We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.
The Russell Wilson era has been nothing short of excellent: nine winning seasons, zero games missed to injury, one Super Bowl championship and a helluva lot of touchdowns along the way.
In the beginning, the Seattle Seahawks were winning with defense and ball-control; this simply hasn’t been the case in recent years. Give Russ credit for keeping the ship afloat, because it sure hasn’t been easy behind anyone’s idea of a below-average defense over the past two seasons:
- 2012: No. 9 in points per game; No. 1 in points allowed per game
- 2013: No. 8; No. 1
- 2014: No. 10; No. 1
- 2015: No. 4; No. 1
- 2016: No. 18; No. 3
- 2017: No. 11; No. 13
- 2018: No. 6; No. 11
- 2019: No. 9; No. 22
- 2020: No. 8; No. 15
Yes, the defense improved down the stretch of 2020. Also yes, they ranked 28th in points per game allowed before facing Dwayne Haskins, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, C.J. Beathard, Sam Darnold and Colt McCoy in their final six games. Sheesh.
What follows is a breakdown on just how good Russ was in 2020 and whether or not he’ll have to put his foot on the gas more often in 2021 during the Seahawks’ quest to get back to the promised land.
Russ was on one helluva heater in the first half of 2020
One fun statistic from the 2020 season: Kyler Murray’s average of 29.3 fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-10 would’ve been good for the single-best mark ever if maintained over the course of 16 games. Unfortunately, a banged up shoulder prevented Murray from leaning on his legs as much down the stretch, leading to a more modest second-half finish.
Here’s the thing: Wilson (28.5) was less than a point off Murray’s record pace in Weeks 1-9 last season. We don’t have the same injury excuse for Wilson’s dropoff as we do with the Arizona Cardinals’ rising star; just realize 2020 was truly a tale of two halves for Russ:
- Weeks 1-9 (8 games): 92.5 PFF passing grade, 9.1% big-time throw rate, 2.3% turnover-worthy play rate, 8.6 yards per attempt, 81.7% adjusted completion rate
- Weeks 10-17 (8 games): 73.6 PFF passing grade, 5.4% big-time throw rate, 2.5% turnover-worthy play rate, 6.4 yards per attempt, 76.8% adjusted completion rate
Wilson’s rather putrid 11-for-27 performance in the Seahawks’ Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Rams didn’t exactly end things on a high note.
Arguably, the chief problem was Wilson’s newfound lack of success with the deep ball. Overall, he completed just 11 of 37 (29.7%) passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield during his final nine games compared to 18 of 38 (47%) such throws during Weeks 1-9. There was also the issue of Russ not being the same world-beater outside the pocket: He earned a 78.4 passing grade on plays outside the pocket over the first half of the season before posting a meh 66.0 grade in the second half of the year.
Wilson was making a living on unstable plays. As No. 1 WR D.K. Metcalf stated: Opponents figured out this offense in a major way. Specifically, Metcalf said: “We’ve been running deep pass ever since (coach) Pete (Carroll) got there. Play-action. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. Go deep. Teams just said, ‘We’re just not gonna let you all go deep.'”
Don’t get it twisted: Russ was largely great last season on his way to throwing for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns while chipping in a rather great 83-513-2 rushing line. He worked as the fantasy QB5 overall and QB7 in fantasy points per game. The question is whether or not the 2021 edition of the Seahawks can 1.) provide a more stable offensive scheme, and 2.) pass the ball at something resembling a league-average rate.
The good news for Wilson is that both of these issues seem to be trending in the right direction ahead of 2021.