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Feb 12

Fantasy Stock Watch: Russell Wilson vs Andrew Luck

Now for another installment of our Fantasy Stock Watch periodical. This series takes a look at players who either exceeded their anticipated contributions this year, or failed to live up to them and what we can expect come 2014. The biggest concern: you want to draft based on value, rather than paying for stats that will be hard to repeat and/or paying an expectant price for development that may not come.

 

Fantasy Stock Watch 2014: Other Entries

QB
RB
WR/TE
Robert Griffin IIILeSean McCoy/Jamaal CharlesJosh Gordon
Andy DaltonC.J. SpillerRiley Cooper
Drew Brees vs. Aaron RodgersRashad JenningsCordarrelle Patterson
Matt RyanMontee BallMichael Crabtree
David WilsonAce Sanders/Kerry Taylor
Trent RichardsonDennis Pitta
Frank GoreRueben Randle
Chris Johnson
Ray Rice
Giovani Bernard

 

Every so often it seems the perfect unofficial rivalry of two quarterbacks emerges. There was Bart Starr vs Johnny Unitas, Kenny Stabler vs Terry Bradshaw, John Elway vs Bernie Kosar, Dan Marino vs just about everyone and, of course, Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning, to name a few. I can only hope that Russell Wilson vs Andrew Luck follows suit. I just love these two players as perfect examples of where the position is headed. They have two very different playing styles yet weren’t too far off in fantasy points (or stats) for the 2013 season.

 

Andrew Luck Russell Wilson Difference
Completions 343 257 +86 (Luck)
Attempts 570 407 +163 (Luck)
Percentage 60.2% 63.1% +2.9% (Wilson)
Passing Yards 3822 3357 +465 (Luck)
Passing Touchdowns 23 26 +3 (Wilson)
Interceptions 9 9 Even
QB Rating 87.04 101.15 +14.11 (Wilson)
Rush Attempts 63 96 +33 (Wilson)
Rush Yards 377 539 +162 (Wilson)
Rush Touchdowns 4 1 +3 (Luck)
Fantasy Points 2013 292.58 270.18 +22.4 (Luck)

Before we proceed, I want to note that I calculate my fantasy stats using the same scoring tier that fantasydata.com uses, which is very similar to ESPN’s scoring and I feel is most fair for truly judging players while still keeping within the grounds of “standard scoring”.

In these 11 categories, Wilson and Luck split the winning column 5-5-1. The key detail here though, is that Luck took the most important category: Fantasy Points. In some of the more fantasy relevant areas like completions, pass attempts and yards, Luck also took the cake. However, as an overall quarterback and player in 2013, Wilson trumped in essential categories such as passing touchdowns, completion percentage and QB rating. When we really step back and look at it though, these two quarterbacks finished the year in very similar spots.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Andrew Luck may have been drafted #1 by the Colts, but Russell Wilson has a ring. (Photo: USATSI)

2013 ADP: 74 (QB11)
2013 Position Rank:
 QB8 (64 Overall)

2013 Expectations: Russell Wilson

According to Fantasypros.com , Wilson was projected to be the eleventh quarterback off the board and #74 overall which puts him in the seventh round in 12-team leagues. I got him in the ninth in one league and for $3 in an auction league and I doubt it will be that easy in 2014. In June of last year, Bleacher Report had Russell Wilson projected to go 340-515-4,172 yards with 30 TDs, 10 INTs, 442 rush yards and 4 rush TDs… which are staggering numbers for a second year QB. His numbers this year really weren’t that far off, save for the passing yards. In fact, one could argue that perhaps Russell would have reached these stats had Percy Harvin played more than, what, 30 snaps during the regular season? Had these stats been a reality, Wilson would have charted around 335 fantasy points this season, good for third best in the league. Let’s just keep in mind that this was the opinion of just ONE other fantasy site who seemed to be a little high on the second half of the Wilson’s rookie year. Fantasysharks.com had an eerily accurate prediction of the young quarterback’s stats, on the other hand (be sure to select ESPN scoring when following the fantasysharks link to stay consistent with my stats). They forecasted him finishing 275-420-3,100 yards with 28 TDs, 10 INTs, 575 rush yards and 3 rush TDs which would put him at 291 fantasy points, good for fifth overall in 2013. Not bad fantasysharks, not bad.

2013 Results: Russell Wilson

Wilson’s numbers in 2013 were great considering where the majority of owners drafted him. What might come as a surprise though, is that he was actually 5 fantasy points better in his rookie year despite finishing two positional rankings higher in 2013 (QB10: 2012 v. QB8: 2013). The key thing to remember here is that Wilson wasn’t even on the draft radar in standard leagues in his rookie year so comparing the two is rather superfluous when judging his fantasy value thus far in his career. All in all, he wasn’t disappointing in the slightest. Of the top 10 fantasy QBs of 2013, if we remove the extraneous players (namely Manning and Brees who were 102 and 60 points better than the rest of the pack respectively), then Wilson was only 27 points behind the third place QB, Cam Newton. To add to that, of the 10 quarterbacks fantasypros.com projected ahead of him, Wilson finished ahead of 5 of them (Rodgers, Brady, Kaepernick, Ryan and RG3). That’s pretty good 2013 value if you ask me.

