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NY Jets draft: Ranking the top WR prospects in 5 key stats

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, NFL Draft, Mock Draft, NY Jets, Stats, PFF
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State Football, NFL Draft, New York Jets, Getty Images

Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and more: Breaking down the analytics of the New York Jets’ top WR targets in the 2022 NFL draft

After comparing some of the 2022 NFL draft’s top EDGE prospects in a few key statistics, it’s time to do the same for the wide receiver position, which is yet another spot where the New York Jets are expected to look for help early in the draft.

Here are the eight prospects we’ll be comparing today:

  • Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, age 21.6 (#10 overall prospect on NFL Mock Draft Database’s Consensus Big Board)
  • Drake London, USC, age 20.6 (#12)
  • Jameson Williams, Alabama, age 21.0 (#18)
  • Chris Olave, Ohio State, age 21.7 (#19)
  • Treylon Burks, Arkansas, age 22.0 (#21)
  • Jahan Dotson, Penn State, age 22.0 (#33)
  • George Pickens, Georgia, age 21.0 (#45)
  • Christian Watson, North Dakota State, age 21.9 (#50)

All statistics seen below are for the 2021 season, save for Georgia’s George Pickens, whose 2021 campaign was limited due to injuries. We’ll look at Pickens’ numbers from his 2020 sophomore season.

All rankings seen below are amongst 443 qualified FBS wide receivers (30+ targets). For the rankings of Christian Watson (who played against FCS competition) and Pickens, we’ll list where their statistics would have ranked among qualifiers in 2021.

Yards per route run

Looking at a player’s raw receiving yardage total can be misleading due to the differences in the number of opportunities that each player gets. Some players play a high percentage of their team’s snaps and some play a more situational role. Some players play in a pass-heavy offense and some don’t.

By looking at how many yards a receiver produces per play in which he runs a route, we get an efficiency metric that compares everyone on the same plane.

Here’s how the players fared in yards per route run:

  1. Christian Watson: 4.33 (100th percentile*) – 801 yards on 105 routes
  2. Treylon Burks: 3.57 (99th) – 1,100 yards on 308 routes
  3. Drake London: 3.56 (99th) – 1,084 yards on 308 routes
  4. Jameson Williams: 3.12 (96th) – 1,561 yards on 500 routes
  5. Garrett Wilson: 3.00 (95th) – 1,058 yards on 353 routes
  6. Jahan Dotson: 2.56 (87th) – 1,182 yards on 461 routes
  7. Chris Olave: 2.29 (78th) – 936 yards on 408 routes
  8. 2020 George Pickens: 1.93 (61st*) – 513 yards on 266 routes

2021 FBS WR average: 1.68

Burks, London, Williams, and Wilson were all dominant even when their yardage is contextualized on a per-snap basis. Dotson and Olave were excellent but not quite as electric as the other four players.

Watson obliterated his competition at North Dakota State. On the surface, his total of 800 yards in 12 games (66.7 per game) doesn’t seem noteworthy. But the Bison were an extremely run-heavy team. Watson only ran 15.4 routes per game, which is less than half of most starting receivers (London averaged 38.5 routes, for example). For Watson, putting up 66.7 yards on just 15.4 routes is the “man amongst boys” type of stuff that you want to see from an FCS prospect.

When we last saw Pickens on a full-time basis, which was during his 2020 sophomore season, he wasn’t quite producing at the level of a top-tier NFL prospect. He caught for 513 yards on 266 routes in eight games (64.1 yards on 33.3 routes).

Missed tackles forced per reception

Yards-after-catch is a popular statistic to measure how good a player is with the ball in his hands. Another way to evaluate this facet of the game is by looking at how often a player makes defenders miss.

Here’s how the group fared when it came to missed tackles forced per reception:

  1. Garrett Wilson: 0.271 (88th percentile) – 19 MTF on 70 receptions
  2. Drake London: 0.250 (85th) – 22 MTF on 88 receptions
  3. Treylon Burks: 0.231 (81st) – 15 MTF on 65 receptions
  4. Jameson Williams: 0.154 (55th) – 12 MTF on 78 receptions
  5. Christian Watson: 0.140 (51st*) – 6 MTF on 43 receptions
  6. Jahan Dotson: 0.099 (33rd) – 9 MTF on 91 receptions
  7. 2020 George Pickens: 0.083 (27th*) – 3 MTF on 36 receptions
  8. Chris Olave: 0.031 (7th) – 2 MTF on 65 receptions

2021 FBS WR average: 0.153

The clear leaders here are Wilson, London, and Burks. Each player forced at least 15 missed tackles while doing so efficiently.

