Revisiting Russell Wilson and The Defensive Impact On O-SCORE
Getting caught up on a couple emails:
Outstanding job on your offensive efficiency rankings, but you didn’t mention the quality of defense faced by each team. Surely a team which faces soft defenses is going to appear to be more efficient than one who plays the Ravens, Steelers etc?
It’s a good observation. The quality of defense a team faces definitely has an effect on offensive production. The next series of posts I do will be on a corresponding defensive efficiency ranking (called, unsurprisingly, “D-SCORE”). I thought it would be more useful to get the defensive piece of the puzzle out of the way before adjusting O-SCORE to reflect opponent defensive quality. I suspect though, that in most cases there will be only a modest-to-small impact over the course of a season. It’s very rare for a team to play more than 3-4 really good or really bad defenses. Because football sample sizes are so small, and each sample has a ton of variables for which stats can’t account, I’ve found that it’s often better to take a slightly broader view of things than you would with other sports. Sometimes mincing things too finely can skew your data more than if you had gone with a broader-than-ideal way of looking at things.
That said, it’s definitely something that I’ll be looking into and presenting for discussion.
During a Wisconsin game, the announcers were making the case that Russell Wilson’s height shouldn’t be an issue because he plays behind an “NFL sized” OL already….thoughts?
That argument seems to be gaining a little traction and I suspect we’ll be hearing about it more as we get closer to April. My problem with it is that the size of the OL is fine, but what about the size/length/speed of the defensive players he’s facing? That’s really the challenge. Too much of the “height discussion” has centered around his ability to see over the line – which is only a part of the problem small QB’s face. There are other factors to consider:
– I think we can assume that NFL DL and LB are better than their college counterparts. Furthermore, they’re usually the best physical specimens in the country. The biggest guys who can run the fastest, or the most agile 350 lbs guys, or the guys with the longest and strongest arms. These guys can tip passes and disrupt QB’s far better than college players. The taller a QB, the easier it is for him to get the ball over the line and avoid tips (unless he has a funky delivery/release point).
– Along the same lines, Wilson is protected by a very good Wisconsin OL which is better relative to their opponents DL than most pro OL’s. In other words, unless Wilson is playing behind a top 5 NFL OL, he is going to be challenged significantly. Combined with the “bigger, faster” point, he is unlikely to have the kind of time in the pocket he enjoys now. And when he had less time, at N.C. State, he looked like a guy who was just another short college QB with very limited pro potential.
– It’s not just height, it’s overall size. Wilson makes a fair number of plays with his legs, and chances are he’d have to make more in the pros because defenses are better and his OL will (most likely) be worse relative to his opponent’s DL. While he’s RB sized (5’11, 210), as a QB he can’t afford to take the beating a RB would and still remain effective. How many times have we seen a “mobile” QB who becomes less effective after taking a bunch of hits? I’m not saying Wilson couldn’t take the pounding, but it’s certainly something to consider for any QB who relies on extending plays with his legs. Furthermore, I’m not sure Wilson is athletic enough to have a ton of success extending plays in the NFL (again, NFL players are faster and bigger and Wilson isn’t Michael Vick in terms of athletic ability).
– For all the talk about Drew Brees, people forget that Brees has a somewhat unusually high release point. I’m guessing he developed that somewhere along the line to compensate for his height. Wilson is not only shorter, but releases the ball lower which could present problems for him.
I don’t like to categorically dismiss players based on one physical attribute, so I’m not going to say Wilson will definitely flop in the NFL. But the track record for short QB’s is abysmal for a reason. So while Wilson has shown he can succeed behind a “big” OL, I’m not sure that means he can succeed behind the average NFL line. Much of his success comes from him being able to compensate for his small stature because the Wisconsin OL is bigger and better than their opponents. When his line breaks down, he can outrun many of his pursuers to make a play out of the pocket. I don’t foresee him having that type of advantage in the pros, which to me is a much bigger concern than the height of his OL.