New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s sneaky value should allow him to crush his current 2021 fantasy football ADP.
Zach Wilson will go into his rookie season with nothing but a huge spotlight shining down.
Selected second overall in the 2021 NFL draft, Wilson is set to replace Sam Darnold as the future of the New York Jets. Whether he’s ready or not, the load is squarely on his shoulders.
Obviously, all of this pressure will be due to performing for his new employer in the most powerful and popular professional sports league in the world. Fantasy football owners, on the other hand, won’t be forced to rely on the kid, thanks to the numerous quarterbacks that are understandably ranked ahead of him.
As with many rookie quarterbacks, Wilson is a mystery. Nobody truly knows what’s coming, yet there are plenty of reasons to think seasonal fantasy football owners should take a flier on him.
Time at BYU
Wilson spent three years at BYU with mixed results. He wasn’t great his freshman year, but regression in his sophomore year is what concerned many at the time.
Wilson’s completion percentage went from 65.9% to 62.4%, his yards per attempt from 8.7 to 7.5, and his air yards per attempt dropped from 9.2 to 6.9. On top of that, he had fewer touchdowns (12 from 13) and more interceptions (nine from three).
Somehow, he was able to bounce back in a big way in 2020 and put up an incredible season, simply destroying all of his numbers from the previous two years.
As a junior, Wilson displayed incredible arm talent, making throws that drew comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes.
.@danorlovsky7 mentioned Aaron Rodgers + Patrick Mahomes when speaking about Zach Wilson of @BYUfootball on #Greeny w/ @Espngreeny. @CoachRoderick said this throw is one of reasons why people make those comparisons: a no-look pass vs @UCF_Football. #NFLDraft #BYUFootball pic.twitter.com/6T4wQOtVHR
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) February 13, 2021
While the one-year sample size should draw warranted concern, it was enough for Joe Douglas and the Jets to roll with Wilson moving forward.
Fit with the Jets
At first glance, the Jets may not have been the best place for Wilson to land. But once things are broken down, the exact opposite thought comes to mind.
NY Jets released a 4-part documentary on their draft process. Lots of really good Zach Wilson content. I like this clip from HC Robert Saleh where he discusses BYU’s offense having a lot of similarities to a Kyle Shanahan-type offense and about John Beck’s QB school. pic.twitter.com/WlbpZgrfxe
— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) June 22, 2021
The Jets were a bad team last year. Organizations aren’t gifted with the second overall pick in the draft otherwise (save for a trade). In spite of that terrible record, Douglas has done an admirable job starting from the root of the depth chart.
The Jets have continued to make improvements on their offensive line, signing Morgan Moses and drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker this offseason.
On top of that, they’ve completely rebuilt their receiving group as well—signing Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency, while drafting Elijah Moore this year. They’ve also built a solid, though unspectacular, running back group that doesn’t need to be great to be effective.
The team-building factor is quite important to ensure to security and growth of a young quarterback. It’s also critical when fantasy football outlooks are discussed and analyzed.
2021 Fantasy Football Outlook
Before I focus completely on Zach, I wanted to see just how well rookie quarterbacks have performed in recent years. But to make sure I’m calculating the correlating data, I’ve limited the criteria to guys who started at least 12 games in their rookie season (since Zach will go into Week 1 as the starter).
Since 2012, there have been 23 rookie quarterbacks that fit the criteria listed above. Of those 23, only six (26%) have finished in the top 12 fantasy football quarterbacks for the season. However, 18 of 23 (78%) finished the year as a top 24 quarterback.
the latter number is quite surprising and bodes well for Wilson to have a decent fantasy football season.
The other piece to this puzzle, before analyzing Wilson himself, is to see how Jimmy Garoppolo performed with the San Francisco 49ers. Wilson’s current offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, was the passing game coordinator of that 49ers team. While the correlation isn’t completely direct, it does provide some insight considering the Jets are expected to run a similar offensive system.
In 2019, when Garoppolo started all 16 games, he finished as the QB14 in fantasy football. However, he was the QB21 in FPPG (fantasy points per game).
While that is a small sample size (and could be somewhat conflicting, as he finished as QB10 in 2017 from Weeks 13-17 when he took over the starting job), I think that’s a reasonable expectation for Wilson to hit in his rookie year.
Now, since we can all agree that Wilson is much more athletic than Garoppolo, fluctuation should be expected. There can be more deep-ball completions, more rushing attempts from Wilson, etc., that will cause an uptick in variation compared to Jimmy’s production.
At the moment, Wilson’s fantasy football Redraft ADP is as the QB28. He may quite literally be the biggest steal in fantasy football drafts this season. Given the revamped offense of the Jets, Wilson has plenty of weapons to be productive.
Let’s not forget that it’s likely the Jets’ defense isn’t good this season, especially against the pass. They were bad in that regard last year and enter this season with an extremely inexperienced cornerback group.
It doesn’t matter how great Robert Saleh is as a coach, the defense will take time to become formidable. Until then, there’s a high likelihood the Jets lose more often than not. This, in turn, should allow Zach Wilson and the offense to pass the ball that much more.
I expect Zach Wilson to absolutely crush his ADP this year and finish in the range of QB16 to QB21 in fantasy football.
Take a flier on the kid late in the draft or as a wavier-wire addition as your team’s QB2.