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NY Jets’ Garrett Wilson is top-tier in QB-independent rating system

Garrett Wilson, NY Jets, NFL, Reception Perception, Routes, Stats
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Garrett Wilson’s greatness for the New York Jets is not in doubt

Fantasy football players know all too well about Garrett Wilson’s disappointing 2023 season for the New York Jets. He finished as WR36 in standard leagues, WR26 in PPR, and WR31 in half-PPR.

Given these rankings, it would seem that there’s reason to be wary of Wilson heading into Year 3. As good as his reputation is around the NFL, those numbers don’t lie, right?

Well, when given the context of his quarterback situation, Wilson’s raw numbers lie more than any other NFL receiver’s. Consider that he faced double-teams at the highest rate in the league and saw the lowest rate of catchable targets. The picture already changes.

More importantly, Wilson performed at an elite level when it came to winning his routes. Matt Harmon of Reception Perception (RP) attempts to separate the receiver’s results (his statistics) from his process (how he runs routes). While they’re not perfect, their assessment of Wilson is far more in line with what his film indicates about his process than his stats.

Wilson’s route tree was all green (top-notch) except for the flat. He had a 78.6% success rate vs. man coverage, 82% vs. zone, and 81.1% vs. press, all at or above the 93rd percentile among receivers. His RP profile is that of an elite receiver. He’s simply never had the quarterback play to take advantage of it, as Andrew Fialkow demonstrated.

According to RP, Wilson had an 81.2% success rate vs. press coverage as a rookie, which put him in a highly impressive group. The other receivers to accomplish this as a rookie in RP history are CeeDee Lamb, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, and Odell Beckham Jr.

The list of second-year receivers who cleared the 95th percentile vs. man and an 80% success rate vs. zone is Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, and A.J. Brown. That’s the kind of company Wilson has kept in his first two seasons.

Wilson’s success rate on in-breaking routes was other-worldly. His success rate on curls and slants was over 90%. This compares perfectly to the Aaron Rodgers-Davante Adams connection, which usually hovered in around 85% on in-breakers.

The main issue RP points out is contested catches. It is worth noting, though, that most of the above-average contested catchers in the NFL are at least 6-foot-1 and/or over 200 pounds (Mike Evans, Courtland Sutton, Mike Williams, Josh Reynolds, Chris Godwin, Nico Collins, Michael Pittman, Jakobi Meyers, etc.).

Wilson is officially listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, and he’s definitely on the skinnier side for receivers. It’s possible that contested catches will never be a strength for him (although he did pretty well in that area in college, posting a 52% rate over three seasons, including 61.5% in his final season).

More importantly, Wilson shouldn’t face nearly the same level of contested targets in 2024. According to RP, Wilson had a 29.4% contested target rate in 2023, unthinkable considering his route success. If Wilson can just catch a few more of those targets — say, go up from 11-for-37 (29.7%) to 15-for-37 (40.5%) — his elite separation and YAC abilities can more than make up for somewhat below average contested catch ability.

Ultimately, anyone who turned on Wilson’s film knows that his numbers from 2023 largely lie. Still, Reception Perception’s quantified comparisons give another glimpse into how woefully the Jets failed to take advantage of Wilson.

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