PFF: Why It Might Be A Huge Mistake For Jets To Draft Zach Wilson

Discussion in 'Draft' started by IIMeanDeanII, Apr 27, 2021.

  1. IIMeanDeanII

    IIMeanDeanII Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure If I'm not allowed to post links from PFF or other sites like It? I never have before. Please delete If I'm not.

    I'm not a big fan of PFF personally. Nor, am I a huge fan of, Zach Wilson. Just so everyone Is clear on my stance.

    I thought this was worth reading, curious what others think of this article?

    https://www.pff.com/news/draft-byu-qb-zach-wilson-mistake-new-york-jets-no-2-overall

    What do we really know about quarterback Zach Wilson, the presumptive second overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft? He wasn’t on anyone’s draft radar a year ago, but now the BYU product is everyone’s favorite quarterback and just a few days away from officially becoming the New York Jets‘ long-awaited savior.

    Let's start at the beginning. His 2018 true freshman season was impressive enough for a first-year player — his 80.5 PFF grade that year even tied with Joe Burrow for 31st in the nation — but there was no improvement in 2019. And all things considered, a former three-star prospect with two average seasons under his belt was not going to feature in anyone’s mock draft heading into the 2020 college football season. But then the 2020 season happened, and the rest, of course, is history.

    Wilson produced the highest passing grade in the country last season at 95.5, which certainly seems worthy of a top-five pick on the surface. But the problem is that it’s still hard to grasp exactly who Wilson is based on the tape.

    Even though the rest of this year's presumed first-round quarterbacks played on teams that were the overwhelming favorite in most of their games, it still felt as though no team had an easier run than BYU. And this lack of competition can paint Zach Wilson in a very different light.

    Stats, whether traditional or analytical, can obviously be skewed when players face favorable situations, and a lack of opportunities for negative plays can buoy a quarterback's production to enormous levels. For example, if a quarterback is throwing to wide-open receivers from clean pocket after clean pocket, the chances are that he will not score a lot of negatively graded plays. And while there may not be many highly graded plays when throwing to open receivers, the lack of negatives usually means that the quarterback in the comfortable situation grades better than the quarterbacks who are having to attempt more difficult plays and therefore score more negatives.

    This is precisely why Zach Wilson rocketed up draft boards in 2020.

    An excellent example of this phenomenon comes from the glut of “superspreader” offenses throughout the nation. Josh Heupel ran this kind of offense at UCF last season, and here is where his receivers tended to run routes:

    [​IMG]
    It's just vertical sideline shots. His starting quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, finished the season with only four interceptions on 413 throws. That’s good, right? Well, it’s hard to throw interceptions when you never throw over the middle of the field. After all, that’s where the sharks and predators lie in wait.

    There were 637 big-time throws compared to 193 turnover-worthy plays on go-routes in the FBS last season. In-breaking routes didn’t fare quite as nicely, as there were 23 big-time throws to 68 turnover-worthy throws.

    If we remove the go-routes and look at every other throw in college football last year, we get a ratio of 1,197 big-time throws to 1,131 turnover-worthy plays — one turnover-worthy play for every 1.06 big-time throws. There is one turnover-worthy play for every 3.3 big-time throws on go-routes.

    Now that the context is behind it, that four-interception total suddenly doesn't look as rosy.

    This is what happened to Zach Wilson in 2020. The heatmaps below show where the BYU receivers ran routes on the left and where Wilson targeted those receivers on the right.

    Here is the BYU offense in 2019:

    [​IMG]

    And here it is for 2020:

    [​IMG]

    We can see that the receivers stopped running routes over the middle of the field and that Wilson cut back on his throws over this danger area. His turnover-worthy play rate fell from 3.5% after his first two seasons to 1% last season, while his negatively graded throw rate fell from 15% to 9%.

    There is little doubt that he became a better technical quarterback — I won’t disagree with that. He stopped scrambling for no reason, realizing that he should use the incredibly good offensive line in front of him to protect him, and he did become a touch more accurate.

    But the reason for Wilson's meteoric rise up draft boards has more to do with the offensive environment around him than it has to do with his development as a quarterback.
     
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  2. IIMeanDeanII

    IIMeanDeanII Well-Known Member

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    Wilson's protection got better every season. His pockets got cleaner, with his pressure rate dipping from 33.3% in 2018 to 27.4% in 2019 to 21.6% this past season, eighth among FBS quarterbacks. There was also a difference in what those pockets looked like.

