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Predicting 2023 stats for Aaron Rodgers and NY Jets’ receivers

NY Jets, Aaron Rodgers, Garrett Wilson, Stat Predictions, 2023
Aaron Rodgers, Garrett Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

What type of numbers should New York Jets fans expect from their passing game in 2023?

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 3,905 yards in 2015. It’s the second-best total in New York Jets franchise history and the best since Joe Namath’s then-record 4,007 yards in 1967.

A historic season for a Jets quarterback would be just another year at the office for a quarterback on any other team. Over the past 50 seasons, Fitzpatrick’s 3,905-yard performance ranks as the 252nd-best single-season total across the NFL. Even if you narrow it down to just the past 10 seasons, it’s the 121st-best mark.

That is how low the bar is for New York Jets quarterbacks.

Jets fans simply have no clue what it is like to watch a quarterback who racks up elite passing numbers on a weekly basis. With Aaron Rodgers, that will likely change.

Rodgers would probably be able to clear Fitzpatrick’s 2015 yardage total if he played every game wearing an eyepatch and throwing left-handed while on an ayahuasca trip. But merely having the best season by a Jets quarterback since Joe Namath won’t be enough. That is hardly an accomplishment – heck, the league-average season by an NFL starting quarterback in 2022 would have been one of the best campaigns in Jets history.

For Rodgers’ 2023 season to be considered a success, he needs to be the first truly elite Jets quarterback since Namath. That would involve shattering all of the franchise’s single-season passing records and leaving no doubt that he was one of the league’s top-performing quarterbacks in 2023.

Will Rodgers pull it off?

Without further ado, let’s delve into our 2023 stat predictions for both Rodgers and all of the Jets’ pass catchers.

We’ll start with our predictions for Rodgers and then move to the receivers. This way, we can ensure the receivers’ cumulative numbers match up with Rodgers’ passing numbers.

2023 stat predictions for Aaron Rodgers

Statistically, Rodgers had a down year in 2022. His 217.4 passing yards per game and 91.4 passer rating were each the worst marks of his career as a starting quarterback.

Fortunately, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to believe Rodgers will bounce back. A seemingly improved cast of receiving weapons, a clean bill of health after last year’s thumb issues, and a chip on his shoulder are among the most commonly cited factors working in Rodgers’ favor.

But my main reason for believing in a Rodgers bounce-back is his prior history of responding to down years. This is not the first time Rodgers has experienced a major production dip. In each of the previous cases, he quickly returned to his peak form.

In 2015, Rodgers dropped to 238.8 yards per game and a 92.7 passer rating after six straight seasons of at least 260 yards per game and a 100.0 passer rating. He immediately bounced back with 276.8 yards per game and a 104.2 passer rating in 2016.

In 2019, Rodgers had a career-low in QBR (52.5), the second-worst completion percentage of his career (62.0%) ahead of only 2015, and his lowest passer rating (95.4) in a full 16-game season since 2015. He responded with back-to-back MVP seasons in 2020 and 2021.

Until proven otherwise, there is no reason to believe that Rodgers’ 2022 season was anything but another one of these random down years that he will bounce back from with no issues.

While I’m not certain Rodgers will return to his MVP ceiling at 40 years old, I am confident he can reach a level that is directly in between his 2022 campaign and his MVP years. Rodgers certainly could get back to his MVP form, but I don’t want to be overly optimistic with these predictions.

Combining Rodgers’ best and worst years to craft a baseline projection makes sense. To do this, we’ll look at Rodgers’ numbers over the past five seasons. This sample includes two MVP seasons in 2020 and 2021, two down years in 2019 and 2022, and a fairly average year in 2018 – giving us a fair middle ground.

Here are Rodgers’ average per-17-game numbers from 2018 to 2022:

  • 580 pass attempts
  • 381 completions (65.7% completion rate)
  • 4,314 yards (253.7 per game / 7.4 per attempt)
  • 34 touchdowns
  • 6 interceptions
  • 103.2 passer rating

I’m comfortable with this stat line as my prediction for Rodgers in 2023. This feels like a reasonable outcome for a 40-year-old Rodgers who:

  • Is reuniting with an OC he has enjoyed immense success with (arguably his best success of any OC he has played with)
  • Experiencing an upgrade in pass-catching talent (though the OL is up in the air), specifically due to the presence of a star WR to lean on, which he did not have in 2022
  • Should be healthier than he was for most of last season (which isn’t guaranteed but we’re assuming that will happen in this prediction)
  • Has a history of bouncing back from down years
  • Seems to have an enormous chip on his shoulder as he seeks one last run at a championship (in addition to the perceived slights he took from the Packers organization on his way out)

It’s not quite at the level of his otherworldly 2020 and 2021 seasons and probably wouldn’t win him MVP – his age restricts me from going that far with my predictions for him – but it’s still an undeniably elite season of quarterbacking in the modern NFL and would inarguably be the greatest season in Jets history.

