New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson given less than a 1-in-5 chance of being a top-half QB in 2022
Analytics website Pro Football Focus recently published an article that projects the chances of success for various young quarterbacks in the 2022 season. It includes the projected odds to finish as a top-16 quarterback, a top-12 quarterback, and a top-10 quarterback.
Wilson was given an 18.6% chance of being a top 16 quarterback in 2022, which is less than Justin Fields (21.9%), Davis Mills (33.1%), and even Sam Darnold (30.1%).
Additionally, Wilson was given a 10.2% chance of being a top 12 quarterback and a 7.2% chance of being a top 10 quarterback. Both numbers are lower than all three of the aforementioned players.
On a brighter note, the article also names Wilson as the NFL’s most likely quarterback to improve in 2022, as PFF gave him a position-high 84.3% chance of doing so. However, as the analysis notes, that’s only because Wilson was so poor that he could hardly get any worse.
“Wilson is the worst returning quarterback in the NFL by EPA per pure dropback, and so he can really only improve,” PFF’s analysis reads. “The model projects a 15.7% chance of him remaining at the bottom of the league, but it’s more likely the second-year BYU product will improve with rookie Garrett Wilson and a healthier Elijah Moore in the wide receiver room.”
The numbers were calculated by taking the results of 100,000 simulations of the 2022 season. Quarterbacks’ chances of future success were calculated through a combination of their previous-year performance, the stage of their career, and the quality of their supporting cast.
The odds are stacked against Zach Wilson
These figures are daunting for Wilson, but they’re tough to argue with. The unfortunate reality is that very few rookie quarterbacks in NFL history had a rookie year as poor as Wilson’s, and among those who did, not many have gone on to be successful.
Wilson had a 69.7 passer rating in 2021, which ranked last out of 33 qualified quarterbacks.
When you adjust that number according to the 2021 league average (90.8), it stands out as one of the worst numbers by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Wilson’s “adjusted passer rating” (a stat via Pro Football Reference) was 70. This version of passer rating compares against the league average in each season, allowing us to fairly compare quarterbacks from different eras. The NFL average in any given season is 100.
Among rookie quarterback seasons with 200-plus passing attempts, Wilson’s rookie-year adjusted passer rating of 70 is tied for the ninth-worst in NFL history out of 152 qualifiers.
Here are the worst rookie seasons in NFL history based on adjusted passer rating (min. 200 passing attempts):
- Ryan Leaf, 1998 (Adjusted passer rating: 54) – Actual passer rating: 39.0
- DeShone Kizer, 2017 (61) – 60.5
- Terry Bradshaw, 1970 (64) – 30.4
- Steve DeBerg, 1978 (64) – 40.0
- Jared Goff, 2016 (64) – 63.6
- Andrew Walter, 2006 (66) – 55.8
- Dan Darragh, 1968 (69) – 33.0
- Josh Rosen, 2018 (69) – 66.7
- Josh Allen, 2018 (70) – 67.9
- Zach Wilson, 2021 (70) – 69.7
- Jimmy Clausen, 2010 (71) – 58.4
- Josh Freeman, 2009 (71) – 59.8
- Joey Harrington, 2002 (71) – 59.9
- Matthew Stafford, 2009 (72) – 61.0
- Jack Trudeau, 1986 (72) – 53.5
- C.J. Beathard, 2017 (73) – 69.2
- Trevor Lawrence, 2021 (73) – 71.9
- Kyle Orton, 2005 (73) – 59.7
- Tobin Rote, 1950 (73) – 26.7
- Geno Smith, 2013 (73) – 66.5
Removing Wilson and fellow rookie Trevor Lawrence from the picture, only five of the other 18 quarterbacks (28%) went on to make at least one Pro Bowl: Tobin Rote, Terry Bradshaw, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, and Josh Allen. Each of the other 13 quarterbacks either quickly fizzled out of the league or became journeymen.
So, it’s definitely still possible for Wilson to become a great quarterback, but history tells us it will be a tall order. He’s got a lot to prove in 2022.
Can Wilson join Bradshaw, Stafford, and Allen as the next outlier quarterback who overcomes brutal rookie-year production to become a star?