The New York Jets have several players whom their fan base tend to overrate
Before you answer a vociferous “No!”, pay attention to what the word “overrated” means. It does not mean the player isn’t good. In fact, I could call a Hall of Famer overrated. All it means is that people think the player is better than he actually is.
For example, I have long called Josh Allen of the Bills overrated. That is not to say that Allen is a bad quarterback or even that he is not a top-five quarterback in the NFL. It just means that if you rate him as a perennial MVP candidate and close to or better than Patrick Mahomes (and even Joe Burrow), I believe you are overestimating him as a quarterback.
Then again, some players who are overrated really aren’t that good. Dalvin Cook, recently released by the Minnesota Vikings, is a prime example at this point in his career.
With this definition in mind, let’s go through the Jets players who are most overrated by the fan base. As with Michael Nania’s most underrated players, I am not referring to those who are overrated around the league but whose true value Jets fans understand. Rather, this is an exercise to discuss players whom Jets fans think are better than their play on the field has shown.
RB Breece Hall
In that vein, yes, it’s possible to make the argument that Hall is overrated. From a statistical angle, it may be difficult to state that case, as Hall was second among 52 backs (min. 80 rush attempts) with 5.8 yards per carry and a 10% explosive run rate (rushes of 15+ yards). He was also first with 4.13 yards after contact per attempt, a 100.0 elusiveness rating, and 1.37 rush yards over expected per attempt.
Still, statistics are beholden to the law of large numbers and its converse, the law of small numbers. In other words, the results of a small sample size do not necessarily reflect the true averages of the population. Applied to Hall, that would mean that a sample of 80 carries in the NFL does not truly tell us what he is as a running back. Therefore, even before accounting for his ACL tear, the assumption that Hall would have been the best back in the NFL had he remained healthy is faulty.
Furthermore, if you dig deeper into Hall’s numbers, you’ll notice that a small number of rushes accounted for a large percentage of his yards. He was fourth in breakaway rate at 43%, meaning that close to half of his yardage came on runs of 15+ yards. If you exclude breakaways, Hall averaged 3.67 yards per attempt, which ranked 18th among backs (as opposed to his second-ranked 5.8 YPA total). If you narrow that down to rushes under 10 yards, Hall averaged just 2.8 yards per carry the rest of the time, which ranked 40th.
In other words, Hall was highly boom-or-bust in 2022. While many great running backs are like that, over a large sample size, it tends to lower efficiency metrics, including DVOA and EPA. Hall’s 25.4% DVOA would have led all backs if he qualified (Football Outsiders has a threshold of 100 rushes), but that might not have continued. Obviously, part of his elite skill was his high breakaway rate (10%, second among backs) and rate of 10-plus-yard runs (18.8%, first). Still, relying on breakaways tends to diminish a player’s consistency.
It’s easy to think that the Jets’ running game would not have fallen off so dramatically had Hall stayed healthy. However, given that boom-or-bust nature, there might have been far more busts if he didn’t have the holes to work with.
Obviously, with Hall coming off a torn ACL, Jets fans understand that he may not be the same player he was in 2022. The point here is that Hall himself may never have been the player many thought he was, to begin with. He has the talent to be the top back in the NFL, but it was too early to say that he was truly there yet prior to his injury.
Furthermore, given his ACL tear, the most likely part of Hall’s game to diminish is his explosive plays. That’s what happened to Saquon Barkley in 2021, resulting in his meager 3.7 yards per attempt. When his breakaway yardage rate decreased from 44.9% over the first two years of his career to 21.6% in his first season post-ACL tear, Barkley was ineffective as a back. It’s possible that the same could happen to Hall.
