Inspired by my affinity for the popular video game Street Fighter, the Dynasty Duel series focuses on a head-to-head battle between two players similar in dynasty value: to establish the winner and the most favorable asset to own in dynasty fantasy football.
To guide and support my decision on the winner of the duel, I’ll be using my self-created STORM analysis, focusing on five key components impacting player value in dynasty: Situation, Talent, Opportunity, Risk, and Market.
First off in the series, I’ll be analyzing the most important position to get right in dynasty and the position with the biggest questions and influence over strategy: quarterback. It felt appropriate to kick off the series with my interpretation of the original classic Street Fighter battle of Ken vs Ryu. My version of Ken includes similarities with long hair and shares the same name. My version of Ryu includes similarities with his orange footwear and is known for throwing perfect ‘Hadouken’ passes down the field.
The Dynasty Duel I’m bringing you is Kenny Pickett (Ken) vs Russell Wilson (Ryu). Round one… fight!
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Pickett has a fantastic supporting cast: a duo of young and exciting top-32 dynasty wide receivers (George Pickens and Diontae Johnson), a 24-year-old, ascending top-eight dynasty tight end (Pat Freiermuth), and a third-year running back with a 94 target and 74 catch season on his resume (Najee Harris). The offensive line was third in the NFL in protection rate – creating favorable conditions for Pickett to maximize his play as a passer. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has generated a top-16 offense in pass attempts in each of his two seasons in charge (fourth in 2021, 16th in 2022).
Denver Broncos QB Wilson has less support at his disposal. His top two WRs both currently sit in the WR30-40 range (Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton). He does have an exciting top-15 TE (Greg Dulcich), but no RB on the roster who has shown the receiving output of Harris. The offensive line was 19th in protection rate (granted there were several injuries) but still way off the favorable situation in Pittsburgh. That said, there will be plenty of buzz surrounding new head coach Sean Payton – who orchestrated a top-12 offense in yards and points every season during his 15 years in charge of the Saints (with the exception of 2021, minus future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees).
Winner: Kenny Pickett
Pickett was selected 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. While this is solid, it was an extremely poor draft class at QB and usually, elite talent goes at the top of the board. Of course, fantasy performance is also a major factor in evaluating talent. Pickett was the QB36 in fantasy points per game in his rookie campaign, which is quite frankly dreadful. There are also a number of metrics causing underlying concern for his level of talent: He was QB2 in both interceptable and danger plays, QB29 in money throws, QB28 in red zone completion percentage, and QB32 in clean pocket completion percentage. Add in the 36th percentile-breakout age and the plus situation he was in last season, and talent is a huge question mark for Pickett.
Wilson received lower draft capital (round three) all the way back in 2012, however his previous level of fantasy output provides an excellent indicator of talent. He had nine straight seasons of top-12 QB finishes to begin his career and QB16 finishes the last two years. Looking at his 2022 metrics, there are similar areas of concern to Pickett: Wilson was the QB4 in interceptable plays and QB5 in danger plays, although QB11 in money throws is a huge contrast. Given the relative situations, Wilson was more impressive metrics-wise. Both Wilson and Pickett finished with very similar rushing yards per game (18.4 and 18.2) and rushing TDs (three) in 2022 – Wilson’s third lowest of his career.
Winner: Russell Wilson
Are Wilson’s fantasy performances trending in the wrong direction? (Data via Sleeper).
Pickett has a fantastic short-term opportunity as a second-year player with round-one draft capital. The Steelers have Mitchell Trubisky as his clear backup, no chance of a QB controversy and are unlikely to add any significant competition currently. The plan is for Pickett to be the long-term starter for the Steelers – he is insulated. However, a poor season would throw into question if he can maintain his job and be a stable/worthwhile dynasty asset.
Wilson had a lackluster debut season for the Broncos. But on the back of the huge trade to acquire him from the Seahawks, he has excellent insulation as the unquestioned starter. Jarrett Stidham has been signed in free agency, but that was to a backup-type deal at two years and $10m total. I don’t envision a QB controversy. After spending multiple first-round picks and sending previously disappointing high-round picks as part of the deal (Noah Fant and Drew Lock) for Wilson, this is his team for the foreseeable future.
On the surface, Pickett could be considered a low-risk, safe asset: no major injuries during his career, entering his second season in the NFL, and three years left on his rookie deal (four including his option). Two factors provide major concern from a risk point of view: overall performance and college production. Being outside the top 30 in fantasy points per game is dangerous territory. Seven passing TDs in 13 games, considering his solid situation is more fuel to the fire. I’m getting major flashbacks to Zach Wilson, a rookie who performed below average, was taken as a QB2 (the QB21 in DLF August 2022 Superflex ADP), and had a perception of low risk due to age and contract security. Zach Wilson actually outperformed Pickett in fantasy points per game in their respective rookie seasons, in a worse situation. Also, considering the fifth-year breakout for Pickett in college, this underlines a slow development and performing well vs younger opposition – another factor in him being a higher risk than perception.
