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The specific skills NY Jets should prioritize in WR targets

Courtland Sutton
Courtland Sutton

The New York Jets need certain skills from their wide receivers

Right now, the New York Jets have one capable receiver on their roster: Garrett Wilson. Even with a future Hall of Fame quarterback, that’s not going to be enough to make a serious playoff run. Aaron Rodgers’ more recent playoff struggles may have stemmed from having only one receiver to throw to. Patrick Mahomes struggled for much of the 2023 season for the same reason.

The Jets know they need a No. 2 receiver. As we’ve covered recently, though, they may not be able to afford one. Calvin Ridley’s price has likely increased now that Mike Evans, Michael Pittman, and Tee Higgins are all off the market. There aren’t any other true No. 2 receivers available.

Still, if the Jets want to complement Wilson, they need specific skills to complete their receiving corps. It’s not just about getting receivers who have posted a certain number of yards in previous seasons. There are areas of struggle for Wilson or just general Jets weaknesses that they should seek in their acquisitions, whether in free agency or the draft.

Not needed: Big body

Joe Blewett has reiterated in recent film reviews that a big-bodied target is an overrated asset. The idea that big receivers can win in the red zone is largely a myth. The fade in the end zone is perhaps the least efficient pass in all of football.

Furthermore, Some of the biggest touchdown producers in the league were Tyreek Hill (5-foot-10), Jordan Addison (5-foot-11), Brandin Cooks (5-foot-10), Jayden Reed (5-foot-11), and D.J. Moore (5-foot-11). That’s not to say there weren’t big-bodied targets who scored many touchdowns (Courtland Sutton and Mike Evans are the two obvious examples), but it’s not a requirement.

If anything, the Jets have underutilized the tight end position in the red zone. Tight ends are targeted in the red zone less because of their height than due to their positional matchup. Take a good tight end against a linebacker in short range, and the tight end likely wins. That’s where Tyler Conklin should have an advantage, but he had just nine targets in the red zone in 2023 and only three that reached the end zone (no touchdowns).

Need #1: Deep threat

As athletic as Wilson is, he hasn’t proven that he can be a consistent deep threat in the NFL. Part of that might be his quarterback, but he also struggles to stack defenders, track the ball deep, and win at the catch point. He often tries to go for the acrobatic one-handed catch over a defender rather than boxing them out and getting into a good position to highpoint the ball.

In his two seasons in the NFL, Wilson has caught 12 of 45 deep passes (26.7%) for 379 yards (31.6 per reception), no touchdowns, and 8.4 yards per target. Among 66 qualified receivers in 2023 (min. 12 deep targets), those two-year totals would rank 53rd in catch rate, 42nd in yards per reception, and 51st in yards per target.

Wilson generally operates at his best in the short-to-intermediate parts of the field. That’s where he can maximize his YAC skills and win with quick feet. It’s not that he can’t win deep, but that’s not his primary skill.

Therefore, especially with a quarterback like Rodgers who likes to target vertical routes, it’s imperative that the Jets find a receiver who can take the top off a defense. It’s worth noting that this is not only about speed but also the ability to stack defenders, which is where Wilson struggles.

Options: Hollywood Brown, Courtland Sutton, Gabe Davis, Calvin Ridley, Ricky Pearsall, Jermaine Burton, Roman Wilson

Need #2: Contested catches + good hands

Wilson’s other area of struggle is contested catches. He’s caught just 25 of 76 contested balls (32.9%) over his two seasons, while the league average for receivers generally hovers between 42-46%. Although that could improve, as he caught 52% of his contested targets in college, he hasn’t shown that ability consistently in the NFL.

Perhaps I should have put good hands before contested catches, though. More than a player who can catch the difficult targets, the Jets need someone who can consistently haul in the easy ones.

I’m putting these two skills together because the Jets just need a player whose hands they won’t need to worry about. It was a significant concern in their receiving corps heading into 2023, and it bore out on the field.

Options: Michael Thomas, Tyler Boyd, Ricky Pearsall, Xavier Legette, Malik Washington

Need #3: Man coverage success

The Jets have had a man coverage problem for a long time, especially against press-man. Even Wilson has had his struggles against it. One of the problems he faces is that he’s double-covered with press-man consistently because there’s no other threat on the team.

The Jets need someone on the other side to take that pressure off. Perhaps the deep threat will be enough, but that won’t necessarily work against a blitz.

Options: Hollywood Brown, Courtland Sutton, Michael Thomas, Malik Washington, Malachi Corley, Xavier Legette

Who should they target?

Although Hollywood Brown is coming off a down year, he checks the deep threat and man coverage boxes due to his sheer speed. He’s never going to be a great contested catch receiver due to his size, but he’s the vertical field-stretcher who could slant coverage away from Wilson.