    It’s generally difficult to quantify the difference between clean pockets, but the tape shows us how unusual Wilson’s pockets were.



    They allowed him to throw from any angle. I’ve never seen such flat pockets in my life. It’s called a pocket because of its normal U shape, but Wilson was seemingly playing behind the Great Wall of China.

    Some of this is to do with how defenses set up against them. As we move down the pecking order of college football teams, we find more and more teams aligning in a “tite front” and playing quarters coverages behind it.

    This is not to say that the top teams don’t play this defense, but Group of 5 teams (minus the triple-option teams in Navy, Army, Air Force and Georgia Southern) saw what we charted as quarters or Cover 6 at a rate six percentage points higher than their Power Five counterparts.

    [​IMG]

    This defense will often only line up one edge rusher outside the tackles, and sometimes they don't line up a single outside edge rusher. That’s how you get such flat pockets, as there are no rushers who can collapse the pocket from the outside in.

    BYU also faced three-man rushes at a higher rate than Power Five teams (15%), and they were blitzed at a lower rate than most Group of 5 teams. And even when teams did choose to send a rusher, BYU’s offensive line produced the 22nd-best cumulative pass-blocking grade in the country against the blitz.

    Further cushioning Wilson's environment, the Cougars offensive linemen were only beaten in one-versus-one situations 10% of the time, good enough for the 19th-best mark in the country. In addition, the offense as a whole faced quarters coverage at the 20th-highest rate in 2020 (again, this excludes the triple-option teams) while ranking 111th in Cover 1 man-to-man snaps faced. The receivers then did their bit by catching 49.3% of their contested catches, which ranked 21st in college football. Their cumulative receiving grade was 91.8, second.

    A great offensive line and great receivers against predictable defenses is a winning combination.

    BYU ran very few passing concepts throughout the year, but the two most common were “doubles” and “mesh.” And both concepts give us more reasons for concern when evaluating Wilson’s play.

    We’ll start with doubles, a concept they frequently ran with play action.

    [​IMG]

    The reason it’s called doubles is that teams can tag the two outside routes in any way. You could have mirrored go-routes, out-routes, comebacks or anything to the sideline. The middle route is always the same. It’s a vertical route that will stay running against two-high defenses and break off horizontally against single-high defenses.

    Here’s BYU’s 2020 route heatmap on play-action plays:

    [​IMG]

    If you click here to compare, you can see that more routes are being run in the middle of the field than the entire dataset, but Wilson still does not target them.

    The BYU quarterback just doesn’t want to throw around bodies in the middle of the field. He also didn't have to because he was infrequently rushed by blitzing linebackers or pressures off the edge. He was able to look at that route over the middle of the field and then launch a ball down the sideline before the pressure eventually gets home — it's an easy life.

    More often than not, BYU tagged their outside receivers on go-routes to complement the inside middle-read route. Wilson would often throw those routes to the receiver's back shoulder and ended the season with the fifth-most back-shoulder go-route targets in the country last season. One of the reasons he was able to do that is because of how lower-level FBS teams teach their cornerbacks.

    Conventional teaching tells cornerbacks that they should play the outside-release vertical route by staying attached to the receiver and then turning toward the sideline to locate the ball being thrown over their heads. Once they turn inward, they can’t play the back shoulder route anymore.

    But because quarterbacks have gotten so good at throwing these back-shoulder routes in all situations — not just in the endzone — the newer teaching is to have the cornerback turn into the receiver and be a little physical. The goal is for them to cut off downfield access with their bodies and play the back shoulder throw with their eyes.

    There’s a good two-play sequence in the Boise State game where Wilson threw a nice back-shoulder but then almost threw a pick trying to do the same thing.



    If you are not playing against top quarterbacks week in and week out, you don’t need to teach your cornerbacks both ways of playing the vertical route. There’s no choice but to do it at the Power Five level, but you can get away with it at the Group of 5 level.

    If Wilson did throw it deep on the go-route instead of back-shoulder, he had the receivers win vertically. If not, they could make contested catches anyway.

    BYU’s favorite non-play-action pass concept was “mesh,” as I so eloquently detailed here:



    The part that I want to draw attention to is the “speed out” area. The way mesh is designed, there is usually one route that is not part of the actual mesh progression. Some will call this an “alert” route.

