Is Taylor Heinicke Washington’s version of Russell Wilson?

Nov 21, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) looks to pass in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) looks to pass in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

How often do we go back and look at old scouting reports of players and chuckle? If the NFL proves one thing, it’s that even “the experts” often don’t know what they are talking about.

As we head into the Washington Football Team’s Monday night match-up against the Seahawks, there’s no better time to look at how the majority of the NFL overlooked both teams’ starting quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Taylor Heinicke.

Let’s start with a hypothetical example to kick things offs. Let’s say you have a mobile quarterback with over 10,000 career college passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards, over a 3:1 TD to INT ratio, 20+ rushing touchdowns, who averages over 7.75 yards per pass attempt.

Sounds like a pretty good quarterback, right? Yet this quarterback was overlooked by many “experts” during the draft process due to his height.

Who am I talking about? If you said Russell Wilson, you’d be right. But what many fail to realize is all of the stats above also hold true for Taylor Heinicke.

When J.D. McKissic called Heinicke, “Baby Russell Wilson,” he may not have known just how accurate his statement really was.

Can Taylor Heinicke become the Washington Football Team’s version of Russell Wilson?

Coming out of college, both Wilson and Heincke were compared to Colt McCoy, with many scouts seeing the ceiling of both players being potential backups in the league.

Although draft profiles touted both players’ leadership, veteran presence, mobility, and accuracy, the small stature of both players and difficulties when dealing with a crowded pocket, limited how successful the “experts” thought they would be.

"“Heinicke lacks arm strength and, while his mechanics allow him to generate strong throws, he also operates best from a clean pocket. When in traffic or with defenders at his feet, he cannot use his mechanics to generate strength in his throws. At those times, his passes lack zip and the timing of throws and routes is off.”“One of the few weaknesses in [Wilson’s] game seems to be when there is pressure around him in the pocket and trash at his feet…I think that causes him some discomfort at times, and will result in throws off of his back foot or less accurate passes than when he has a cleaner pocket, when he can side-step the rush to find a throwing lane, or when he can move outside of the pocket where he has clear vision of the field.”"

In addition to similar draft profiles for both quarterbacks, the similarities between their measurables were uncanny. When you look at height, weight, 40-time, and other metrics for both quarterbacks, you can hardly tell them apart.

Heinicke measured in just over 6′ and 214 pounds, while Wilson was a hair under 5’11” and 204 pounds. Heinicke had a vertical of 35″ compared to 34″ for Wilson, and ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds compared to 4.53 for Wilson. Their 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill times were also nearly identical with Heinicke at 4.21 and 6.96 seconds, respectively, and Wilson at 4.09 and 6.97 seconds, respectively.

The Seahawks ended up drafting Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft, which was widely criticized since the team had just signed Matt Flynn to a three-year contract. Wilson would go on to win the starting job and we all know how his career has gone since.

Heinicke’s journey, on the other hand, wasn’t as simple. After he went undrafted in the 2015 draft, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. After suffering multiple injuries while with the Vikings, he was released with an injury settlement before briefly signing with the Patriots practice squad.

He then signed with the Texans and completed his first pass in his NFL debut before suffering a concussion. After being waived, he signed with the Panthers and started one game, where he suffered an elbow injury. After being cut by the Panthers, he spent time in the XFL as a back-up with the St. Louis BattleHawks before joining the Washington Football Team.

Quite a different trajectory than Wilson, but here we are six years later and both are among the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Part of making it in the NFL has to do with getting an opportunity. There would be no Tom Brady if Drew Bledsoe hadn’t suffered an injury. Kurt Warner might not have gotten a shot if Trent Green didn’t go down with an injury. Heinicke, who had never gotten a chance to start multiple games, got his opportunity after Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with a hip injury.

Although Heinicke is 28 years old, you could consider this his “rookie” year, although some would disagree.

Not including the Chargers game, since he did not officially get the start, Heinicke has been up and down in his starts. Overall in his nine outings, he has amassed a 4-5 record while averaging 252 passing yards per game. He has thrown 14 TDS to 9 INTs (2.87 INT%) while adding in 259 rushing yards. During his time starting, Washington’s defense is ranked 28th in terms of points allowed.

If you compare that to Wilson’s first nine starts, the numbers are fairly impressive. Wilson amassed a 5-4 record while benefitting from having the top-ranked defense in terms of points allowed. He averaged 182 passing yards per game, threw 13 TDS to 8 INTs (3.41 INT%), and added 155 rushing yards.

Regardless of the stats, one thing was for sure and that is Wilson and Heinicke give you that sense of amazement when you watch them play. Let’s look at a throwback from Wilson’s rookie year.

That ability to escape the pocket and make something out of nothing is special, and it is something Washington fans have seen Heinicke do time and time again.

With the Monday night game approaching, Heinicke was asked how he felt about being compared to Wilson, and he was more than happy to take the compliment.

"I’ll take that all day. That’s a quarterback I’ve tried to emulate for a while now. I’ve been watching him grow up. He kind of paved the way for short, mobile quarterbacks, so I’m excited to watch him play on Monday, and hopefully, he doesn’t play too well."

With Seattle fans more than happy to “let Russ cook,” Washington fans should be just as excited to let Taylor, well, Heinickeeeeee. On Monday, we’ll get a chance to see who comes out on top.

Next. Washington vs Seattle betting preview. dark