Williams and Watson ranked in the middle of the pack while Dotson, Pickens, and Olave showed relatively little when it came to making defenders miss. Dotson did force a decent total of nine missed tackles, but over a large sample of 91 receptions (T-12th in FBS), it’s a below-average number.

Drop rate

How good is the player at catching the “easy” balls? That’s what we learn from the drop rate statistic (drops divided by drops-plus-receptions), as drops are usually credited on plays where the receiver should have easily caught the ball.

Here’s how the players fared in drop rate:

  1. Jahan Dotson: 2.2% (93rd percentile) – 2 drops, 91 receptions
  2. 2020 George Pickens: 5.3% (66th*) – 2 drops, 36 receptions
  3. Treylon Burks: 5.7% (62nd) – 4 drops, 65 receptions
  4. Jameson Williams: 7.1% (53rd) – 6 drops, 78 receptions
  5. Chris Olave: 7.1% (53rd) – 5 drops, 65 receptions
  6. Garrett Wilson: 7.9% (45th) – 6 drops, 70 receptions
  7. Drake London: 8.3% (41st) – 8 drops, 88 receptions
  8. Christian Watson: 10.4% (25th*) – 5 drops, 43 receptions

2021 FBS WR average: 8.0%

Despite his overall prowess, Watson actually struggled mightily with drops. He flubbed five passes while only catching 43.

Interestingly, none of these prospects were great at avoiding drops except for Dotson, who racked up 91 catches in 2021 while dropping just two passes. Nobody else reached even the 70th percentile among qualifiers.

Contested-catch rate

While drop rate tells us about how well a player catches the easy passes, contested-catch rate tells us about how well they catch the difficult ones.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. What percentage of their contested targets did the player catch? This statistic is based on tracking from Pro Football Focus, which tracks contested targets and contested catches for all NFL and college players.

Here’s how the players fared in contested-catch rate:

  1. Drake London: 67.9% (92nd percentile) – 19 for 28
  2. 2020 George Pickens: 64.3% (86th*) – 9 for 14
  3. Chris Olave: 62.5% (86th) – 10 for 16
  4. Garrett Wilson: 61.5% (84th) – 8 for 13
  5. Christian Watson: 50.0% (69th*) – 3 for 6
  6. Treylon Burks: 43.8% (50th) – 10 for 23
  7. Jahan Dotson: 41.7% (45th) – 5 for 12
  8. Jameson Williams: 40.0% (42nd) – 4 for 10

2021 FBS WR average: 43.8%

The nearly 6-foot-4 London led the way as he caught a whopping 67.9% of his contested targets. This came on a high volume, as London led the nation with 19 contested catches, three more than any other player despite playing in only eight games.

Pickens (6-foot-3) showed potential back in 2020 as he snatched nine of his 14 contested targets.

The Buckeye duo of Olave and Wilson each stand at right around six feet, but that doesn’t stop them from being able to go up and get it. Each player caught over 60% of their contested opportunities in 2021.

The rest of the bunch was fairly mediocre in this category.

It’s important to keep in mind that we’re looking at a very small sample size in this category. Adding or subtracting just one contested reception would have had a major effect on the ranking of any player listed above.

Catches Added

Catches Added is a statistic I created that appeared in previous articles this offseason. It combines a player’s drop rate and contested-catch rate in an attempt to get an overall estimate of the quality of his hands.

Essentially, Catches Added combines two things:

  • A player’s actual number of drops versus the number of drops he would have if he dropped passes at the FBS average rate for WRs (8.0%)
  • A player’s actual number of contested catches versus the number he would have if he caught contested targets at the FBS average rate for WRs (43.8%)

We’ll use Drake London as an example.

London had 8 drops and 88 receptions. At that volume, if he had a drop rate of 8.0%, he would have dropped 7.7 passes. London dropped 0.3 more passes than expected, so he had a minus-0.3 margin in the drop category.

London had 19 contested catches on 28 contested targets. If he caught 43.8% of his 28 contested targets, he’d catch 12.3 contested passes. London caught 6.7 more contested passes than expected, so he had a plus-6.7 margin in the drop category.

Combine London’s minus-0.3 drops with his plus-6.7 contested catches and you get his total of plus-6.4 Catches Added.