2014 Expectations: Russell Wilson

I believe 2014 is going to be a solid year for Wilson in both real and fake football. While he’s proved to be a top 10 QB in fantasy in his first 2 years, I still hear a lot of criticism and doubt surrounding his ability to play. The fact of the matter is this: those people just don’t know how to utilize Wilson in fantasy football. With the help of this fancy-shmancy chart, I can make my point a bit more clear:

Weekly 2013 Fantasy Points: Luck v Wilson

Weekly 2013 Fantasy Points: Luck v Wilson

Russell Wilson’s ceiling was a bit lower than Luck’s, but Wilson’s consistency was a bit better. This leads to my overall point. When drafting quarterbacks like Manning, Brees, Luck, Rodgers and Brady, you can expect to have some really big weeks… as well as some really low weeks. When drafting Wilson, you can expect the majority of his weeks to fall between 15 and 25 points (10 weeks in that range in 2013) and he even had one week that almost hit 30 that isn’t included in that range. Why is this beneficial in any way, you ask? Well, given the slightly lower ceiling, Wilson’s draft stock still puts him at around the eighth to twelfth quarterback drafted, meaning he can be scooped up in the later rounds, freeing up your early rounds to snag such players as Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham, and not high-value quarterbacks. Since Wilson finishes the year in the top 10 QBs, you can spend your early draft picks on other big playmakers while getting a consistent quarterback, who makes fewer mistakes than most, in the sixth to ninth round. Outside of fantasy monsters like Manning and Brees, Wilson was less than 30 points behind the next leading QB which can easily be made up by selecting monsters like AP and Megatron, giving you a very well-rounded team.

The 2014 season should show a slight improvement for Wilson. The Seahawks are obviously going to remain a force to be reckoned with on defense so the young QB will still have that to rely on. The next step is for Pete Carroll to get him another solid receiver. Imagine if Wilson had Percy Harvin for at least 75% of a season along with another playmaker like, I don’t know, Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin or Julian Edelman (all potential free agents). Wilson would have top 5 potential and probably somewhere in the 70% completion rate. Sure, Golden Tate has his moments, but a “hometown discount” isn’t going to force me to keep him on my team. Should he get another reliable receiver or even just have Percy Harvin for a majority of the season, Wilson’s numbers will improve in 2014 despite the doubts surrounding him. Why? Not because he’s elite, but because he makes smart decisions and has a brilliant team supporting him.

My 2014 prediction: 282-425-3,300 (66.3%) 29 TDs, 8 INTs, 90 rush attempts, 500 rush yards and 3 rush TDs. Total Fantasy Points: 300.

 Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

In just his second season, Andrew Luck became a top 5 fantasy quarterback. (Photo: USATSI)

2013 ADP: 61 (QB9)
2013 Position Rank:
 QB4 (43 Overall)

2013 Expectations: Andrew Luck

In the spirit of consistent references, according to Fantasypros.com Andrew Luck was projected to be the ninth quarterback off the board and #61 overall which lands him in the beginning of the sixth round in 12-team leagues. Our optimistic friends over at Bleacher Report had Luck projected to record 369-585-4,251 yards (63.1%) 29 TDs, 13 INTs, 241 rush yards and 4 rush TDs which would score him about 308 fantasy points which was lower than their projections for Russell Wilson. Had those stats been a reality, Luck would’ve finished third in fantasy QB scoring rather than fourth. Bleacher Report’s stat predictions weren’t that accurate but LUCK-ily Andrew Luck was able to produce nearly similar fantasy points thanks to picking up slack in the Colts run game and cutting his interceptions in half (those -2 points add up). Upon further investigation, we find that Fantasysharks.com had a similar opinion to BR (again, be sure to select ESPN scoring when following the fantasysharks link to stay consistent with my stats). They projected Luck at 375-620-4,400 yards (60.4%) 32 TDs, 15 INTs, 250 rush yards and 3 rush TDs which totals him at 317 fantasy points under the same scoring standard. That would also land him the #3 spot among QBs in 2013.

