By Peter Lawrence, @_PeteLaw
Editor's Note: With fantasy football drafts approaching, the CCSN crew will spend the next couple weeks examining the biggest fantasy debates at every position.
Russell Wilson has established himself as one of the best young QBs in the game but suffered an injury plagued 2016 which tarnished his image in the Fantasy Football community coming into the 2017 season. Jameis Winston is the young up and coming QB that have fans salivating for. Jameis Winston was the heralded superstar taken with the first overall pick in the NFL draft while doubts about Wilson’s size had him fall into round three of the draft when he entered the draft. Don’t let Wilson’s poor 2016 season cast doubt in your draft.
Draft Day Value
MyFantasyLeague.com has both players being drafted around round four of redrafts. Wilson is being drafted around pick 41.88 of drafts while Winston is being drafted around pick 46.9. There is a slight difference in Keeper and Dynasty league drafts on MFL with Winston going around pick 46.48 and Wilson being drafted a round later at 54.23.
Both players finished 2016 right around the same fantasy points totals (settings: .04 per passing yard, .1 per rushing yard, 4pt per passing TD and 6pt per rushing TD) as Wilson finished with 258.7 scoring an average of 16.2 points per game. Winston posted a total of 252.4 fantasy points in 2016 at 15.8 points per game. Stat wise Wilson posted 4219 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 11 interceptions and finished with 72 rushing attempts for 259 rushing yards and one rushing TD. 2016 was Wilson’s worst statistical rushing season. In previous years, Wilson averaged 102.75 rushes, 672.75 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs. Winston finished the year with 4090 passing yards, 28 TDs, 18 interceptions and finished with 53 rushing attempts for 165 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown. Winston’s confidence in his arm led to those 18 interceptions. PFF ranked Wilson fifth in its seasonal grades with an 88.9 overall grade and Winston with a grade of 80 as the 19TH tanked QB.
The Buccaneers have the dominant big play WR Mike Evans who at 6-5 231-pounds towers nearly 7-inches over Seattle’s number 1 WR Doug Baldwin. Tampa Bay also added veteran vertical threat DeSean Jackson to their group this year and drafted rookie Chris Godwin. At TE the Buccaneers will be running out Cameron Brate and rookie sensation OJ Howard. While in Seattle Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are the main big options as Tyler Lockett will be returning from injury. Jermaine Kearse underperformed last season but has played a role in Seattle’s offense. The Buccaneers have the stronger WR core and likely the addition of Jackson and other pieces should help improve Winston’s peripheral stats. Look for him to continue to improve. Jackson also has the better offensive line giving him better protection in the pocket to throw the ball.
There’s a misconception about Winston being a mobile QB. Winston ran a 4.97 40-Yard Dash that was in the (23RD-percentile) of the position and had a middle of the road 11.52 (46TH-percentile) Agility Score that is a scored combined off the 20 Yard Short Shuttle and 3 Cone Drill over at PlayerProfiler.com. Winston did punch in 6 TD his rookie season but his longest run of the season was 14 yards. Winston’s rushing numbers limit his ceiling unless he cuts down on the interceptions. Wilson meanwhile is known for his ability to get into the open field and wreak havoc on defenses. At the combine Wilson posted a 4.55 40-Yard Dash which is in the (97TH-percentile) and he posted a very elite 11.06 (86TH-percentile) Agility Score. Wilson can hit high numbers with his legs that can amount to another TD just from his rushing yardage.
Opportunity & Efficiency
Looking at Josh Hermsmeyer’s work with airyards.com, we see that Winston posted nearly 5574 Air Yards this past season. Air Yards looks at the receiving yards combined with the attempted receiving yards on balls thrown down field. This gives you a way to look at possible outcome and what the offensive game plan was. The Buccaneers left a high volume of yards on the table with incomplete passes. Wilson completed more passes for more yards and threw 7 less Interceptions. Wilson and the Seahawks had only 4499 Air Yards showing Wilson is the more efficient passer but takes fewer shots down field. The Buccaneers game plan shows their faith in Winston’s arm and ability to win games. Look for Winston’s passing numbers to continue to improve as he grows as a QB.
In the passing game, Winston posted only a 60.5 completion percentage and only had a QB rating of 86.1 ranking 31ST in the league. The more effective Wilson completed 64.5 percent of his balls with a 92.6 QB rating. Surprisingly when we look at PlayerProfiler.com both QBs attempted nearly identical numbers of Deep Ball Attempts with Wilson at 83 attempts and Winston at 86 attempts.
The passing numbers seem to favor Winston. If he improves his accuracy and stops forcing the ball to Evans while spreading the ball to other WRs he should lower his Interception total. An improved line in Seattle with a healthy Russell Wilson should bring back Wilson’s rushing yards as well as a slight bump in rushing TDs. There is also a lot of talk coming out of Seattle that the Seahawks want to get back to more of a ground attack with a big play passing attack that looks to hit over the top as defenders creep up and try to stop the run. Most expert rankings have Winston over Wilson in dynasty a lot of this has age and upside factored in. In redraft leagues I strongly recommend taking Wilson as the better play. In Dynasty leagues, I wouldn’t fault you for going after Winston and his upside as he continues to grow as a player. It is Wilson and his ability to run the ball that makes him the better fantasy football QB for your team.