It mystified most NFL draft experts when the Seahawks, selecting in the third round, latched onto University of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. His first negative, according to critics: Lack of height (5-foot-11). His second: the Seahawks had, only weeks earlier, guaranteed Matt Flynn $10 million over two years after acquiring him in free agency from the Green Bay Packers.
Tony Pauline of CNNSI.com summarized widespread sentiment on Wilson best when he wrote, "The Seahawks made another questionable decision (following the selection of DE Bruce Irvin in the first round), tabbing Wilson in the third frame. Wilson is destined to sit behind newly signed Matt Flynn and will struggle to see the field at any point over the next three years.”
Not according to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who brimmed with enthusiasm over Wilson after the team completed its three-day camp for rookies Sunday. Asked where Wilson fits into Seattle's quarterbacking picture, Carroll said:
“Here’s what I’m going to say about it: He’s going to be in the competition. He showed us enough. He’s in the competition. That is going to tax us, as we know. It was already going to be taxing with two (Flynn and incumbent Tarvaris Jackson).
"But he’s (Wilson) showed us enough that we need to see where he fits in with these guys. It won’t be because he doesn’t understand or that he can’t learn it, or any of that. And it isn’t going to be because he can’t throw a football – because he can. He’s got a terrific arm.
"So we’ll just have to see how he fits as the time goes on. It’s going to take us a long time to do this. It’s going to be frustrating for you guys (reporters). You’re going to keep asking and wanting to know, and I’m just going to be more patient than you can imagine as we go through this process and we’ll just figure it out when we do.”
Asked if he thought Wilson would become a competitor for the starting job in the days after the Seahawks drafted him, Carroll said, “I had hoped that. I had hoped that and we confirmed it in these three days. He left really no question that he needs to be involved in the competition of this thing.”
According to NFL scouts, Wilson is a "special person" whose leadership skills and athletic abilities ignited a Wisconsin offense that averaged 44.1 points per game last season. Still, it would be a remarkable, if not historic, development if Wilson overcomes his height disadvantage and becomes a starter, much less a star, in the NFL.
Since 1952, only two quarterbacks as short, or shorter, than Wilson have been successful in the NFL, Eddie LeBaron (Washington, Dallas, 1952-63), who was 5-7; and Doug Flutie (Chicago, New England, Buffalo, San Diego, 1986-2005, with nine years in the Canadian Football league) stood 5-9 3/4. At the NFL draft combine, Wilson measured 5-10 5/8.
So the height (or lack of) issue is real. So is this: during the past eight years, 23 quarterbacks have been first-round picks and 15 are currently starters. Over the same span, 82 quarterbacks have been selected in the second round or lower.
Of those, only seven of have become NFL starters. That doesn't work in Wilson's favor, either. Carroll, apparently, will have no part of those arguments.
"He did an excellent job of demonstrating that he prepared for this," Carroll said of Wilson's showing.
The question is whether Carroll's enthusiasm over Wilson amounts to another burst of hyperbole, or whether Carroll and the Seahawks are really on to something.
No less an authority than Rob Rang, a talent evaluator at nfldraftscout.com, posted this on his Twitter account: "I attended the Seahawks' rookie mini camp (Saturday). Excitement about Russell Wilson isn't just hyperbole from Carroll. Scouts buzzing too."
Having said that, Rang predicted that Wilson will "star" in the preseason, but after that the quarterback job is Flynn's to lose.
How say you?