The biggest issue when it comes to Brown is price. His projections are currently in the $12-15 million range, which is way too steep based on his production and recent injury history. I wrote that the $8 million range is closer to his worth, but if the Jets need to overpay by a million or two for him, perhaps it’s worthwhile; not more than that, though.

Perhaps the best overall option for the Jets is Courtland Sutton. The question is if he’ll be available via trade and what his price will be.

Sutton plays well as a deep threat despite his lack of general separation, and he can also beat man coverage. If the Jets did acquire him, his cap hit would be $13.6 million in 2024 and $14 million in 2025, which is a reasonable price to pay for a No. 2 receiver. The projection of his value is a third or fourth-round pick, which the Jets could afford to pay for a known commodity instead of drafting an unknown receiver with the pick.

After Brown and Sutton, questions abound. Boyd has good hands, but he’s not much of a vertical threat. Michael Thomas can win against man coverage by boxing out and has maintained good hands, but that skill set may fall off at any moment due to his age and injury history. Gabe Davis can’t win against man coverage and has alligator arms. Josh Reynolds and Kendrick Bourne are nice receivers but don’t really check any of these boxes.

In the draft, Ricky Pearsall may have worked his way onto Day 2 with his Combine performance. He scored an unofficial 9.78 Relative Athletic Score, including a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. Still, Pearsall’s earlier projections were in the third round, and if he’s available, the Jets should pounce. The Jets may also consider trying to move back into the second round to draft a receiver, as players like Pearsall, Roman Wilson, and Xavier Legette seem more likely to go in Round 2.

Regardless, considering receivers from a skills perspective places more parameters around whom the Jets should or should not sign. Above all else, they want to take pressure off Garrett Wilson. Whether by committee or in one receiver, that’s the direction in which they should be looking.

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Peter Buell
Peter Buell
2 months ago

Ridley is the guy I’ve wanted from the start.
Last year they re-structured a number of deals but imo did a bad job.
Lawson and Brown both should have been cut. Instead they re-structured both and now we will be paying them on void years the next 3 or 4.
Open every single penny you can Woody. Begin with Mosely and Q Will (if Q is eligable since he just signed last year)
Give JD Davis a new 3 year deal that’s heavily bonused. At age 26 they can do 4 years and have him still in his prime.
John Franklin Meyers can have a year or 2 added and use bonus and void years to get his $16m down.
Even though Uzomah was just cut they might be able to squeeze a couple/few mill off Conklin’s deal.
Finally, if they can do the improbable and trade Allen Lazzard.
Keeping Lazzard out as a bonus if it happens.
They can realistically get to $50m with some cooperation.

Then they can over-pay Ridely a bit. Say $18m again heavily bonused if possible.
Spotrac has him at 4×$17.5

Then I’d go heavy in the line and try to find a bargain wr after Farrett and Ridley.

RG Jonah Williams is a good long term solution but costly at $10.8×4 or they can sign Tyron Smith who will be 33.5 in Sept for one season then look to draft another next year if we don’t get a good piece this draft.
They need the line to have professional backups unlike the past few years.

T George Fant and C Connor McGovern can step in for 4-5 games if nesecarry.
If I can get G Ezra Cleveland at $8-$9m I sweep him up more as a pseudo starter. Of course depending in cap space.

BALLSY move of the offseason..Jets trade 2025-26 picks to get Tennesse’s pick at 7.
Cost probably 2025 1st and 3rd, 2026 2nd, 4th+ a player.

OK I’ll finish the novel now…sorry it dragged out.
If we get to $50m and picks 7 and 10 this is what I’d do.

DRAFT
Right now LT Joe Alt and Wr Rome Odunze are there and I take them both.

FREE AGENCY
WR Cal Ridley..We have Rodgers for maybe 2 years…not a season to lay back.

RT Jonah Williams $10.8×4

C (Tippman to LG) Connor Williams $13.5×5

They should be able to squeeze in Fant and McGovern as quality backups with the starting line

Alt, Tippman, Connor Williams, Vera-Tucker Jonah Williams.

WR Garrett Ridley Odunze…look at LB/S in round 3.

All done a stretch but ya never know.

Jets71
Jets71
2 months ago

Speed is the key, you wrote that as your top priority, and I saw your Hollywood Brown breakdown, agreed with it but as I think more on it, if it’s a 1 year deal and they can afford it, then it makes sense to “overpay” (which means market value) for this season. This is a win now year, no matter what player they add at WR2 this year it’s unlikely that player is part of the “long term” future. I’m sure they will double down and draft a WR in the “very talented WR class” (seems like they say that every year). Adding Brown, even at top dollar with no long term commitment, and a developmental WR is the move.

I just believe Garrett will be a real stud with someone on the other side who can burn a team deep.

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