2013 Results: Andrew Luck

Either way, Luck finished the year as the fourth best fantasy quarterback in 2013 which is plenty valuable. Much like Russell Wilson, Luck put up his numbers without his best receiver (Reggie Wayne) for the majority of the season. This kid is going places. In fact, he jumped five positions from his 2012 season (QB9-QB4) which is a major improvement. How did he do that? He cut his interceptions in half and remained a force on the ground. Just like Russell Wilson, Luck finished his 2013 campaign in front of 5 of the 8 quarterbacks that fantasypros.com projected ahead of him. A list containing such names as: Rodgers, Brady, Ryan, Kaepernick and Stafford. All that aside, here’s the special thing about Andrew Luck. He is the Elway of this era. They both have a similar size and build, they both have a cannon attached to their arms and aren’t afraid to air it out, they both have a power-scrambling running style (although Elway mostly scrambled out of necessity) and they both played at Stanford and were drafted first overall. I’m sure you knew all that already though. I don’t know about you, but the thought of an Elway 2.0 gives me chills.

2014 Expectations: Andrew Luck

Let’s bring back that “fancy-shmancy” chart from before so you don’t have to keep scrolling up every time I reference it.

Weekly 2013 Fantasy Points: Luck v Wilson

Weekly 2013 Fantasy Points: Luck v Wilson

Andrew Luck will produce better numbers in 2014, however he will finish outside of the top 5. Mark my words. This is NOT a bad thing. He finished fourth among quarterbacks this year after all, so “better numbers” will equate to him building on what will shape up to be a hall of fame career. If he’s going to get better, why will he be outside of the top 5 then? I will answer that question with another question. Is it really feasible to believe that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will be outside of the top 10 for a second year in a row? Well, it’s plausible but not likely. Brady will shake off his “down” year and Rodgers will be healthy with an equally healthy Randall Cobb and a solid running game that Green Bay has been missing since Ahman Green. The Colts are going to need a couple seasons to properly build around Luck and once they do, it’s off to the races (subtle horse pun).

In 2013, Luck had 8 games in the 15-25 fantasy point range, compared to Wilson’s 10, but 2 of those 8 games were on the cusp of eclipsing 25 points. If we give him the benefit of the doubt on those 2 games (which I will) the future hall of famer had 4 games over 25 points. On the downside, Luck also had 6 sub-15 point weeks compared to Wilson’s 5. However, since we’re handing out the “benefit of the doubt” card, we have to give it to Wilson too. Two of Wilson’s sub-15 games came in the last two weeks of the year when the Seahawks had clinched playoff glory decisively, so it’s somewhat fair to credit him at least one of those games as a throwaway. Wilson is consistently above-average in fantasy (which has its perks as I stated previously) but Andrew Luck is explosive and the typical pedigree that fantasy owners like to build around.

Luck is a pass-heavy quarterback with an affinity to use his legs. That is a fantasy owners dream. Build a solid team around a guy like that and you’ve got a future league MVP. The 2014 season, however, will only be a step into the star-studded direction that the Manning replacement is headed. Luck will hit 600 pass attempts and he will score rushing touchdowns. This formula has nowhere to go but up. Andrew Luck is the type of quarterback who can make up for where his offense is lacking. He’s the full package. I wager he could put the Jaguars above .500 if he were their QB. He has the talent and the size. Wilson makes up for his size and power by making smart decisions and having the proper supporting cast. Luck makes up for his team by just being that darn good. I’m not trying to discredit the Indianapolis Colts though. They’re a good team but they have holes and they’re certainly no Seattle Seahawks.

My 2014 prediction: 380-610-4,050 yards (62.3%) 30 TDs, 14 INTs, 60 rush attempts, 350 rush yards and 4 rush TDs. Total Fantasy Points: 313.

 

Final Word:

Luck and Wilson are both destined for greatness. Hey, Wilson already has a Superbowl ring and I have a feeling he could grab one more. Wilson’s role right now isn’t “ideal” for the typical cookie cutter fantasy quarterback but he holds great value if drafted properly. Wilson will undoubtedly be drafted after Luck is long off the board which, as I stated before, allows you to fill other skill positions with better picks. That said, Luck has a markedly higher fantasy ceiling but it will be a few years before he’s putting up Drew Brees stats. In the end, I feel they both hold nearly similar fantasy value in 2014 – you just have to realize the potential of where you can draft them. Yes, Luck will score more points and ultimately be the better fantasy quarterback, but you’re also not going to find Luck outside of the fourth round in many standard leagues. Wilson will fall six rounds or beyond and still be a top 10 quarterback. The value is there for both of them, it just depends how you draft your team. I, personally, would lean towards Wilson because I like to draft a QB late, but you can bet I’d be just as happy with Andrew Luck on my team – a guy who will probably be approaching Manning’s passing records in 13 or so years.

Food for thought: In 2-4 years we may see the departure of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. In 2-4 years, the Colts will have a juggernaut team to go with a seasoned Andrew Luck. In 2-4 years, who will be king of the mountain? Just a thought…

 

 

For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff

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