WR Allen Lazard
Many Jets fans wanted to see the team jettison Corey Davis after they signed Allen Lazard. However, it’s important to note that Lazard has played with Aaron Rodgers over the past two seasons, while Davis languished with an assortment of Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White, and Chris Streveler. Even so, this is how their statistics line up over the past two seasons:
- Davis: 22 games, 3.0 receptions per game, 5.3 targets per game, 56.4% catch rate, 46.7 yards per game, 15.6 yards per reception, 0.27 TD per game, 3.5 YAC per reception, 12% drop rate, 15-for-32 contested catches (46.9%), 77.2% first down rate, 1.52 yards per route run, 8.8 yards per target
- Lazard: 30 games, 3.3 receptions per game, 5.2 targets per game, 63.7% catch rate, 43.4 yards per game, 13.0 yards per reception, 0.47 TD per game, 4.6 YAC per reception, 6.5% drop rate, 17-for-38 contested catches (44.7%), 75% first down rate, 1.42 yards per route run, 8.3 yards per target
Obviously, Lazard has Davis beaten in receptions per game, catch rate, touchdowns per game, YAC per reception, and drop rate. The drop rate is particularly significant, as although Lazard has been below average at 6.5% (average is 5.5%), Davis’ rate is more than double the average. The touchdown rate also indicates that Lazard has a nose for the end zone.
However, when you take into account who was throwing the ball, it’s remarkable that Davis had more yards per route run, more yards per target, more yards per reception, and a higher first-down rate. Sure, Lazard was the WR2 behind Davante Adams in 2021 and Christian Watson for half of 2022, but he and Davis were targeted on a very similar rate of routes run (Davis 17.3%, Lazard 17.0%).
Regarding touchdowns, Jets quarterbacks threw for a combined 34 scores over the last two seasons, while Packers QBs threw for 66. Davis accounted for 17.4% of the Jets’ receiving touchdowns, while Lazard accounted for 21.2% of the Packers’. That does not seem nearly as stark as the raw numbers.
Considering that Jets quarterbacks completed 57.8% of their passes over the last two seasons compared to 66.3% for Packers quarterbacks, Davis’ and Lazard’s catch rates are quite similar. Davis’ 13.9 average depth of target was also almost two yards deeper than Lazard’s 12.1, which would make Davis’ average target harder to complete.
Furthermore, when Davis did play with a competent quarterback, he wiped the floor with Lazard—and 2020 Ryan Tannehill was not 2021 MVP Rodgers. Here were Davis’ 2020 stats.
- 14 games, 4.6 receptions per game, 6.4 targets per game, 72.2% catch rate, 70.3 yards per game, 0.36 TD per game, 4.4 YAC per reception, 5.8% drop rate, 11-for-17 contested catches (64.7%), 75.4% first down rate, 2.58 yards per route run, 10.9 yards per target
Remember, Davis played second fiddle to A.J. Brown that season, so he wasn’t merely a compiler as a No. 1 receiver. When you compare them in a closer to apples-to-apples situation, Davis was a better player in virtually every respect.
Lazard’s efficiency decreased considerably in 2022 when he was a WR1 for a lot of the season. He is at his best with a lower target volume, which is how he played from 2019-21. The way Joe Blewett described Lazard is a bad WR2 or a good WR3. Davis, on the other hand, has the potential to be a good WR2.
Lazard likely will end up with a higher target volume than Davis due to his chemistry with Rodgers and his better durability. However, make no mistake about it: Davis has a far higher ceiling as a player and is more worthy of the Jets’ WR2 label. Many Jets fans believed they got a Davis upgrade in Lazard, but that is not the case.
WR Mecole Hardman
After the word came out that the Jets plan to expand Mecole Hardman‘s route tree, many assumed that Hardman has untapped potential. However, if a speedy receiver could not break out with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, there is unlikely to be another place where they suddenly break out.
As Blewett explained, Hardman is exactly what his contract says he is: a Braxton Berrios upgrade. Berrios was the Jets’ backup slot receiver and gadget player. That’s where Hardman excels, as well. The biggest area of upgrade is that he is a better deep threat than Berrios, both because he is faster and a slightly better route runner.