Call it overly optimistic if you’d like, but this is a four-time MVP who is widely considered the most talented thrower of the football to ever walk on this planet (well, at least before Patrick Mahomes arrived). I do not think it is far-fetched for Rodgers to have a bounce-back season of this caliber, even at 40 years old. Tom Brady proved in Tampa Bay that it is possible to thrive into your forties when you have all-time-great kind of talent. I think Rodgers will prove the same.

2023 stat predictions for New York Jets’ receivers

Going off the stat line I set for Rodgers, here are my predictions for the Jets’ pass catchers. This is assuming everyone plays 17 games (which obviously will not happen).

NY-Jets-2023-Stat-Predictions

I see this being a star-centric passing attack that revolves around Garrett Wilson. He will get the most targets by an enormous margin while the rest of the opportunities are spread around fairly equally among many players. This is how the Packers’ targets were structured during Davante Adams’ latter years in Green Bay, and with the Jets lacking a second star next to Wilson, they are built to have a similar structure.

Allow me to explain my thought process behind the predictions for each player.

Garrett Wilson

  • Prediction: 103 receptions on 150 targets for 1,307 yards and 9 touchdowns

Wilson was already peppered with an elite number of targets in 2022. He tied for seventh in the NFL with 147 of them. I envision him getting about the same number of looks in 2023, but the difference compared to 2022 will be his efficiency.

Wilson only caught 56.5% of his targets in 2022, largely due to the terrible accuracy of his quarterbacks. Rodgers’ presence should allow Wilson to catch a much higher rate of his targets. I have his catch rate jumping up to 68.7%. That gives him 20 more receptions compared to his rookie total (83).

In turn, this boosts his yardage total by over 200, assuming his yards-per-reception stays in the neighborhood of his excellent 13.3 number as a rookie. I have it dropping slightly to 12.7, but that is still very good for a high-volume receiver with a high catch rate.

I settled on nine touchdowns for Wilson. He definitely has the potential to match the incredible touchdown numbers Adams posted with Rodgers (29 from 2020 to 2021), but I foresee Nathaniel Hackett spreading the ball around in the red zone while leaning the heaviest on Wilson between the twenties. Nine touchdowns is still a greatly improved number, though, after he only scored four as a rookie (coming in two games).

Allen Lazard

  • Prediction: 54 receptions on 86 targets for 707 yards and 5 touchdowns

After being Green Bay’s top target in 2022, Allen Lazard will settle back into the complementary role that suits him best. Lazard played his most efficient football during the time he spent with Davante Adams.

Corey Davis is also a candidate to be the Jets’ No. 2 target, but I lean toward Lazard due to his familiarity with Rodgers and Hackett as well as his slot/outside versatility.

My prediction of five touchdowns for Lazard is a drop-off from his six in 2022 and his eight in 2021. As I said in the Wilson section, I think the Jets will spread the wealth in the red zone. I see them tossing more touchdowns to their lesser-used targets than most other teams, at the cost of fewer touchdowns for their top targets.

Corey Davis

  • Prediction: 42 receptions on 66 targets for 550 yards and 3 touchdowns

Despite my prediction for Corey Davis appearing modest on paper, I think this will be Davis’ best season as a Jet. He won’t be targeted as often as in the past two seasons due to the increased number of players competing for opportunities, but I think Davis will be more reliable and efficient.

Davis has developed a reputation for having the dropsies in New York. However, many of his “drops” were on poorly placed throws that would have been difficult for any receiver to grab.

Rodgers will give Davis much better ball placement than Zach Wilson did, and Davis will look much better because of it. I think Davis will lower his drop rate significantly and establish himself as a valuable big-body target over the middle of the field, especially on third down.

Tyler Conklin

  • Prediction: 42 receptions on 66 targets for 550 yards and 6 touchdowns

I have Tyler Conklin‘s overall production volume decreasing rather significantly from his 58 receptions and 87 targets in 2022. However, like Davis, that doesn’t necessarily mean I think he will perform worse.

