COMMENTARY | Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have all performed brilliantly this season, but only one of them will claim the NFL Rookie of the Year award. There’s been a lot of debate recently over who should win. Most members of the media favor Luck or Griffin, but doing so is a mistake. Russell Wilson is having the best season of any rookie in the NFL.
Examine the evidence before you get your east coast bias in a twist. You might be surprised by what you find. A quick look at advanced metrics provided by Football Outsiders eliminates one of the contestants. Andrew Luck isn’t playing near the level of Griffin or Wilson. Luck’s defense-adjusted value over average rating (DVOA) is -4.0, mirroring the production of Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco. Wilson posts a 16.2 DVOA just below RG3’s 17.8. Those numbers top the production of celebrated passers like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford.
Luck has passed for more yards than Griffin and Wilson, but that’s a product of the Colts pass obsessed offense. His yards per attempt total trails both Wilson and RG3. The Colts rookie has also thrown more interceptions this season than Wilson and Griffin combined. Clearly, it’s a two horse race for NFL Rookie of the Year.
The statistical margin between RG3 and Russell Wilson is paper thin, but Wilson possesses a winning edge. The Seahawks quarterback has four 4th quarter comebacks and three game winning drives this season. In his most recent performance Wilson led the Seahawks on a 97-yard touchdown drive with 3:40 remaining in the final period, and another score on their first possession in overtime to claim a critical victory. In comparison, Griffin only has two 4th quarter comebacks for the Washington Redskins.
Russell Wilson also owns more impressive victories. Seattle has defeated three teams, the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Chicago Bears, that currently qualify for the playoffs. Griffin and the Redskins have only defeated one playoff opponent, the New York Giants.
The biggest obstacle between Russell Wilson and the Rookie of the Year award is the public perception of all three players before the season even started. College football’s BCS system is an excellent example of the challenge Wilson faces. Luck and Griffin, the first two picks in the NFL draft, began the year at the top of the rankings. Wilson, a 3rd round draft pick, essentially entered the season unranked. Perception keeps Luck and Griffin atop the standings despite evidence that shows Wilson is having a superior season.
All three rookie quarterbacks have been incredible, and each projects to have a fantastic career. In 20 years the 2012 quarterback draft class may be remembered as the best in NFL history, but only one player will win the NFL Rookie of the Year award, and that player should be Russell Wilson.
Nolan M. Rose currently lives in Soldotna, Alaska with his wonderful girlfriend and dog. Nolan writes a weekly football column for the Peninsula Clarion newspaper and covers the Seahawks extensively on his personal blog, Talking Squawk!