    If the defense is giving a good look for whatever route is tagged — and it doesn’t have to be an out — the quarterback will bypass reading the mesh concept and throw that route. BYU often tagged this intermediate speed out. Throwing to the sideline did show off some of the arm strength that Zach Wilson will need in the NFL, but the throws were wide open.

    Wilson threw the most 7-plus-yard out-breaking routes in the country last season, posting a grade of 94.1 for his efforts. He threw the ball accurately, there’s no doubt, but it’s the lack of opportunity for a negative play that is propping his grade up here.

    Again, it’s the cornerback technique that is allowing these routes to be so wide open. Because BYU doesn’t get man coverage, they see a lot of “off and inside” alignments from cornerbacks. Off and inside means the space available to the receiver is going to be underneath and inside — just where these out-routes are going.



    The stats and production might look good on paper, but when we dig into the level of competition and how these lower-level teams on the BYU schedule played defense against them, the results are more concerning.

    This may be different if Wilson had an A+ arm and A+ accuracy, but at best it’s a B+ arm with B+ accuracy. So, at this point, the Jets are banking on his traits, like his play outside of the pocket, improving. And while they certainly might, it also might be a huge reach to take a guy with middling production for two years and then suspect elite production the next year at No. 2 overall.

    Justin Herbert‘s production at Oregon was spotty at best, as his numbers fell from his freshman year, but he had A+ arm strength. He was arguably the same quarterback in the NFL, but that arm strength bailed him out of tough situations and he went on to have one of the best rookie quarterback seasons of the decade. Wilson doesn’t have those traits. He’s not a bad quarterback by any means, but he is not near the top of the class, and the Jets could be making another mistake at a position that they simply cannot afford to make.
     
  3. Br4d

    Br4d 2018 Weeb Ewbank Award

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    So basically what PFF is saying is that when Wilson has to target receivers on routes that NFL QB's have to be able to target he is likely to have similar results to Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold, yes?

    And when he gets hit hard, which he will, given he won't have a perfect pocket to throw from like he did last year, he is probably most similar to Chad Pennington, yes?

    And this is the guy we're taking on the #2 pick because you have to take a QB if you need a QB and you have the #2 pick. This apparently being true even if you have no target worth the pick?
     
  4. JetFan20

    JetFan20 Well-Known Member

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    It’s the Jets so it’s probably good bet to short Wilson if you are a draft pundit. If he was going to the 49ers these guys would be sculpting his bust to Canton.
     
  5. Red Menace

    Red Menace Well-Known Member

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    I can’t say I would blame them, they are a good football organization that has had its hiccups but being honest Jets have just been sad.

    So as not to derail the thread, I have said from day one Sewell should be the pick at 2. I know, I know, you have to take a QB, but he’s literally the 2nd best player in the draft, with HOF scouting report.

    If Jets select Wilson or any other QB, they have to build a good team around him, no matter who it is. If it’s Wilson and his limitations, the worse they can end up being is a Titans like football team that will make playoffs but not get to SB.
     
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  6. Jason MacIsaac

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    Before I respond, are we to assume you are heavily biased towards Fields?
    People seem to assume Wilson will be given the same responsibilities that he had with BYU when in reality this will look much similar to that of Cleveland/Minnesota's seasons running the Shanahan style offense.
    The Jets will spend the first half of next year establishing the run and throwing off PA. If you are expecting Wilson to put up Herbert numbers you will be greatly disappointed. I disagree with your assessment of his arm. I believe his arm strength/accuracy/release combination is among the best in the draft. He has the ability to make all the throws and all the throws off platform. Fields has an inverted W motion which will inevitably destroy his elbow.
     
  7. themorey

    themorey Well-Known Member

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    It frequently happens that the bandwagon turns out to be an onion cart. This is a big decision so I fully expect the Jets to fuck it up.
     
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  8. Rockinz

    Rockinz Well-Known Member

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    Well done mean Dean. This was really well put together. The thing is what intrigues me about Wilson has nothing to do with the offence he ran or the level of competition he faced. What makes Wilson a NFL top prospect is his quick release, throwing motion, footwork, twitchy hands and accuracy throwing with anticipation.