Conklin was mostly used as a dump-off option in 2022, which is why he got so many targets and receptions. I think Hackett will decrease Conklin’s usage in the flat and deploy him more often as one of the key route-runners in the passing concept. Conklin is a good route-runner and should be trusted to win one-on-one matchups in key situations.

Using Conklin in this way will decrease his number of total receptions, but it will increase his impact. He will trade his wide-open six-yard catches on second-and-15 for tough five-yard grabs on third-and-3.

Mecole Hardman

  • Prediction: 29 receptions on 50 targets for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns

Mecole Hardman‘s role is the most difficult to project. Will he be used as the typical “gadget guy” or will the Jets back up their public comments stating they wish to expand his role?

I think Hardman will settle in as the No. 4 wide receiver and No. 5 target overall. As for his usage, I think the Jets will still give him plenty of the screen-game and short-game opportunities he excels at, but I also think they will give him more deep shots than in the past. This is why I have his catch rate at 58.0%, which would be a career low. I see him getting more of those low-percentage/high-upside throws than he did in Kansas City.

The consistency of those shots might not be great, but I do think the Jets should strike gold with two or three touchdowns on those attempts.

I also see Hardman rushing for a touchdown or two.

Breece Hall

  • Prediction: 37 receptions on 50 targets for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns

Breece Hall is arguably the biggest X-factor in determining how the Jets’ receiving production will be distributed. There is a chance he could be one of the most active receiving backs in the league. Hall flashed tantalizing upside as a receiver in 2022, and because he also has strong pass-blocking skills, the Jets can trust him to handle plenty of reps in the passing game.

Additionally, Rodgers and Hackett are known for valuing running backs in the passing game. Over Hackett’s three years as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, the Packers’ running backs ranked fourth in targets (6.3 per game), fourth in receptions (5.0 per game), fourth in receiving yards (40.4 per game), and second in receiving touchdowns (19).

Because of Hall’s receiving upside and the heavy RB valuation of the Rodgers/Hackett duo, the seeds are planted for Hall to have a big year in the passing game.

I decided to hedge my bets, though, settling on a fairly traditional receiving stat-line for an RB1. If I were to give him a receiving stat line that mirrors the league’s top receiving backs, I would have to push one of the Jets’ other receivers down to a startingly underwhelming prediction, and that didn’t feel right. Will the Jets really throw 80-90 passes to Hall in exchange for phasing one (or multiple) of Davis, Conklin, or Hardman almost entirely out of the offense? It’s not impossible, but I don’t see it.

Still, I see Hall having a solid role in the passing game, including in the red zone.

Randall Cobb

  • Prediction: 26 receptions on 40 targets for 247 yards and 1 touchdown

Randall Cobb probably won’t ever play a huge number of snaps unless it is demanded by injury, but I think he will sneak in a small chunk of snaps per game. And considering his experience and chemistry with Rodgers, I think Rodgers will look his way at a fairly high frequency in the rare situations Cobb does step onto the field. This could result in more targets than you’d expect for a No. 5 receiver on the depth chart.

Jeremy Ruckert

  • Prediction: 20 receptions on 30 targets for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns

It might be considered a bold prediction, but I have Jeremy Ruckert overtaking C.J. Uzomah as the Jets’ second tight end.

I don’t see Ruckert commanding a ton of targets; I think he will mostly be used as a blocker. However, I do see him getting involved in the red zone. Hackett’s Packers had a habit of throwing touchdowns to backup tight ends. Over Hackett’s three seasons in Green Bay, the Packers tossed nine touchdowns to tight ends who were not the No. 1 player in the unit (based on snaps per game).

Others

I think Zonovan Knight will be the Jets’ secondary weapon out of the backfield behind Hall. To this point, he has displayed better hands and blocking skills than Michael Carter and Israel Abanikanda.

C.J. Uzomah should still get some occasional snaps and targets, although as I said, my prediction is that Ruckert usurps him and overtakes the TE2 role.

More of a guide than a prediction?

These predictions will probably look hilarious in one year, and not necessarily in a bad way – maybe I undershot. Unexpected things happen in the NFL every season, shredding predictions to dust. Players will overperform, players will disappoint, and more than anything else, injuries will jumble everything up.

While it is unlikely these predictions come close to reality, I think they can serve as a helpful visualization of how the Jets’ passing game could look in 2023. They show the impact Rodgers has on the potential ceiling of each and every offensive weapon, and they also give us a realistic model of how the Jets might distribute opportunities among the many mouths they have to feed. I thought it was fun to take a projected Rodgers stat line and break it down, seeing exactly what it would look like to spread 4,300-plus yards among 12 receivers.

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