2016 campaign, Wilson posted a +15.0 or higher Production Premium, a 95.0 or higher passer rating, and a 65.0 or higher Total QBR from 2012 to 2015. Efficient passing combined with tactical scrambling pleases the fantasy gods and raises Wilson’s ceiling to 25 or more fantasy points per game.

Yet even in his most productive fantasy seasons, Wilson was out-scored by Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Wilson is rarely the first name uttered when football fans speculate on the heir to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s next generational quarterback.

Why?

Volume. Pass volume is the ultimate missing piece. Only when great volume meets great efficiency do the NFL’s best quarterbacks become heroes and Fantasy Football folklore.

Volume Meets Efficiency

Wilson has finished in the bottom half of the NFL in pass attempts each year since he entered the NFL. He is the only quarterback this decade with five or more full seasons as an NFL starter to average less than 500 pass attempts per season.

Fortunately, the Seahawks are changing their offensive philosophy in 2017. For the first time since Wilson arrived in Seattle, the team’s play calling is skewing pass-heavy. This season, Wilson’s full potential is being unlocked.

Metric Value Rank
Team Pass Plays 39.0 per game #10
Red Zone Attempts 5.8 per game #5
Deep Ball Attempts 5.3 per game #6

A Solo Project

Seattle is likely ratcheting up the pass volume to overcome Wilson’s lackluster supporting cast. Beyond facilitating the NFL’s least effective running game, the Seahawks’ offensive line also allows the most QB hurries per dropback. For this reason, Wilson’s Protection Rate on PlayerProfiler.com is the lowest in the league. Furthermore, Seattle’s top-3 wide receivers have produced just 226 yards after the catch this season. To put Wilson’s receiving corps in clear context, former Seahawk Golden Tate posted 233 yards after the catch through six games of the 2017 regular season.

Metric Value Rank
Supporting Cast Efficiency -5.26 #25
Protection Rate 76.0% #34

Pass volume is the ultimate camouflage. It overcomes the drag of a subpar supporting cast with more pass attempts, more deep shots, and more red zone chances. Recent box scores suggest Seattle is finally unleashing its superhero quarterback after he posted 25-plus fantasy points in three of the last four games.

Fantasy Outlook

Don’t stop believing in heroes, and don’t be surprised when Wilson rides a pass volume surge straight to the No. 1 fantasy quarterback spot this season.

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