    His release is one of the best I’ve seen in a while, it’s so quick that it will help him get the ball out in under 2 seconds and corners will have less time to react once he starts to wind up.

    His throwing motion is natural and fluid. Looks almost effortless. This will lead to better touch throws and velocity throwing the ball.

    His footwork must have been something he worked on with John Beck because it was improved substantially from 18/19/20’ to this year where it looked really good.

    He has incredibly quick twitchy hands once receiving the snap and that’s what helps him with his arm angles and off platform throws. He must of developed that from playing a lot of basketball and it translates to his football game.

    Throwing with anticipation is one of the most difficult obstacles for a young QB because it shows a few things. First it’s your preparation because you and your receivers need to be on the same page. Second the ability to make a throw before the defence can anticipate the route. It’s a very important trait at the nfl level.
     
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  9. Jason MacIsaac

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    I whole heartily agree with this post. I would be concerned with the throws he was asked to make at the college level if he had arm or mobility concerns. Neither are the case.
     
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  10. legler82

    legler82 Well-Known Member

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    Holy shit; I’m not the only one.
     
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  11. All Gas No Shake

    All Gas No Shake Well-Known Member

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    the parts about the off coverage leading to tons of easy 10-20 yard completions, Wilson largely ignoring the intermediate middle of the field, and the size of BYUs pockets are things that I have mentioned

    the corners that byu played this year gave up a ton of easy yardage to the boundary ... that’s not Wilson’s fault, but it’s part of the reason I question his transition to the pros
     
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  12. NCJetsfan

    NCJetsfan Well-Known Member

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    Dean,

    You are allowed to post articles here from other sites, and PFF is quoted here often so it was perfectly appropriate to post the article here.

    That said, I am not a big fan of PFF, either. I think stats and analytics have their place, but like ColoradoContrails I favor the Mark Twain quote about stats.

    This article is extremely flawed right off the bat, which if you weren't so biased towards Fields and away from Wilson, you would have noticed or commented upon.

    "Let's start at the beginning. His 2018 true freshman season was impressive enough for a first-year player — his 80.5 PFF grade that year even tied with Joe Burrow for 31st in the nation — but there was no improvement in 2019. And all things considered, a former three-star prospect with two average seasons under his belt was not going to feature in anyone’s mock draft heading into the 2020 college football season. But then the 2020 season happened, and the rest, of course, is history."

    No mention of the surgery on the labrum in his throwing shoulder following the 2018 season and that he missed all of spring practice, then broke his thumb during the season and had to have surgery and missed several weeks following that. Well, duh!!! How in the hell can a QB be expected to improve when he was only 75-80% during most of that season, having to relearn how to throw, regain his touch, rebuild his strength, and then the same thing following the thumb surgery. It's amazing that he played as well as he did and led BYU to OT wins against USC and Tennessee that season.

    They also make it sound like his WRs were always open. That's BS! He threw them open quite frequently; otherwise, we wouldn't know about his anticipation and ability to make small window throws with great accuracy. They also try to make it sound like his highest passing grade in the country last season was due to his WRs always being open and his always having a clean pocket. Neither are true, and it's shallow, ignorant, and lazy of the author to claim it so. LOTS of college WRs are open and their QBs have clean pockets, yet those QBs don't come anywhere near what Wilson did. They don't mention that. They just summarily write off or dismiss what he accomplished as if he did it with smoke and mirrors.

    This article is truly laughable in how bad it is.They can create whatever fancy charts and graphs they want, but it doesn't hide the fact that they're freaking clueless. They blame Wilson for not wanting to throw to the middle of the field, but say nothing about the play design or play calling by the OC or HC. Is Wilson supposed to audible out of every play the CS calls? He throws over the middle and does it well.

    When an article starts out with severely-flawed premises like that, it's hard for me to give it any credence whatsoever. Then it compounds it by continuing to make flawed analysis/assessments throughout the article with statements like this:

    "But the reason for Wilson's meteoric rise up draft boards has more to do with the offensive environment around him than it has to do with his development as a quarterback."

    This is utter BS imo. He was healthy, and he worked very hard going to So. California to work with his QB Coach Beck.

    There may be some valid points about the types of coverages and pass rush BYU's opponents employed, but those shouldn't be used as weapons against Wilson. He can only play against what opposing Ds use and he can only play against the teams on BYU's schedule.

    I wasn't sure that it was possible, but PFF just sank several notches lower in my lack of respect and esteem for them.
     
    #12 NCJetsfan, Apr 27, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
  13. Red Menace

    Red Menace Well-Known Member

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    So let me get this straight, Wilson gets great protection, his receivers do a good job of winning one on one battles which makes him a productive QB but it’s somehow a negative?

    He also has thrown more 7 yard outs than any QB and that has helped him to be productive which led to better numbers and that’s a bad thing?

    He doesn’t throw into the crowded middle of the field if he doesn’t have to but now that’s a bad thing?

    It’s everything an offensive coordinator asks of their QBs at the NFL level, make the correct play that will allow the offense to continue to move the ball and reduce the chance for turnovers.

    Can we also not compare him to Sanchez, Mark had one year of college football and was encouraged by Pete Caroll to stay and gain more experience and Pete was right, MS needed more time to develop.

    In today’s NFL a 4 yard pass play is considered to be a positive because it’s equivalent to a 4 yard run, This PFF article doesn’t paint Wilson in a bad light, it actually does the opposite. It shows a QB who is not a gunslinger and is smart enough to make the safe play as long as the defense gives it to him.

    Is there room for improvement?

    There is always room for improvement from any QB that is transitioning to the NFL, as long as Wilson or any QB Jets select gets good coaching which I believe they have, I believe it’s not going to be same old Jets.


    I would like to add, if there is one thing that Wilson can definitely improve on is letting play develop. Kurt Warner had a good video on Wilson against the quarter defense and showed how fast Wilson lets the ball go, and Warner showed if he waited 2-3 more seconds he had a better pass option.

    That mental clock is something that he could improve on.
     
  14. legler82

    legler82 Well-Known Member

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    If your only goal at number 2 overall pick is to do better than Sanchez or Darnold, then Wilson is definitely your guy.
     
  15. BroadwayAaron

    BroadwayAaron Well-Known Member

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    This article just hammers home the point I've been trying to make even more: Wilson and Fields are about as equal as possible when it comes to projecting their NFL careers. The only difference is which one you prefer. With Wilson you have to worry about the level of competition he faced despite having tape that says his skillset and strengths will translate well to the NFL and specifically, the offense we run. With Fields you can look at the shows he put on against top level competition, but he doesn't have a lot on his tape that says he can make the quick decisions and read the field like an NFL QB needs to in 2021.

    Long story short: just get it right Joe.
     
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  16. Br4d

    Br4d 2018 Weeb Ewbank Award

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    Also, it is a pipedream to think Wilson can make only the throws he attempted at BYU and be a starting QB in the NFL.

    You have to use more of the field than he did at BYU once you get to the NFL. Good NFL defenses will shut down almost everything he regarded as his bread and butter at BYU and leave him with all the scraps in the middle of the field that he never had to try to use in college.

    Then his picks will go way up because NFL defenders are quicker than the ones BYU faced. And of course he wasn't throwing in those areas of the field anyway. The heatmap shows a remarkable absence of slants across the middle. An NFL WCO features slants across the middle. It also shows a remarkable absence of post routes deep. An NFL WCO counts on the threat of a post route making the safeties play deep enough to open up those slants across the middle.

    I don't know how accurate the heatmaps of his routes and throws were but if they were accurate they are not the indicators of a guy who is going to come into the NFL and prosper in a WCO, particularly as a young player. Wilson is either going to be throwing the ball up for grabs more often than anybody will be comfortable with or he will be taking coverage sacks when the routes he would like to throw are not open. In either case his particular flaws will likely be exposed.
     
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  17. Red Menace

    Red Menace Well-Known Member

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    The Sanchez comparison is unwarranted, Mark had 16 games under his belt as a starter.

    Wilson is a 3 year starter that has gotten a little better every year with a higher ceiling than Sanchez ever had.
     
  18. legler82

    legler82 Well-Known Member

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    You made the comparison; I only responded.
     
  19. Red Menace

    Red Menace Well-Known Member

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    I did not make the comparison, I said please DO NOT compare.
     
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  20. Jason MacIsaac

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    You're right, these are the only throws Wilson can make. He has a massive blind spot in his vision that prevents him to throw up the middle. This blind spot will prevent him from throwing up the middle with a new team employing a new system in a new league next year.
     

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