The Best Fantasy Option: Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson?
Who is going to be the more consistent fantasy performer in 2013, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson? This is a question that will continue to plague the minds of fantasy owners the world over between now and September.
Today, I am attempting to answer what promises to be one of the most lingering questions in both standard and dynasty leagues. Who represents the best value?
First, it is important to note that Kaepernick ranked second to only Aaron Rodgers in PFF QB Rating with a stellar mark of 100.78. Interestingly enough, Wilson was just a couple of spots behind at 98.32. All quarterback rating formulas leave a lot to be desired when drawing a conclusion through a fantasy lens, but these rankings seem to maintain the same balance across all ranking systems.
As all fantasy owners do, I take a long look at what each quarterback can do down the field. An important component to success in every league is what I call “electric plays.” Will a quarterback dink and dunk his way down the field? If so, it could help the actual team on the field in winning the time of possession battle, but it definitely doesn’t do a whole lot when it comes to giving fantasy owners a lot of points on an individual player, outside of PPR leagues for wide receivers.
On passes that traveled 20-plus yards, Kaepernick was spot on. He completed 19/33 attempts for 595 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. His accuracy percentage on those longer passes ranked No. 1 in the NFL among regular quarterbacks.
Wilson completed just 28/64 such pass attempts for a measly 48.4 accuracy percentage. In addition, he threw nine touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Of course this will change with Percy Harvin in the mix and an entire offseason of experience under his belt, but it seems that Kaepernick will be the quarterback of these two that provides you the “electric play.”
The interesting thing here is that Kaepernick averaged nearly five attempts of more than 20 yards in his seven regular season starts, while Wilson averaged just three. I am intrigued to see if this number stays the same with the Seahawks’ quarterback following the addition of Percy Harvin, who was only targeted five times for more than 20 yards. Considering that Wilson is already a much better quarterback than Christian Ponder, I expect these numbers to increase.
On the other hand, both Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree were especially solid when it came to deep targets. Both possessed a solid 62.5 percent catch rate on passes that traveled more than 20 yards. That tied them for second among regular receivers behind Jeremy Kerley of the New York Jets.
There is no reason to believe that Kaepernick will all of a sudden start struggling throwing the ball down the field in 2013. This seems to indicate that the natural progression for Kaepernick this upcoming season will make him a top-flight fantasy quarterback option.
|Player||Points per Drop Back||Points/Start||Completion %||Total Yards PG|
|Colin Kaepernick||0.69 (2nd)||22.4||67.0 (13th)||256|
|Russell Wilson||0.61 (4th)||18.4||70.0 (7th)||225.4|
Another thing to look at is rushing statistics. As the read option takes hold around the NFL, there is going to be a growing amount of fantasy owners that make the decision to go with running quarterbacks over traditional drop-back passers. This is where both Wilson and Kaepernick can really put you over the top at quarterback. In terms of standard fantasy stats, Kaepernick and Wilson were among the most surprising at the quarterback position. Kaepernick averaged more than 20 fantasy points per outing in his seven regular season starts, never finishing outside of the top 12 in the process. Meanwhile, Wilson averaged a tad more than 18 fantasy points per start and ranked 11th overall among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Wilson’s sample size may lead some to believe that he is a better bet to put up consistent numbers over the course of a 16-game schedule.
Wilson averaged 30.6 rushing yards and 0.25 touchdowns on the ground per game. While he wasn’t as electric as Kaepernick with the ability to break the long run, those 30 rushing yards per outing really do make him a stellar option in standard leagues.
On the other hand, Kaepernick averaged 34 rushing yards and 0.29 touchdowns on the ground in his seven regular seasons starts. Those numbers increased to 88 and 1.0 in the postseason.
Depending on how much these teams decide to utilize the read option in 2013, you could see similar numbers from both quarterbacks. This enables you to maybe grab more value at running back later in the draft because you know full well that your QB1 option will give you a decent output on the ground.
I personally believe that both Kaepernick and Wilson will be top-eight fantasy quarterbacks in 2013. You would be much better off going with them a bit later rather than picking up Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in the first round. This would give your fantasy lineup more of a well-rounded feel and enable you to maybe even go WR2 and TE1 earlier than your counterparts.
