Short [shawrt]: adjective
1. Having little height; not tall: a short man
“The kid would be a top ten pick if he was 6’3″.” Those are the words that echoed from the mouths of more than one General Manager as Wiconsin’s Russell Wilson sat at home through the first 74 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft. After all, he measured in at 5’10 5/8″ at the NFL combine and that was enough to remove him completely off several team’s draft boards as he was perceived as simply being too short to play the quarterback position at the NFL level.
It’s looking like they all made a huge mistake.
Wilson has been the story of the preseason as he’s gone from a long-term project at quarterback to the probable starter for the Seahawks this season. He’s shown incredible poise, accuracy and leadership ability as he’s literally forced his way up the depth chart since being taken by Seattle as the 75th pick in the draft. He capped off his amazing preseason run by completing 13-of-19 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushing twice for another 58 yards in Friday night’s preseason start against the Chiefs (add up those fantasy points and you’ll smile). So far this preseason, Wilson has completed an amazing 35-of-52 passes (67.3 percent) for 464 passing yards, five touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s also rushed ten times for another 150 yards (just 15 yards per carry) and yet another score.
While much of his totals have come against second team defenses, there’s simply no denying there’s a special quality to him. After all, the Seahawks have scored on more than two thirds of their possessions when he’s been on the field, including six consecutive possessions against Kansas City’s first team defense on Friday night.
Still, he’s too short, right?
The quality that makes Wilson different than other quarterbacks with his athletic ability is that he’s a quarterback who can run, but not a running quarterback. By that I mean he’d much rather stay in the pocket and beat you with his arm than become a Tim Tebow-like weapon. Accuracy is far from a problem with him, either. As mentioned, he’s completing over 67% of his passes and that’s actually a step down from where he was collegiately since he completed a gaudy 72.8% of his passes last year at Wisconsin while throwing for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns, with just four (yes, four) interceptions.
Yeah, but that height?
For those who haven’t followed Wilson’s journey since the draft, it was obvious from the start that Seattle loved him. In fact, GM John Schneider was quoted as saying the team simply “had to have him,” and that he was one of the top four players he scouted. In addition, he said Wilson was “the closest player I’ve scouted to Drew Brees and Jeff Garcia in terms of sliding, finding lanes and creating for himself. From an accuracy and anticipation standpoint, he is the closest to Brees.” That’s high praise indeed and Coach Pete Carroll has been thriled with Wilson’s accuracy and timing in camp. You can only imagine how excited Seattle has been with his performance in actual games.
His teammates are noticing, too. After Friday night’s game Golden Tate was quoted as saying, “It’s just something that he stands for and how he handles himself. The things that leave his mouth. You get a feeling that he’s just very, very special. You don’t know what it is, but you get that feeling. You get excited to see him get on the field, because you never know if he’s going to throw a perfect touchdown pass or juke a safety to extend the drive. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s just good to have a guy who seems comfortable sitting back there. He’s just a very, very special player, and I’m excited to see him grow.”
The kid is under six feet, though?
What many dynasty owners may not realize is that Wilson actually played behind an offensive line at Wisconsin that was bigger than that of their fellow Wisconsin natives known as the Green Bay Packers. In fact, by many accounts the offensive line for the Badgers would have ranked in the top ten of the NFL in terms of size last season. Playing behind that line, Wilson had all of TWO passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last year. Finding lanes? Go ahead and check the box, please.
While Wilson has yet to be named the starter for Seattle, he’s shown enough in camp and in the preseason to get dynasty owners pretty excited. The Seahawks paid for Matt Flynn this offseason, but the money they gave him was incredibly reasonable – and the price they paid wasn’t Kevin Kolb-like, forcing them to play Flynn as the starter regardless of Wilson’s performance thus far. One thing Pete Carroll isn’t afraid of doing is playing the players he feels give him the best chance to win. Flynn has completed 17-of-26 for 102 yards, no touchdowns and one interception so far this preseason. While Terrell Owens did drop a would-be 43 yard touchdown from Flynn, those numbers aren’t all that impressive and he certainly doesn’t have the athletic ability of Wilson to make plays when they break down.
The argument about Wilson’s height can rage all day and night if you let it. Fact is, other quarterbacks like the aforementioned Drew Brees have been pretty good, despite not fitting into the pretty little height box a quarterback is supposed to fit in.
Russell Wilson is screaming up rookie draft boards and it seems that it’s just a matter of time before he’s in the middle of the Seahawks huddle. He’s shown as much upside as virtually any rookie thus far and it’s been an exciting climb to watch. I have him ranked all the way up to the very late first and early second round for rookie drafts (much higher than my counterparts) and that’s high praise for a player who isn’t even guaranteed (yet) of starting this year. Even if Flynn starts, I’m squarely on the bandwagon. With a rookie crop this volatile and with picks being such a crap shoot, I’d happily take my chances with him over players like Stephen Hill, Isaiah Pead, Rueben Randle and even Ryan Tannehill based on his upside alone.
Wilson has simply shown the heart, character, work ethic, skill and athletic ability to be an incredibly successful NFL and fantasy quarterback. His rushing yards alone could be a huge weapon in dynasty leagues. While it’s too early to start anointing him as the next Michael Vick or even a clone of an early version of Vince Young, it’s not going to surprise many if he’s simply the first Russell Wilson when all this is said and done. He’s answered the bell when given any challenge and it certainly doesn’t look like the NFL stage is too big for him.
It’s just too bad he’s so dang short.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Wilson has officially been named the week one starter for Seattle. It’s tough news for Matt Flynn and his dynasty owners as Wilson will undoubtedly be given every chance to succeed. Don’t look for Flynn to be moved, either – the Seahawks are finalizing a trade to send Tarvaris Jackson to Buffalo.