Here’s how the group fared when it came to Catches Added:

  1. Drake London: +6.4 (97th percentile); -0.3 drop, +6.7 contested
  2. Jahan Dotson: +5.2 (95th); +5.4 drop, -0.2 contested
  3. 2020 George Pickens: +3.9 (90th*); +1.0 drop, +2.9 contested
  4. Chris Olave: +3.6 (89th); +0.6 drop, +3.0 contested
  5. Garrett Wilson: +2.4 (76th); +0.1 drop, +2.3 contested
  6. Treylon Burks: +1.5 (67th); +1.5 drop, 0.0 contested
  7. Jameson Williams: +0.3 (51st); +0.7 drop, -0.4 contested
  8. Christian Watson: -0.8 (35th*); -1.2 drop, +0.4 contested

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

Everyone landed on the positive side except for Watson, who was done in by his drop woes.

London, Dotson, and Olave’s hands were outstanding in 2021 while Pickens flashed excellent hands in 2020. London and Olave relied on contested catches to climb the board. Dotson relied on avoiding drops.

Pickens had the best balance of any player in the bunch, as he was the only receiver in our eight-player group to net a plus-1.0 or better in both categories.

Wilson and Burks were solid, relying on contested catches and drops, respectively.

Williams was mediocre, catching almost exactly as many passes as expected (at least when it comes to his drop and contested-catch totals). His drop rate (7.1%) and contested-catch rate (40.0%) were both right around average.

Finally, here’s a roundup of each player’s percentile rankings in the five categories above, listed from best to worst based on their average percentile ranking across the five stats.

PlayerY/RRMTF/RecDrop %CC %CAAverage
Drake London998541929782.8
Garrett Wilson958845847677.6
Treylon Burks998162506771.8
Jahan Dotson873393459570.6
George Pickens*612766869066.0
Chris Olave78753868962.6
Jameson Williams965553425159.4
Christian Watson*1005125693556.0

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Jonathan Richter
2 years ago

A couple of comments on a good article.

First, you talked about YAC, but then listed only missed tackles. There’s a difference between making one guy miss and getting taken down immediately by the next guy, and making one guy miss and taking it to the house. I think you need to blend missed tackles/yards after catch.

Next, I’d like to also see % of catches that were contested along with success rate on contested catches. London had way more contested catches than anyone else suggesting an inability to create separation despite the fact that he’s an excellent route runner. Watson had only 6, possibly because he’s just so fast no one is near him. Some combination of CC success rate/% of catches contested would be more informative.

Finally, I think you also have to look at “how does his skill set now project to playing against NFL CBs week in and week out?” London is unlikely to create any more separation against NFL corners, probably less, than he did in college. Those NFL corners are going to be even faster and more athletic so more likely to break up a pass, or simply have him so well covered that he’s not an option for the QB. While Watson’s biggest problem statistically is his drops. That very well might be able to be coached/practiced out of him. Working day in and day out with NFL coaches could certainly improve his execution, adding to his already impressive physical abilities.

I’d also be interested in seeing the numbers for Alec Pierce from Cincy.

Obviously, questions like that will probably have a range of opinions.

Good article.

2 years ago

It would be interesting if you did this same analysis historically to see if these metrics could predict NFL success.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Definitely makes sense. There are probably a lot of intangibles at play that can’t be captured in metrics – head coaching style, change in lifestyle (money and independence), expectations, etc…

2 years ago

Michael, to test the predictive nature of your analysis, could you please post similar numbers for Elijah Moore’s and Denzel Mims’ final year of college? One is a budding star and the other is close to a bust. It would be interesting to see if their final year of college ball indicated how they would transition to the pros. Thanks.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

The Moore vs. Mims question and data is closer to what I am pondering. The question for me is which metrics correlate better to what LaFluer is looking for in his WRs. Clearly Mims would not have been drafted by JD if Saleh was the HC in 2020. That said, my guess is MTF and Drops are more consequential metrics for this offense, than say Y/RR. CC% is probably universal for most offenses. That said, Burks probably aggregates the best, followed by Wilson and London in that order for this offense. This also assumes that the personality checks are all equal (probably unlikely). Great article.

2 years ago

On a similar note, why do you think Jameson Williams is at the top of the WR group with his ACL but Metchie is falling?

Peter Buell
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

If we weren’t still breaking in a new QB Jameson is probably our pick. But with Zack ending on a semi roll I don’t want a new #1 who may miss a good chunk of camp and maybe games.
Still would like that proposed Philly trade of 10 and 38 going for 16 and 19.
Best EDGE available at 4, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Burks and Olave in that order for wr picking at 16 snd C Tyler Linderbaum at 19.
S Cine or CB Elam at 35…then LB

2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

I’d like that trade too but all those receivers may be gone by 16 and linderbaum too. Based on this article if Dotson is there in round 2…

2 years ago
Reply to  dudizt

I was thinking the same. Metchie may be a steal.