Zach Wilson, NY Jets, Stats, Drops, PFF
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Zach Wilson topped the NFL in the wrong kind of metric

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson finished his rookie season with lackluster numbers in the box score. He completed 213 of 383 passes (55.6%) for 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, earning a 69.7 passer rating that ranked last among qualifiers.

The lowliness of those numbers is not entirely his fault, though.

Wilson led all qualified NFL quarterbacks in a category that no team should want their young quarterback to lead the league in: drop rate.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson had 12.7% of his catchable passes dropped, which was the highest rate in the NFL among 35 qualified quarterbacks.

Not only did Wilson rank No. 1 in the category, but he was in his own stratosphere:

  1. Zach Wilson, 12.7%
  2. Jacoby Brissett, 9.6%
  3. Sam Darnold, 9.3%
  4. Trevor Lawrence, 9.3%
  5. Baker Mayfield, 9.0%
  6. Matthew Stafford, 8.0%
  7. Justin Herbert, 7.9%
  8. Ben Roethlisberger, 7.8%
  9. Justin Fields, 7.6%
  10. Daniel Jones, 7.6%

Now, as I have written about before, it’s important to note that a high drop rate can be an indicator of poor accuracy on the quarterback’s part. Many “drops” come on imperfect throws, so, naturally, inaccurate quarterbacks will create more opportunities for their receivers to drop passes.

This hypothesis is supported by the talent level of the quarterbacks at the top of the drop leaderboard. Look at Wilson’s company in the top five: Jacoby Brissett, Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, and Baker Mayfield. All four quarterbacks were poor this year.

In 2020, the top five quarterbacks in drop rate were Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock, Andy Dalton, and Tua Tagovailoa. All five had rough seasons.

Wilson can certainly own a piece of his drop rate. His accuracy was erratic at times, especially early in the year, and some of the “drops” his receivers got tagged with could have been thrown much better.

However, the fact that Wilson’s drop rate was that much higher than the rest of the NFL is a clear indictment of his pass-catchers’ enormous struggles.

Just look at the separation between Wilson’s drop rate and second-ranked Brissett’s drop rate. The 3.1% difference between Wilson (12.7%) and Brissett (9.6%) is equal to the difference between Brissett and 22nd-ranked Josh Allen (6.5%) out of 35 qualifiers.

That is completely absurd. While a quarterback has some control over his drop rate, an astronomically high number like Wilson’s can only occur as a result of terrible play from the pass-catchers.

There are some areas in which the Jets did a decent job of supporting Wilson. Their pass protection and run game became respectable later in the year when the offensive line was healthy, and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur did a nice job of manufacturing offense.

Securing easy catches was not one of those areas. New York’s pass-catchers botched way too many good throws from Wilson.

Not only did Wilson have to fight through a frequency of drops that no other quarterback came close to, but a lot of his drops came on fantastic throws that should have yielded big-time yardage and momentum.

Corey Davis had a rough season in this department, dropping six passes. His 15.0% drop rate ranked fourth-worst out of 117 qualified wide receivers. That is a major outlier for Davis. Over his four seasons, Davis never had a drop rate higher than 5.8% or a drop total higher than four. The Jets need him to get back to that level.

Top weapons Elijah Moore (2 drops, 4.4% rate) and Braxton Berrios (1 drop, 2.1% rate) secured the ball effectively, but the wideouts at the very bottom of New York’s depth chart struggled mightily. Denzel Mims (2 drops), Jeff Smith (2), and Tarik Black (1) combined for five drops against only 17 receptions (22.7% rate).

The Jets need their running backs to display much softer hands, too. Ty Johnson led all running backs with nine drops and a 20.9% drop rate. Michael Carter tied for sixth in drops with five while his 12.2% drop rate ranked seventh-worst out of 49 qualified running backs.

The same goes for the tight end position. Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin caught very few passes, yet Kroft tied for eighth among tight ends with four drops and Griffin tied for 16th with three. Kroft’s 20.0% drop rate was the worst among 52 qualified tight ends while Griffin’s 10.0% rate was seventh-worst.

All of this makes one thing clear: when evaluating potential additions to improve the offensive skill positions this offseason, Joe Douglas and the Jets need to have “strong hands” as the No. 1 must-have skill on their checklist.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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Jets71
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Jets71

This is why they absolutely need to draft the best WR on the board with one of their top two picks. It’s a must.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I would say if we don’t get one in fa than get the best wr you can in 1st two rounds. Great talent at Wr will be available in 2nd round as well. Need wr but get them where value is best if that is 1st fine. If 2nd also great.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

I agree there are good WR’s in this class. E. Moore has talent and it appears he will be a solid player maybe better (if the stays healthy) but he’s not a top dog. The Jets need a top dog, and they won’t find that in the second round. They need to get a young #1 WR in here to grow with Zach and the rest of the offense. Consider this: If they were to add Chase, Jefferson, Samuel, Diggs, heck even DeVonta Smith or CeeDee Lamb type of talent to what they have in Moore, Davis, Berrios, Carter, Zach,… Read more »

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I agree with adding talent, but Diggs and Samuel were not considered better prospects than Moore. I truly believe Moore will be a true #1 next year. However, I am still open to drafting or trading for top tier talent. But I believe with Wr developing much faster than in the past because of the rule changes it makes sense to measure value when selecting, because the difference bewteen a 1st rd talent and a 2nd rd talent at wr is smaller than ever.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

Fair point.

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Insightful, thought provoking article.

Keith Beckett
Member
Keith Beckett

As I see it we need another strong offense heavy draft, maybe not into rd5 but at least 1st two rounds. Wilson can be the QB we have been seeking since Willie White Shoes.

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

FA will determine to a great extent. With the 32nd ranked Defense, split the first four premium picks between Offense & Defense. Very good WR’s in mid First round, suggests trade up and trade down scenarios.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

To your point fa will determine how picks are used. May use 4 of first 5 picks on offense or defense based on fa. Can’t wait to see what happens.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I think we have enough flexibility with cap space we will be able to get some things filled in fa. So I think we can get what is needed in draft whether that be offense or defense.

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

CAP goes quick , players are more expensive than ever. Optimistic that we can get a TE in FA, very pessimistic that we can get a WR or an Offensive Lineman in FA. On the Defensive Side, optimistic at DT, Safety, Linebacker, and even Edge, can’t see a CB in FA. The good news is that there are 10 Teams that are in CAP Hell, 12 teams in the middle , and ten teams that have some money, the Jets happen to be one of them. Watch for crazy cuts Salary dumps. Take a look at the rosters of New… Read more »

hh11212
Member
hh11212

The cap is easily manipulated in the NFL. Every year the teams in cap hell manage to keep all the players they want (See Saints every year) , rarely do the crazy cuts ever come to be. In addition if we really want a player in fa if we don’t get them it is not because the cap went quickly because we can make the numbers work just by the structure of the contract. So I think if you look at it this way you will be able to see we have the tools we need. Will be eager to… Read more »