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ESPN Insider Article: Russell Wilson isn't yet an elite QB
Jake Offline
Senior Member

Green Bay Packers
Post: #1
ESPN Insider Article: Russell Wilson isn't yet an elite QB
Realistically, the Seattle Seahawks have no choice other than to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL with his upcoming contract extension. He has led the team to consecutive Super Bowl berths, including one win, and the cost of losing him in free agency and having to find a replacement would be far too great. You simply can't contend for championships in the NFL without an above-average quarterback, no matter how good the rest of a team's roster is. And Seattle's is good, particularly on defense -- they've led the NFL in total defense in each of the past two seasons.
The reality is just because he's about to be paid like an elite quarterback doesn't mean Wilson is one. In fact, there are several pieces of evidence that show he falls far short of that level. Let's take a look.
His Total QBR is comparable to that of a mid-level QB.
ESPN's Total QBR is a metric that takes rushing play production into account and is thus normally considered to be more favorable for mobile quarterbacks than passer rating, yet Wilson hasn't posted dominant numbers here. He ranked 13th in this category last season (62.4) and placed 13th here in 2013 (58.9).
When you isolate passing plays, it looks gets even worse.
Wilson's metrics take a hit when the Total QBR measurement is limited to passing plays, as he ranked 23rd in this area last season (47.5). To be fair, Wilson's overall rank in passing play Total QBR over the past three years is 11th (57.7), but the drop-off in 2014 indicated a downward trend. That could be a sign that the league is getting used to defending Wilson's unique skill set -- particularly his improvisational and running abilities. If there isn't a clear uptick this season with new weapons around, it'll be a big concern.
He has a low red-zone Total QBR.
Wilson's Total QBR plummeted last year when the Seahawks reached the red zone (defined as plays starting from inside the opposing team's 20-yard line). He ranked 23rd in overall red-zone Total QBR last year (44.6) and ranked 25th on red-zone pass plays (30.9). The addition of tight end Jimmy Graham might help him improve in this area, as the Seahawks lacked a top pass-catching weapon with size last season, but these are concerning numbers nonetheless.
The impact of his rushing ability may be overrated.
Arguably Wilson's greatest strength as a quarterback, as alluded to earlier, is his ability to extend plays with his athleticism and gain yards on the ground. There's no question that he is one of the best QBs in the league in this area, if not the best. That is backed up by his ranking No. 1 in the league over the past three seasons in expected points added (EPA is explained here) on rushing attempts, with 55.3 EPA.
Russell Wilson's running ability makes him unique, but it can also lead to some negative plays. Elsa/Getty Images But this same metric can show us the relatively low impact of running ability from quarterbacks when compared to passing ability. Wilson's 55.3 rushing total is only 45 points higher than the league average in that category (8.3). Now contrast that against Wilson's 180.2 passing EPA. That total is 12.8 points higher than the league average (167.4), but it only ranks 12th. The 11 quarterbacks in front of him had an average of 268.5 points, or over 100 points higher than the league average.
To put it another way, Wilson's rushing EPA by itself would not make up for his EPA passing deficit versus an average top-10 passer. What this shows is the limited value of rushing plays for quarterbacks. These snaps are valuable, but they pale in comparison to passing play value. For Wilson to truly be considered an elite quarterback, his passing performance will need to improve.
He does a terrible job of avoiding sacks.
It would seem that Wilson's mobility would also serve him well when it comes to keeping defenses from generating sacks, but that isn't the case. Over the past three seasons, Wilson's 7.8 percent sacks per dropback rate (measuring sacks on pass dropbacks, sans spike plays) ranked tied for 27th. He had the highest percentage of sacks on plays in the pocket (8.4 percent) and was tied for 18th on sack percentage on out-of-pocket plays (9.0 percent), so there wasn't an area where his mobility proved to be very helpful in avoiding sacks.
This had a huge sack EPA impact, as Wilson's minus-65.9 total here over the past three seasons ranked next-to-last. Another way to view this is to note that Wilson's sack EPA more than offsets his positive rushing EPA, so the sum total of those two elements is actually negative from an EPA perspective.
Now, it's fair to point out that the offensive line has not been a strength of Seattle's the past few seasons; with improved pass protection, Wilson's sack numbers could get better. But what these numbers tell us is that Wilson's greatest strength -- his mobility and improvisation skills -- can also translate to some negative plays that offset the impact of his positive ones.
Bottom line
Perception of Wilson among fans and teams around the league might be a lot different had the Seahawks not pulled off an improbable comeback win over the Packers in last season's NFC Championship game. Wilson had an abysmal showing through the end of regulation of that contest by going 11-for-26 for 129 yards, zero touchdowns, four interceptions and four sacks. The Seattle offense put the defense in bad situations over and over.
As bad as that beginning was, Wilson also brought the team back for a miraculous win (with a bit of help from Marshawn Lynch and some highly questionable play calling by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy) that perhaps most quarterbacks wouldn't have been capable of achieving.
The latter talent is one worthy of an elite contract, but the issues brought on by the former stat line are indicative of some general issues with Wilson's game. He is a good NFL quarterback, and no one can fault the Seahawks for paying him like one of the game's best quarterbacks given they don't really have any other choice. But just because he's going to get paid like one doesn't mean he's an elite

@ Tezza: Just arrived at Byrin bay and wife found the PS4 in my luggage- cracked the shits(4:35pm)
28-06-2015 12:58 AM
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