Hardman did see a somewhat increased role with the Chiefs in 2022 due to the loss of Tyreek Hill, and his efficiency correspondingly increased. He had 13.7 yards per reception, four receiving touchdowns, and 1.64 yards per route run in 2022. However, he also had a whopping seven drops (14.6% rate) and caught just 1-for-5 contested targets, primarily because of his tendency to alligator-arm a ball when he knows he is going to get hit.
It’s also important to note that some of Hardman’s “receiving” production came on tosses in the backfield that were essentially jet sweeps. They’re recorded as receptions on the stat sheet because they were technically throws, but in terms of evaluating the player, they belong in the rushing yardage totals.
Hardman is definitely a useful player to have, but he is the WR4. In fact, he may well lose snaps to Randall Cobb, who is a better route-runner and far more surehanded. Sometimes reliability trumps speed, and for a quarterback like Rodgers, that is likely to be the case.
SS Jordan Whitehead
After reading Jet X, perhaps some fans are less inclined to think as favorably of Jordan Whitehead as they did throughout the season. Blewett warned before the 2022 season that Whitehead is poor in coverage, as a tackler in space, and in gap discipline. The only area in which he does well is making big hits from time to time, but since that’s what shows up on the screen, he has a much better reputation than warranted.
We’ve already discussed ad nauseam how bad the Jets’ safety tandem was in 2022. Whitehead got somewhat of a free pass from the fan base because Lamarcus Joyner was worse. The arrival of Chuck Clark could have helped, but it appears that he is down for the season with an ACL tear. Regardless, though, Clark profiled best as a Whitehead replacement, not as a high safety. Adrian Amos is another box player who has struggled in coverage over the past two seasons.
Here is a thumbnail statistical representation of Whitehead’s 2022 season.
- 12.9 yards per reception allowed (55th out of 72 qualified safeties)
- 15.3 yards per reception allowed in man coverage on 13 targets (last)
- 104.0 targeted passer rating in man coverage (57th)
- 15.6% missed tackle rate (T-62nd)
- one penalty per 565 snaps (42nd)
- 5.64 YAC per reception (53rd)
- -9.5 run defense plays saved (Worst among Jets defenders, per Michael Nania’s charting)
K Greg Zuerlein
I’m not sure if Greg Zuerlein really qualifies, but his struggles toward the end of last season flew under the radar in the face of the rest of the Jets’ futility. He won the kicking job over Eddy Pineiro in 2022 training camp due to his big leg. However, Zuerlein ranked just 26th out of 32 kickers with a 54.5% success rate from 50+ yards (6-for-11).
Overall, here was Zuerlein’s breakdown in each range compared to expected (xFGP = expected field goal percentage, FGOE = field goals over expected):
- 20-29 yards: 5-for-5 (100%), xFGP: 97.5%, +0.126 FGOE (18th)
- 30-39 yards: 10-for-10 (100%), xFGP: 92.9%, +0.712 FGOE (T-3rd)
- 40-49 yards: 9-for-11 (81.8%), xFGP: 81.3%, +0.053 FGOE (T-15th)
- 50+ yards: 6-for-11 (54.5%), xFGP: 69.3%, -1.627 FGOE (28th)
- Total field goals: 30-for-37 (81.1%), -0.736 FGOE (24th)
- PATs: 28-for-29 (96.6%), +0.525 PATOE (16th)
- Total points: -1.683 points over expected (21st)
In other words, Zuerlein was below average as a kicker in 2022, and his kicking from 50+ yards was the main reason why. Meanwhile, Pineiro ranked fifth among kickers with +7.143 points over expected, although he did have just two attempts from over 50 yards (making both of them).
Ultimately, the Jets’ choice was exactly what they got: the leg strength (hence the nickname “Greg the Leg”) without the accuracy. Although Zuerlein wasn’t the disaster that some of the previous Jets’ kickers have been, he was not a strong kicker compared to the league average.