Jets’ Zach Wilson Should Use Ludicrous QB Ranking as Motivation

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on November 28, 2021.

Sorry to ruin your afternoon New York Jets fans but a recent NFL quarterback ranking has just come to my attention — and it’s absurd for a number of reasons.

“Around the NFL” editor Gregg Rosenthal decided to publish a top-62 list that ordered every QB that started a game in 2021 and Zach Wilson’s ranking is absurdly low. In fact, Jets’ signal-callers past and present were all toward the bottom so Sam Darnold and Mike White supporters hold your applause. We’re all in this together this time around.

Most starting QBs ranked somewhere in the top 32 unless your name was Wilson, Darnold, or Tyrod Taylor who was benched in favor of Davis Mills. Do you know where the Jets rookie ended up on this list? No. 43! — and you’ll never guess the players that were ahead of him.

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Hang This Excerpt on Your Wall, Zach

Before we unpack this confusing ranking, let’s hear what Rosenthal had to say about Wilson, who finished one spot behind Darnold and seven ahead of White (No. 50) — Joe Flacco was placed just after White at No. 51. He wrote:

In nearly half of his starts, Wilson was a primary reason his team wasn’t competitive. He improved down the stretch, but most of that improvement came down to one terrific game against the Bucs. He did not throw with consistent confidence, even though his arm is outrageous, and finishing the season with a 7-for-20 performance against the Bills left a sour aftertaste. This is a massive offseason for the former No. 2 overall pick.

Where to start? First, it’s incredible that the BYU product’s most prolific victory of the season is totally ignored. In Week 4, Wilson led an overtime upset over the eventual No. 1 seed in the AFC, and that was before Derrick Henry’s injury.

Rosenthal is correct that there were some lousy efforts — Week 2 against New England, Week 3 in Denver, Week 14 versus New Orleans, and the final week that he cites in the blurb — but Wilson was hardly the “primary reason” the Jets lost football games.

In Week 18 against Buffalo, the rookie was playing with backups and third-stringers at wide receiver and offensive line. The weather was also horrendous that day and if the Patriots had played the Bills in that game, Mac Jones wouldn’t have attempted more than three passes.

Sometimes you can’t tell what happened by reading a stat sheet and Rosenthal’s ranking is a perfect example of that. I’m not sure how many Jets games he watched but there are several clues that reveal the answer — not many.

Below are some convenient omissions:

  • Under heavy pass rush, Wilson nearly led a fourth-quarter comeback on the road over the Carolina Panthers in Week 1.
  • He was off to a decent start in Week 7 at New England before leaving the game with a knee injury early on.
  • Scored a game-winning rushing touchdown over the Texans in Houston.
  • Led three-straight touchdown drives to start Week 13 versus the Eagles. The defense was the primary reason this game was lost, as they were unable to stop backup QB Gardner Minshew. In the second half, Philadelphia bled the clock and Wilson barely touched the football.
  • Set a franchise-rushing record during the win over Jacksonville.
  • Wilson was first in the NFL in on-target drop percentage by his receivers (minimum 50% of dropbacks) at 12.7%, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • He was also the third-most sacked quarterback in the NFL via PFF, although Wilson did contribute to these numbers by holding the ball too long at times.
  • And yes, as Rosenthal noted, he should have beaten Tom Brady and the Bucs if not for a bone-headed mistake and a lousy defensive stand.

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No Rhyme or Reason

Listen, nobody is saying Wilson deserved to be ranked top-20 or even top-30 but by comparison, the disparity between him and a guy like Justin Fields makes zero sense.

Rosenthal has Fields at No. 28 and provides very little to back up the decision. “The tools are there,” he wrote. “[Fields] ran more than expected, and his deep accuracy came as advertised. Missing five starts down the stretch was disappointing, but he’s going to be learning a new offense in 2022 anyhow. Wasting a year with Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace was predictable, but I’m just as high on Fields now as I was on draft day.”

So if I understand this correctly, Fields gets a pass because of his coaching situation but Wilson gets no slack whatsoever? I was a big fan of the Ohio State product out of college so this is nothing personal but the two rookies had near-identical seasons in year one, filled with extreme ups and downs for each — so how is the Jets QB 15 slots lower?

One could argue Wilson had the better season statistically too. The Jets rookie had more passing yards per game and fewer total turnovers in more appearances. He also scored more touchdowns and won more games.

Player Pass YPG Passing TDs INTs Cmp % Rush YPG Rushing TDs Fumbles Record
Wilson 179.5 9 11 55.6% 14.2 4 5 3-10-0
Fields 155.8 7 10 58.9% 35.0 2 12 2-8-0

Wilson finished the season strong too, with one fumble and zero interceptions over his final five weeks, while Fields missed the final three games for Chicago.

Rosenthal makes it very clear that this ranking is based solely on 2021 in the introduction. Otherwise, why would a retired QB like Brady be first or another like Ben Roethlisberger be 29th? If it’s based on 2021, the reasoning for Fields vs. Wilson (or any of the players he’s behind) cannot be that the writer believes one will have a brighter future than the other.

Here were some of the other QBs that were rated curiously high in comparison:

  • No. 16- Mac Jones.
  • No. 22- Tua Tagovailoa.
  • No. 24- Daniel Jones.
  • No. 26- Tyler Huntley.
  • No. 27- Taylor Heinicke.
  • No. 30- Taysom Hill.
  • No. 31- Davis Mills (deserved but noting other rookie rankings).
  • No. 32- Trevor Lawrence (deserved but noting other rookie rankings).
  • No. 33- Andy Dalton.
  • No. 34- Jacoby Brissett.
  • No. 35- Josh Johnson (highest Jets QB, technically).
  • No. 36- Trey Lance (hardly played).
  • No. 37- Gardner Minshew.
  • No. 38- Trevor Siemian.
  • No. 39- Colt McCoy.
  • No. 40- Geno Smith!!
  • No. 41- Cam Newton.

It’s fun being the underdog that’s “slept on” but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

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