No official announcement has been made, but that’s just how Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll operates. However, after a strong performance in his 1st preseason start, Russell Wilson is expected to be the week 1 starter for the Seahawks at quarterback. Wilson impressed against opposing teams’ backups in the Seahawks’ first two preseason games, completing 22 of 33 for 279 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception, while rushing for another 82 yards and a score on 8 carries.
He showed enough to earn the start in the Seahawks 3rd preseason game, typically a game where you know who your starting quarterback is and let him play deep in the 3rd quarter. The general feeling around the situation was that Wilson would get the week 1 start if he played well in his first action against 1st teamers, playing against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Wilson did play well, completing 13 of 19 for 185 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions, while rushing for another 58 yards on just 2 carries. Wilson played 7 of the team’s 11 drives, certainly suggestive of a starting quarterback, leading the team at least 41 yards on each drive for a scoring opportunity (3 touchdowns, 3 field goals of 36, 39, and 45 yards, one missed field goal of 51 yards).
Matt Flynn, his primary competition for the job, did not play with what is being described as a sore elbow, with possible tendinitis, which doesn’t help his cause, even though the veteran had been seen as the favorite throughout the offseason over incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and 3rd round rookie Wilson, on the strength of the 3 year, 19.5 million dollar deal with 10 million guaranteed he signed earlier in the offseason. Jackson, meanwhile, played the other 4 series, completing 3 of 5 for just 1 yard. He’s expected to be traded to a team in need of a veteran backup any day now.
Wilson will be one of five rookie starting quarterbacks week 1 this season. 4 would have been a record for any week since the merger. Wilson is also one of a whopping 10 1st or 2nd year quarterbacks who will start week 1 for their team. However, with the exception of the Bengals’ Andy Dalton, all of the other quarterbacks were first round picks. Wilson is the only rookie non-1st round pick quarterback to be starting this season.
In fact, Wilson will become just the 5th non-1st round pick quarterback to get his team’s week 1 start since 1994.The results of the other 4 have not been pretty. Chris Weinke, a 4th round pick, got the week 1 start for the Panthers in 2001 because he was 29. Still, he completed just 54.3% of his passes for an average of 5.4 YPA and 11 touchdowns to 19 interceptions that season.
Quincy Carter, a 2nd round pick, got the week 1 start for the Cowboys that same season, completing just 51.1% of his passes for 6.1 YPA, and 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton, a 4th round pick, got the start for the Bears in 2005, completing just 51.6% of his passes for an average of 5.1 YPA, 9 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. The only one who had a good rookie season was Andy Dalton last year, a 2nd round pick, as he completed 58.1% of his passes for an average of 6.6 YPA, 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
In fact, the history of non-1st round pick quarterbacks is not pretty at all in the NFL. Wilson will be one of just 9 non-1st round pick starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season (Andy Dalton, Drew Bress, Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Matt Cassel and the winner of the John Skelton/Kevin Kolb battle are the other 8). That means 72% of the week 1 starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season will be former 1st round picks.
If you look at the upper echelon starting quarterbacks, like the ones who made the playoffs last season, that number is 67% as only Brees, Dalton, Brady, and TJ Yates were starting quarterbacks for playoff teams last year, 4 of 12 (I include Yates even though he was a backup for an injured Matt Schaub because Schaub was also a non-1st round pick). In 2010, that number held at 67%, as it was Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees, Matt Cassel, and Tom Brady bucking the trend.
NFL drafting is generally a crapshoot. However, the one thing NFL teams seem to be pretty foolproof at doing is not letting starting quarterbacks fall out of the 1st round of the draft. Obviously, not all 1st round pick quarterbacks work out, but it’s almost impossible to find a starting quarterback after the 1st round. If you possess the baseline tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, you’re going to go in the 1st round, even if your accuracy or footwork or mechanics needs a lot of work. Almost always, if a quarterback falls out of the 1st round, it’s because there’s something wrong with him, something preventing him from being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
For Wilson, the book on him is simple. He’s got a plus arm, great athleticism, and possesses all the intangibles in the world. He’s a natural born leader, who stepped onto Wisconsin’s campus after flirting with being a professional baseball player and was named the team’s captain just 3 weeks later. He completed 72.6% of his passes for 10.3 YPA and 33 touchdowns to 4 interceptions last year and led Wisconsin to an 11-3 record, a Rose Bowl appearance, and didn’t lose by more than a touchdown all season.
However, he’s not a natural pocket passer and shows poor footwork in the pocket. He has much better arm strength and instincts on the run. He’s great at improvising, but in the NFL, you have to make throws from the pocket and when he’s asked to drop back and pass on a traditional play, he shows diminished arm strength. He’s got happy feet and flees the pocket when he doesn’t need to. He’s also short and has trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage.
Those are the reasons why he fell and typically those are things that prevent quarterbacks from being starters in the NFL. There are exceptions, but most likely, Wilson will fall just like most quarterbacks who fall out of the 1st round, especially as a rookie. As well as he’s played this preseason, it’s important to remember that these are 3 preseason games, 2 of which were against guys who just fighting to make their rosters right now.
I’m baffled that the Seahawks wouldn’t at least try the veteran Matt Flynn first. Flynn is also a non-1st round pick and fell because of pedestrian arm strength, but Flynn is at least a veteran, who does have some success in the NFL in limited action as a career backup. If he had struggled, sure, go ahead and go with the rookie, who hopefully by then has better adjusted to life in the NFL, but starting Wilson week 1 based on these 3 games is almost definitely going to be a decision that comes back to bite them, especially when you consider that Wilson will be playing behind a poor offensive line and with a poor receiving corps. It’s also worth noting that Wilson got, by far, the minority of the 1st team snaps throughout the offseason and only made one pre-season start, which will hurt their offensive continuity and chemistry.
The Seahawks play in an easy division, have one of the league’s best home field advantages, and have a scoring defense that ranked 7th in the league, allowing 19.7 per game last season. However, they’ll probably struggle to move the ball through the air and their running game, as much hype as Marshawn Lynch gets, actually ranked just 21st in the league in rushing yards and 25th in the league in YPC last season.
While they’ll probably have a top-10 defense once again, they’ll also probably have a bottom-10 offense once again (23rd with 20.1 points per game last year) and that will almost definitely keep them out of the playoffs in a loaded NFC, unless we have any 2010 scenario where a team that wins 7 games wins the NFC West (unlikely). I’m a big fan of Pete Carroll as a coach, but I think the 7 games they’ve won in each of the last 2 seasons is a pretty reasonable expectation for this team again this year.
As for the fantasy implications for this move, Wilson has some intrigue as QB2 with upside because of his rushing ability. However, considering the history of non-1st round pick rookie quarterbacks and rookie quarterbacks in general, I don’t really like his upside. He probably won’t throw for a high YPA (even Dalton last year averaged just 6.6 YPA) and the Seahawks ran one of the most conservative offenses in the league last year, passing just 509 times.
With a rookie quarterback under center, they’ll only get more conservative, especially since with a mobile, run happy quarterback like Wilson. As a passer, I don’t like his chances to even exceed the 3091 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions that Tarvaris Jackson threw for last season. He might if he plays all 16 games, but Pete Carroll loves constant competition at positions and likely wouldn’t hesitate to pull Wilson for Flynn, now one of the league’s most expensive backups, if he struggles. That could end up being a crushing blow to the young quarterback’s confidence (even more reason why Flynn should have been allowed to start first), create a divisive locker room, and hurt their offensive continuity and chemistry. Teams that switch quarterbacks midseason for reasons other than injuries almost never make the playoffs.
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2