Projecting a quarterback’s production all starts with deducing the approximate volume of opportunities that he will get. Once we nail down his opportunity volume, we can begin coming up with production totals.
To figure out a realistic expectation for how involved Zach Wilson will be in the New York Jets‘ offense, we will use two primary guidelines: the production of rookie quarterbacks over the past five years (2016-20) and the production of quarterbacks that played under Mike LaFleur during his tenure as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator (2017-20).
Since 2016, rookie quarterbacks have thrown 9,329 passes over 293 starts, an average of 31.8 per game.
From 2017-20, the 49ers asked their quarterbacks to throw 2,185 passes in 64 games, an average of 34.1 per game.
Here is a look at the average number of pass attempts per game thrown by each 49ers quarterback in games that they started (2017-20):
- Nick Mullens: 35.3
- C.J. Beathard: 34.7
- Brian Hoyer: 34.2
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 29.4
Let’s settle directly between the 49ers’ average (34.1) and the recent-history rookie quarterback average (31.8) and estimate that Wilson will throw about 33 passes per game – putting him on pace for 561 attempts over 17 starts.
That’s a fairly low number (33.0 passes per game would have ranked 24th out of 32 teams in 2020), which makes sense for a young quarterback. Keeping the pressure off of him until he proves worthy of handling a large workload is a safe way to foster development.
Now that we have established a baseline number of pass attempts for Wilson, we can start projecting what his raw statistical totals will look like. Yards, touchdowns, interceptions – we’re going to pinpoint an exact realistic projection for everything.