If we’re being honest with ourselves, sometimes New York Jets fans can go a little over the top around this time of year.
Everyone is undefeated at 0-0 and hope is normally at an all-time high. This offseason in particular has a lot of fans on the edge of their seats with overflowing amounts of optimism.
They have a brand new head coach in Robert Saleh who is highly thought of. The Jets invested over $75 million in guaranteed dollars during free agency to improve several facets of the roster.
Although the acquisition that moved the needle more than anything else was the selection of Zach Wilson with the second overall pick out of BYU in the 2021 NFL draft.
Expectations are super high heading into this year, especially after seeing Wilson’s projected numbers for the upcoming season by ESPN.
I’m Sorry Come Again?
ESPN recently shared their projections for every NFL player ahead of 2021 and the numbers for Wilson were intriguing:
- 3,859 yards
- 19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
- 63 percent completion percentage
- 58 carries for 260 yards and three touchdowns on the ground
Not only would this be the greatest rookie season in Jets history, but this would be one of the best single seasons in franchise history.
That yardage output would be fourth-best all-time only behind Joe Namath (1967), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015), and Ken O’Brien (1985).
Sadly the bar is set pretty low.
Namath is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, O’Brien was super underrated (he’s the guy the Jets picked over Dan Marino in 1983), and there have been a few others over time that have shined (Chad Pennington, Vinny Testaverde, and Mark Sanchez).
How Realistic Are These Numbers?
Okay so some nerd in his basement crunched the numbers on his calculator and projected Wilson will do insert stats, but how realistic is it? When you actually take a closer look, it’s not as crazy as it seems.
Before we analyze the data, there’s some important context that’s worth noting. Wilson has 17 regular-season games to work with this year. The NFL officially approved an expanded regular season schedule this offseason. That’s more games than any other Jets quarterback has had to work with in NFL history.
Inherently the former BYU quarterback will have an advantage over the pillars of the past. Wilson will have one more game to pad his stats.
While the fourth-highest passing yardage total in Jets history sounds super impressive and it would be, it’s actually really doable.
For Wilson to achieve those lofty ESPN projected goals, he would have to average 227 passing yards per game this season. Sam Darnold during his rookie season with the Jets back in 2018 achieved 220 passing yards per game. With an improved coaching staff (Adam Gase to Mike LaFleur), he should be able to easily make up the seven yards per game difference.
Taking a quick glance at the other numbers that were projected, they all are fine. The completion percentage isn’t terrible. Wilson will surprise people with his legs next season, specifically in zone read-type plays in the red zone, but those rushing numbers are solid.
The only area you would like to see him really surpass the projections is the touchdown-to-interception ratio. 19-to-13 is kind of blah. Although for most Jets fans just seeing more touchdowns than interceptions is a welcomed arrival.
The former BYU stud shouldn’t just be compared to Jets quarterbacks historically, he should be compared to some of the recent top-five picks in the NFL draft. The bar is set high for Wilson, we’ll see if he can reach it in 2021.