Just a month ago I would have been firmly opposed to drafting Russell Wilson. The only knock that anyone seems to have against this guy is his height- 5'11. I automatically wrote the guy off because of it, but I'm changing my tune. Here are my reasons:
1) Ignore his height for a second and look at what Wilson brings to the table. He has phenomenal accuracy and good arm strength. He is extremely athletic. He is fast (4.5 40 at the combine) and very quick. His pocket presence is as good as any passer in the draft. Keeps in poise under pressure, takes off running at the right times and keeps his eyes down the field as he runs. Throws very accurate on the run. His decision making is incredible. He has experience playing in a pro-style offense and going through his progressions as he reads the defense. Sells the play action very well (though it doesn't hurt that he had one of the most dangerous running attacks in college football). Exceptional footwork and throwing mechanics- high release that maximizes every inch of his body. He is a natural leader and played extremely well from behind in the 4th quarter. Extremely productive- 33 TD, 4 INT, 3,175 yds 72% completion percentage, 340 yards rushing and 6 rush TD in 2011. If Wilson was 6'2 he would without a doubt be a 1st round pick. The only concern I have is that he played behind one of the best OL's in the country, but I think he showed enough poise under pressure to prove he can handle having guys coming at him.
Check out this short highlight reel...
or a bit longer of one...
The entire clip is outstanding throws and runs, but just a few important things that stand out...
2:15- Feels the pressure on his back side, steps up in the pocket and resets his feet, makes accurate throw
6:13- Effortless 35 yard pass in the air while rolling left
8:19- Primary and secondary targets not open, pump fakes and turns across field to make accurate throw to 3rd option in tight coverage
8:54- Makes blitzing corner look foolish as he steps around, resets, and makes tremendous throw down the field
There was also a good episode of Gruden's QB Camp on Russel Wilson that you can watch here. Gruden loves this guy, predicting that he is going to be one of the biggest steals in the draft.
**6:35- Gruden addresses Wilson being too short. Interesting conversation. Wilson basically says he can make every throw, he went to Wisconsin to play behind big OL and prove he can throw over it. Says his keys are knowing the protection, throwing through the lanes, and keeping a high and quick release.
2) There isn't really an extensive history of QB's under 6 ft to make the claim that because he is only 5'11 he can't succeed. Generally they aren't drafted or given a legitimate chance to succeed. Drew Brees is only 6' tall and is one of the best passers in the league. Michael Vick makes a lot of plays with his feet, but he also has done a lot of damage from the pocket the past 2 seasons while only measuring in at 6'. Doug Flutie had a successful stint in Buffalo despite barely being 5'10. Bob Griese (6'1) led the Dolphins to 2 straight Superbowl appearances. Joe Thiesman (6') averaged over 3,000 yards passing a season in a run first league. Fran Tarkenton (6') threw for over 47,000 yards and ran for over 3,000 more during his fall of fame career. Is being 6'3 or taller a big advantage for QB's? Absolutely. Can shorter QB's still succeed? History would seem to indicate that they can. Short QB's don't often get the chance because they are short, but I can't recall any that don't succeed simply because they are short. Generally when a QB fails it's due to other deficiencies in their game- but I don't see any of those in Wilson.
3) Why does everyone assume that Nix has a special liking for taller QB's because played a part in drafting Phillip Rivers? Every GM would say the prototype height for a QB is 6'3 or taller. Sure, it's a preference, just like having long arms is a preference for OT's. It doesn't mean that they won't be drafted because they don't have long arms. Nix was part of the same front office that was responsible for drafting Brees. Maybe Rivers was 6'5, but his release point is more comparable to a 6'2 QB because of his somewhat sidearm throwing motion. He was drafted because he can play- not because he was tall.
4) Chan Gailey's offense is the ideal system for a short QB. Fitzpatrick isn't exactly the tallest QB (6'2), and Tyler Thigpen had plenty of success with Gailey in 2008 despite being only 6'1. When Gailey was the OC in Pittsburgh Kordell Stewart (6'1) had plenty of success. The Bills use a lot of shotgun/pistol looks that give the QB a better view of the field. In KC Gailey used a lot of designed roll outs with Thigpen to get him away from traffic. Wilson has the skills on the run to excel on these plays. The spread offense is similar to the one Drew Brees runs in NO, just slightly less vertical. Adding the right targets to use a more down field attack would allow a shorter QB to put more arch on the ball and get it over the DL- which is something that the team fully plans on doing.
5) Wilson should be available in the 4th, allowing us to fill other needs in the earlier rounds. I would prefer Tannenhill, but if for whatever reason he isn't the pick then I like Wilson in the 4th. He might not have the potential of Brock Osweiler, but he is a safer pick than can be had a full two rounds later. If you draft Wilson and he doesn't become a starting QB you are still adding a very solid back-up, something that Houston was very thankful to find in TJ Yates this season. That alone would be worth spending a mid-round pick on- add in the fact the Wilson could develop into much more and he has a ton of value in the 4th.
I think Buffalo is one of the few teams with legitimate interest in Russell Wilson. Watch the draft luncheon, Cook did an absolutely terrible job hiding the fact that they clearly like Wilson. The other team he has been linked to often is the Saints, but Buffalo has the edge on getting Wilson over NO for a couple reasons. They draft higher, so if Wilson is a 4th round target than NO would have to spend a 3rd round pick on him. NO doesn't have a 2nd rounder, so the chances they use their 2nd highest pick on a QB when they have Brees seem very low. They have also expressed interest in Kellen Moore, who they might prefer to draft in the 6th and use their early picks elsewhere. Other teams with potential interest are the Eagles and Broncos, both of whom also draft behind Buffalo and have stud QB's that will likely prevent them from "reaching" on Wilson in round 3.