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Will Russell Wilson bounce back as a Bronco?

By Jared Smola 12:34pm EDT 5/30/22


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Russell Wilson

What You Need to Know:
  • After spending the first 10 years of his career in Seattle, Wilson was traded to Denver in March along with a 4th-round pick in exchange for QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DL Shelby Harris, 2 first-round picks, 2 second-round picks and a 5th-round pick.
  • Wilson’s 2021 campaign was interrupted by a right middle finger injury suffered in October that required surgery and forced him to miss 3 games.
  • Those were the first games Wilson missed as a pro.
  • Wilson struggled in the 9 games after returning from that throwing-finger injury:
    • 61.5% completion rate
    • 7.0 yards per attempt
    • A 56.8 Pro Football Focus passing grade that ranked 26th among 35 qualifiers
  • He was much better in 4.5 games before the injury:
    • 72.0% completion rate
    • 9.6 yards per attempt
    • An 89.5 PFF passing grade – 2nd among 34 qualifiers
  • Wilson topped an 86.0 PFF passing grade in each of the 3 seasons prior to last year, finishing 8th, 2nd and 6th league-wide.
  • Wilson ranked 13th among QBs in fantasy points per game last season.
  • He’s finished as a top-13 fantasy QB in 9 of his 10 seasons, including 5 top-8 finishes and 3 top-5s.
  • Wilson set career lows with 3.1 carries and 13.1 rushing yards per game last year.
    • The finger injury didn’t impact those numbers much. He averaged 3.4 carries and 13.6 yards pre-injury; 2.9 carries and 12.8 yards post-injury.
  • Wilson turns 34 in November.
  • His weaponry in Denver might not be as strong at the top as he had with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Seattle, but it’s deeper. WRs Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are a strong trio; WR K.J. Hamler is a big-play threat once recovered from last September's knee and hip injuries; TEs Albert Okwuegbunam and Greg Dulcich boast pass-catching upside; and RBs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are weapons in the passing game.
  • Wilson also gets an offensive line upgrade in Denver. The Broncos ranked 9th in Pro Football Focus’ 2021 pass-blocking grades. (Seattle was down at 26th.)
  • The Broncos re-made their coaching staff this offseason, hiring HC Nathaniel Hackett and OC Justin Outten from Green Bay.
    • It’s Hackett’s first crack at a HC gig. He has 8 years of NFL OC experience: 2013-2014 with the Bills, 2016-2018 with the Jaguars and 2019-2021 with the Packers.
      • Hackett’s Bills and Jaguars offenses – piloted by E.J. Manuel, Kyle Orton and Blake Bortles – were run leaning. But Hackett went pass heavier when he hooked up with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers ranked 7th, 9th and 11th in situation-neutral pass rate the last 3 seasons.
    • Outten worked as Green Bay’s TEs coach the past 3 years. Prior to that, he spent 3 seasons in Atlanta, working under OCs Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian.
  • We’re projecting the Broncos to be a balanced to pass-leaning offense this year. That’d be a significant shift for Wilson, who played in mostly run-first attacks in Seattle. He topped 32.3 pass attempts per game in only 3 of his 10 seasons with the Seahawks. For perspective, 20 QBs averaged more than 32.3 attempts per game last year.


Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

We’re chalking up Wilson’s relatively disappointing 2021 season to the right finger injury he suffered midway through the year. He was good both statistically and in Pro Football Focus grades before that injury and had shown no signs of decline the few years prior.

Wilson has a new offense to learn and new receivers to build chemistry with after the big trade to Denver. But he has a deep group of weapons and might find himself in the pass-heaviest offense of his career.

Wilson, now 33, doesn’t boast the rushing upside he once did. That caps his fantasy upside a bit. But we still like him as a rock-solid QB1 with a chance to finish among the top 8 at his position.

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