Ten years ago Thursday, Russell Wilson received the life-changing call informing him he was being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks … a team that signed a new starter a month earlier … after five other quarterbacks had already been selected … in the third round.
Wilson didn’t care that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden (!) and Brock Osweiler were selected before him. He didn’t care the Seahawks already had Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson. And he didn’t care people had concerns about his height.
“All I’ve ever said is I need one person to give me a chance — one team,” Wilson said when I asked about that draft earlier this week. “Seattle gave me that amazing chance.”
In turn, Wilson delivered amazing results for the Seahawks and compared to the rest of the quarterbacks drafted in 2012.
Regular season wins: Wilson 104, Tannehill 72 and Luck 53.
Touchdown passes: Wilson 292, Kirk Cousins 223 and Tannehill 199.
Playoff wins: Wilson nine and four apiece for Foles and Luck.
Super Bowl appearances: Wilson two (1-1 record) and Foles one (1-0).
I asked Broncos general manager George Paton last week if he remembered scouting Wilson.
“We all misevaluated him,” Paton said. “Really good player (in college). I think everybody dinged him because of his stature and baseball. That was a time when quarterbacks who weren’t 6-foot-3, you didn’t have as high on your board.”
Wilson was listed at 5 feet, 10 5/8 inches and had been playing in the Rockies’ minor-league system. He started his college career at North Carolina State before leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl as a graduate transfer in 2011.
“I always knew (because of) my height, people were going to say this or that,” Wilson said. “I always said my height is not going to define my skillset and it’s not going to define my attitude.”
Wilson’s positive mindset was probably tested during the pre-draft process because, despite his college career, he wasn’t generating first-round buzz. Or second-round buzz.
In Bob McGinn’s annual NFL draft rankings, published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 2012, he asked 19 scouts to rank the top five quarterbacks (five points for first, four for second, etc.). The results were Luck 95 (all 19 first-place votes), Griffin III 75 (18 of the 19 second-place votes), Tannehill 57, Weeden 18, Osweiler 14, Cousins 16 and Wilson six.
McGinn quoted three scouts about Wilson.
Scout 1: “You’ve got to have a plan and a package for him. I put him in the fifth round, but he’s a hell of an athlete. Third round would not surprise me.”
Scout 2: “He’s one of my favorite players to watch. He was the best interview of the 60 guys we had (at the combine). It wasn’t even close. I think he’s got a chance, I really do.”
Scout 3: “Awesome guy. Great story. If guys like Seneca Wallace can be a No. 2, so can (Wilson).”
In his respected 2012 Pro Football Weekly Draft Preview book, Nolan Nawrocki ranked the quarterbacks Luck, Griffin, Cousins, Tannehill, Osweiler, Weeden, Nick Foles, Kellen Moore and Wilson.
Nawrocki wrote that Wilson’s strengths were his “quick, high release and very good arm strength. Throws naturally on the move or off balance. Excellent third-down efficiency. Outstanding intangibles.” He wrote that Wilson’s weaknesses were that his, “height limits vision at times. Will vacate the pocket prematurely. Locks on to receivers.”
Nawrocki projected Wilson in rounds 4-5. “Has arms, legs and smarts to grow into an effective back-up.”
Ouch. No draft analyst or general manager bats 1.000.
When the draft arrived, Luck (first to Indianapolis), Griffin (second to Washington), Tannehill (eighth to Miami) and Weeden (22nd to Cleveland) went in round 1, followed by Osweiler (57th to the Broncos in round 2); the Broncos hosted Wilson for a pre-draft visit.
Luck is the best comparable to Wilson had he not shockingly retired during the 2019 preseason. Luck was 53-33 with 171 touchdowns and a 4-4 playoff record. Wilson, who won Seattle’s starting job after the third preseason game as a rookie, is 104-53-1 with 292 touchdowns and a 9-7 postseason record.
Griffin was NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, but that was his peak for Washington. Tannehill is in the middle of a successful second chapter after Miami traded him to Tennessee and he eventually replaced Marcus Mariota.
Weeden was 6-19 as a starter and Osweiler 15-15. Foles (No. 88 to Philadelphia) is 29-27 and Cousins (No. 102 to Washington) is 59-59-2. Ryan Lindley (No. 185 to Arizona) was 1-5.
“The whole league missed (on Wilson) because he could throw, was certainly athletic and won — kind of like he does now,” Paton said.
Wilson is the clear high achiever from that class and can relate to rookies this weekend who may get drafted later than they expected.
“What I would say to any young player coming in is to take advantage of opportunity,” he said. “I always say dreams come true when you capitalize on opportunities. I was fortunate enough to take advantage of mine, but I still have more to do.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism