In the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected quarterback of the future, Zach Wilson. That’s the hope at least. Wilson made waves immediately with Buffalo Bills fans by looking very uncomfortable standing next to Greg Rousseau in their draft class picture. Wilson was apparently so distraught he skipped the first Bills game this season. He is expected to take the field this weekend though, so let’s see what the Jets have so far with their rookie signal caller.
One of the first things that jumped off the screen with Zach Wilson is the guy’s poise. He’ll stand in the pocket to deliver the ball. He’s not afraid to go off-script. He’s pretty good at feeling pressure. And he’s always trying to make a play. This clip isn’t meant to show off his running ability. He can run, but the numbers don’t reflect a “mobile QB” like Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson. Rather, from a rookie it’s pretty cool to see that pump fake to pseudo-juke. I could have made a good reel of similar things from just a few games worth of film.
Here’s more of that poise. This play is all-or-nothing and Wilson knows it. He’s gonna go down swinging! The throw leaves much to be desired but, overall, this play has a lot of positives for a first-year player.
I don’t like doing quarterback analysis without some stats off of a valid sample size. It’s too easy to reinforce your own conclusion on certain things. I’ll dive more into the numbers soon, but I wanted to tie one GIF into a pretty damning trend. The Jets are tied for fifth-most drops as a team with 23. Wilson’s stats are not great (this is an understatement) but it’s fair to note that his surrounding talent isn’t always exactly helpful.
I don’t want to suggest though that it’s all everyone else’s fault. I’m no Jets fan, but you get invested watching the film and for the first 85 percent of this play or so I’d say I admit I was definitely all like “Oh man, that’s awesome!” And then he threw the ball and I’m like “Oh man, WTF was THAT?” I try to avoid lowlight GIFs as they can be just as damaging to objective analysis as highlights.
This isn’t even a lowlight. I swear he had a bounce pass that was so bad the RUNNING BACK he was targeting didn’t even seem to believe it. He caught it off the ground and ran like it was complete. Anyway...
I’m just going to toss in a few stats and thoughts that help elaborate on the clips above. Rapid fire time!
- Wilson has struggled to break 60 percent completion percentage this year. This isn’t a great measure of what I’d call “accuracy” but it is a good metric of overall team chemistry/ability. And Zach Wilson is STRUGGLING!
- At 2.99 seconds from the snap, Zach Wilson has the third-longest time to throw in the league. He holds the ball longer than nearly everyone else.
- The Jets have the eighth-most sacks and the ninth-worst sack rate in the league. Recall that I praised Wilson’s ability to extend plays, which vicariously meant I think he’s pretty good at avoiding sacks. But really what I mean is he’s good at avoiding them in the short term. He’s prone to hero ball and that means extending plays longer than he should. We’ve been down this road.
- The NFL’s Next Gen Stats site has a metric called “Completion Percentage Above Expectation.” Essentially the league calculates the “expected” probability of every throw and this measures the average difference. In simpler terms, a checkdown artist might have an inflated completion percentage due to a high volume of easy throws. This adjusted measure should account for that. Drum roll... Zach Wilson is -9.4 percent lower than expected. That’s worst in the league. Only Mike Glennon (-8.2) is in the same neighborhood. Every other QB in the league is better than -6.0 in this stat.
I pride myself on trying to form my own opinion so I don’t look at anyone else’s player profile until I’m done with mine. And usually I only look to make sure I’m not so far off the mark that people will think I’m hallucinating. It seems I pegged Zach Wilson pretty consistently with others so if you made it this far, I’m sorry for essentially making you read what’s likely been in print for a long time now.
If you haven’t read about Wilson yet, here goes. He has plenty of physical talent. He can make the throws. He can run if needed. He can run around and extend plays. Further, he has a playmaker attitude that can lead to some magic when it all comes together. It does not come together all that often as of right now.
Bills fans should know better than anyone else not to write off someone after their rookie year. That said, poor decisions kill some plays. Breakdowns in mechanics lead to throws where the term “head scratcher” seems generous. Wilson has a lot of potential and hero ball can always get hot and win a game. If you’re not well versed in analyst speak, tentative language like I’m using usually means “this guy shouldn’t be considered all that dangerous but if he happens to beat my team I don’t want to look like an idiot.” I really do think Wilson can become a good quarterback with the right situation/coaching. I just expect the Bills’ defense to take care of business this week.