As evidenced by Kaepernick’s 10 starts, postseason included, it’s easy to conclude that he has more upside in terms of fantasy value than Wilson. If you want to make a statement in standard leagues, definitely go with Kaepernick over his counterpart in the NFC West. If you want to play it a little closer to the vest, go with the quarterback that has a full season under his belt.
Both are stellar dynasty options – right up there with Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck as the most obvious quarterbacks you should target relatively early. When looking a couple of years down the road as it relates to production, you must take into account the talent around each player. The good news for both Kaepernick and Wilson is that their teams are completely stacked on the offensive side of the ball.
We have already looked at the wide receivers to an extent here, but I want to check in on youngsters both teams have on the outside. San Francisco selected A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He struggled out of the gate and was inactive for all but three games during the regular season. A lot of this had to do with San Francisco’s mentality of “redshirting” its rookie class, but Jenkins didn’t even see much action when Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams went down with season-ending injuries. It remains to be seen whether Jenkins will ever produce like a first-round talent, but he should play a larger role for the 49ers in 2013.
Outside of that, San Francisco is really handicapped here. Manningham had the fourth-best catch rate among wide receivers in the NFL last season, but he is coming off a serious injury and had to take a pay cut in order to avoid being released. Williams has been an enigma of sorts, especially after two costly fumbles in the NFC Championship Game in January 2012. He can be a solid slot option when healthy. Again, it’s all about him returning to form after suffering a serious injury.
On the other hand, San Francisco is stacked at running back. While Frank Gore probably only has two seasons or so of Pro Bowl-caliber play ahead of him, the 49ers have multiple options behind him. Kendall Hunter, who also suffered a serious injury in 2012, had a great rookie season in 2011. The former fourth-round pick put up nearly 600 total yards on just 118 touches as a rookie. He followed that up by averaging 5.2 yards per rush in 2012. LaMichael James, a second-round pick last April, was also a healthy inactive for the first three quarters of the season. The Oregon product made his impact known after Hunter’s injury. He averaged more than five yards per touch in the final four games of the regular season before taking on a larger role in the playoffs. These two young running backs will be able to help Kaepernick in creating balance on offense and giving him receiving options out of the backfield.
Seattle seems to be in a solid position here as well. Golden Tate broke out with Wilson under center. The former second-round pick tallied career highs in receptions (45), yards (688) and touchdowns (seven). He will be a solid WR2 option for the Seahawks moving forward. While there might be concerns of Sidney Rice’s contract situation, he is still only 26 years old and put up 748 yards and seven scores in 2012. Those two will be solid receiving options behind Percy Harvin for the foreseeable future.
Marshawn Lynch is in nearly the same situation as Gore. He is, however, three years younger and has about 600 less touches in his career than his counterpart with the 49ers. You can expect Lynch to play an important role in Seattle’s offense for the next four seasons or so. If that rings true, Wilson will have himself a great running partner moving forward. Another player to look at here is Robert Turbin. The Utah State product tallied more than 500 total yards as Lynch’s primary backup in his rookie season. He translates into being a starting running back at some point in his NFL career.
The primary difference here is the strength of each team’s offensive line.
San Francisco’s offensive line graded out No. 1 overall here at Pro Football Focus with a +273.2 mark. In addition, the average age of its offensive line is 27. This seems to indicate that the likes of Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Alex Boone and Mike Iupati will be around for a while in northern California.
Seattle’s offensive line finished seventh overall, but ranked a pedestrian 13th in pass protection. If Russell Okung can remain healthy for an entire season, something that hasn’t happened in his first three seasons, the Seahawks should be OK here. The former first-round pick ranked sixth among offensive tackles in pass protection this past season.
Overall, it is pretty much a wash. Both Kaepernick and Wilson are among the best quarterback options in dynasty leagues and have bright futures ahead. If you take into account young talent, I would probably lean toward San Francisco with the best offensive line in the entire NFL. Though, you will not go wrong with either option.