The biggest factors working against Russell Wilson and potentially making him a high-risk dynasty asset are age (34) and overall recent performance. He has always been considered a dual-threat QB – hitting over 300 rush yards in eight of 11 seasons, although he has gone under 300 in each of the last two years. Any continued regression would dampen both his fantasy ceiling and floor. Linking into this is the fact his last two seasons have been the worst of his dynasty career – QB16 overall in both seasons, with QB13 and QB20 in fantasy points per game in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Logic would suggest this to be a continuing trend, where Wilson’s best fantasy days are firmly behind him. The flip side is that a mid-to-high QB2 is still a very appealing asset in dynasty. There is confidence Wilson performed at an exceptional level for fantasy with nine QB1 seasons on the bounce. Also, tied into his contract until at least 2025 – I’m extremely confident he maintains a starting job, thus making him a lower-risk asset than Pickett in dynasty.
Winner: Russell Wilson
Pickett was QB28 in DLF August 2022 superflex ADP and currently sits at QB15 in January 2023 data. The current market value at Keep Trade Cut mirrors the recent ADP data as QB15. Wilson was QB10 and is now QB17, and that is again mirrored as QB17 at KTC.
Both Pickett and Wilson are similar dynasty assets, with dual-threat upside and coming off uninspiring 2022 seasons. Both should have a similar level of suitors within dynasty leagues – considered QB2s with upside. However, given Wilson is 34 years old, there is no doubt the ageist dynasty managers in your leagues would prefer a younger asset in Pickett.
Winner: Kenny Pickett
Pickett is currently valued higher, but for how long? (Data via DLF Superflex Dynasty ADP).
In theory, Pickett is a young, sneaky dual-threat starting QB with job security, in a stable franchise and a favorable situation to grow. His weapons are tied down for the foreseeable future and the draft capital gives him insulation that he will be supported if he shows progress from his rookie season. The concerns are production and actual talent. It took him until year five in college to appear anything like a starting-level NFL QB – with breakout age indicative of development and talent. Pickett’s rookie season was poor, yet this is not reflective of the market – where he has risen to QB15. He was going at pick 95 in DLF August 2022 superflex ADP, and has seen a massive jump to pick 40. His hype is based on external factors – a recipe for disaster.
Wilson had a hugely disappointing 2022 – dipping as low as QB19 in DLF December 2022 superflex ADP. The major concern is the reduction in dual-threat ability and the worst fantasy performance of his career being an indicator of the future. Still, if you look beyond a poor season, which saw his rookie head coach get fired and glimpses of the ‘old’ Wilson in a pair of games vs the Chiefs – you can tell yourself a story he’s a buy. The coaching situation has got significantly better, the talent is there (albeit declining) and the contract means he’s a starter for many years to come. It’s easy to predict his value will rise with the Payton hype train heading into next season and dynasty managers taking a holistic view once removing the vividness bias created in 2022.
Overall, I think Pickett is vastly overrated in dynasty right now. There are several red flags in the prospect profile (college production/late breakout) and nothing in his rookie season has persuaded me any different. I think he was a ‘process’ rookie draft selection as a real-life first-round QB but this off-season is the time to pivot. Despite his potential dual-threat upside, I can’t see anything more than a QB2 in his best-case scenario. By holding Pickett, you are taking on a high-risk asset with minimal gain. Wilson is a sleeping giant. There is certainty in his talent and his past production, and he will be a popular bounce-back candidate in fantasy circles. QB age is overrated – take advantage and go after Wilson by trading away a young unproven asset with a limited ceiling in Pickett.
It’s been an epic battle between the flashy Ken (Pickett) and the formidable Ryu (Wilson), with Wilson winning on this occasion.
Dynasty Duel Winner: Russell Wilson
Here are a couple of recent trades from the DLF Trade Finder I’d be happy to do:
Sell Kenny Pickett:
- Pickett, Mid-2023 first and Mid-2023 second = Lamar Jackson
- Pickett, Mid-2023 first and two 2023 thirds = Justin Fields
- Pickett = 2024 first and 2024 second
Buy Russell Wilson:
- Dak Prescott and 2023 2.04 = Wilson, Najee Harris, 2023 1.06
- 2023 1.09, 2023 2.09, 2023 3.09, 2023 4.09 = Wilson, Mecole Hardman, Chigoziem Okonkwo
- Jared Goff = Wilson
Also, here are a few trades I would do based on the DLF Trade Analyzer (12-team SF TE Premium):
Sell Kenny Pickett:
- Pickett = 2023 1.09
- Pickett = 2024 first and 2025 second
- Pickett = Derek Carr and 2024 second
Buy Russell Wilson:
- 2023 1.07 = Wilson
- Kirk Cousins = Wilson
- Mac Jones and 2023 2.08 = Wilson
Pickett is my biggest QB dynasty sell at market value, whereas Wilson is the opposite and a player I am actively trying to acquire in multiple leagues. I would do a straight swap in any league and any team situation (rebuild/re-tool/contender). I would be happy with Wilson as my QB2 and pairing with an upside QB3 such as the incoming rookie Will Levis or fantasy wildcard Jordan Love. Alternatively I’d have him as my QB3 and pair him with a riskier short-term asset such as Trey Lance or Kyler Murray.
- Dynasty Duel: Kenny Pickett vs Russell Wilson - March 15, 2023