Fantasy Flip-Flop: How Jared Goff Evolved into a Matchup-Proof Stud and Russell Wilson Became a Fantasy Liability

By: Jeff Bartl | October 5, 2018

Surrounding talent and a brilliant offensive scheme have helped Jared Goff satisfy fantasy owners with big numbers. It’s been quite the opposite for Russell Wilson, who’s gone from fantasy must-play to unreliable option due in large part to a struggling supporting cast.

You might remember a time when Russell Wilson threw for nearly 4,000 yards to a host of reliable targets, ran for nearly 600 on 6.2 yards per attempt and accounted for 37 touchdowns, resulting in one of the more productive fantasy seasons for a quarterback.

Boy, those were the days – the seemingly distant days of 2017.

What fantasy owners are seeing now is plenty of Wilson lying on his back because of a below-average offensive line. And if he remains upright, he’s forced to hold onto the ball while his receivers try and fail to get open. It’s a disastrous recipe that’s led to a dramatic drop in fantasy value heading into a Week 5 matchup with the explosive Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff, who is trending opposite of Wilson.

Wilson is being sacked on 11.7 percent of his dropbacks, by far a career worst and the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL. In all, the Seahawks are allowing pressure on 27 percent of pass blocking opportunities and rank 20th overall in pass protection. While none of those numbers are worst in the league, they’re not good enough to prevent consistent sacks – especially considering Wilson’s receivers can’t create separation.

Brandon Marshall ranks No. 52 of the 61 receivers with 20 or more targets in Burn Rating, according to STATS’ metrics. Burn Rating takes into account game situation (down and distance, score differential, etc.) to determine how difficult it is for a pass target to become a successful play. It explains which receivers create the most success out of the opportunities given. Doug Baldwin has ranked in the top 10 for that metric each of the last two seasons, but he’s only made it through one of Seattle’s games this year because of injury. Tyler Lockett has been a solid option for Wilson, but the loss of rookie tight end Will Dissly creates another gap.

As a result, Wilson has yet to hit 300 yards in the air. And with Seattle ranking 23rd in the NFL on the ground with 3.8 yards per carry, Wilson’s rushing attempts are down, too. STATS fantasy expert Corey Schwartz projects Wilson for only the eighth-most rushing attempts for a quarterback in Week 5 – a major drop considering Wilson sat near the top of that projection with Cam Newton for most of his career. That further lowers Wilson’s fantasy floor.

When factoring in some of those advanced metrics, it’s not difficult to see why STATS ranks Wilson as the No. 18 QB for the matchup against the Rams. Not long ago, Goff occupied spots that low in the projections, but there’s been a fantasy flip-flop of sorts between Wilson and the Rams’ signal caller.

Goff checks in as STATS’ No. 10 quarterback of the week, solidifying himself as a matchup-proof, must-play option in fantasy. The numbers back it up: Goff ranks 29th in pass attempts this season, but he’s second in the league in yards per attempt at 10.49 and is tied for fourth with 11 TD passes. That’s pretty darn efficient, and he has plenty of time to pick apart defenses – unlike Wilson.

The Rams’ offensive line allows pressure on only 15.4 percent of Goff’s dropbacks, which is the lowest percentage in the league. Given coach Sean McVay’s exceptional offensive scheme, STATS’ metrics show it is the seventh-toughest for which to provide protection. That’s roughly 11 percent better than STATS’ analytics expect, which is almost a full standard deviation better than the second-best offensive line.

Add in that Goff is about four percent more accurate than last season, and he’s able to hit his vast amount of weapons in the receiving game efficiently. Of the 40 receivers who have received at least 25 targets, Robert Woods (eighth), Cooper Kupp (12th) and Brandin Cooks (14th) rank near the top in Burn Rating and are all more than 10 percent above league average. Goff’s receivers are gaining about one full yard more after the catch per pass attempt this season compared to last, which shows Goff is able to hit his receivers in areas where they have room to run – thus boosting fantasy numbers. Overall, the Rams’ WR group ranks No. 4 in the NFL by STATS’ metrics.

Oh, and we didn’t even mention Goff has the luxury of having the NFL’s top running back to fall back on in Todd Gurley. He’s helped the Rams become the No. 1 rushing team in football, earning a quality rush on 54 percent of attempts – 14 percent better than league average.

Goff certainly took advantage of the talent around him last week when he threw for 465 yards and five touchdowns – both career highs – against Minnesota. His fantasy value continues to rise, and the Rams aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Wilson will get to see that first-hand in Week 5 while his fantasy owners hope for production that hasn’t arrived yet in 2018.