Several weeks ago, we took a look at Bilal Powell and how he's stacked up as a running back. Today, we will take a look at everybody's favorite whipping boy (aside from Vladimir Ducasse), Kyle Wilson. While most people have been complaining about Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner's performances, they've been mostly silent on Wilson, with the exception of his week two penalty outburst.
You want to know why? He's really, really good.
In fact, Wilson has quietly become the best cornerback on the team. Wilson is, in fact, one of the best in the league at what he does, which is primarily the nickel cornerback, the guy covering the slot receiver.
This job is one of the hardest in the National Football League. Unlike the outside cornerbacks, the slot cornerback can't use the sideline to their advantage. The slot receiver, usually the quickest and shiftiest of the bunch, can go in any which way. This is often where teams rack up yards after the catch. And most importantly, they're often looked to on critical downs, as they're usually the most sure-handed receiver. So let's take a look at how Wilson has done, both in comparison to the rest of the New York Jets, and in the NFL as a whole. Let me note that all charts and statistics are from ProFootballFocus, and while their "grades" are often disputed, the raw numbers are generally not. As for their grades, the importance here is not necessarily their accuracy in and of themselves, but the consistency it provides among all teams.
Let us begin by noticing, first of all, that the Jets are rated as the worst in the league in the pass coverage category. This comes as no surprise to anyone watching yesterday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Surely, if the team as a whole stinks at coverage, there's no way any one receiver could be good, right?
Here we see that Wilson is rated as the best cover-corner on the team. He gives up the fewest receptions, percentage completion, touchdowns, and NFL Rating.
For a more detailed breakdown of Wilson's stats, you can look at the above chart to see that, with only one real exception (this past week), he's been pretty consistently good, week-in-and-week-out.
This is just a quick snapshot to show how often Wilson plays, and that it's primarily in the slot, in coverage.
This chart, this one right here, this is my favorite of all the charts. Kyle Wilson is rated as the second best slot cornerback in the entire NFL. He'd move up to number one if you were to limit the chart to players with more than a hundred snaps, but I think you get the idea.
Most people have mocked Wilson ever since his first start, a disastrous outing against the Baltimore Ravens. That start, mind you, came as he switched to a completely new position (he was an outside corner in college, practiced as one in training camp without Darrelle Revis, then switched right before the first game), at one of the hardest positions to master your rookie year (see Revis and Patrick Peterson as prime examples). But most people chose to base their judgment on their first impression of Wilson, and with every finger wag, confirmed it in their own minds.
The problem? Both the eye-test and the numbers don't back it up anymore. Simply put, Wilson has developed into the best slot cornerbacks in the entire league. Is that worth a late first round pick? I'll let you decide that. But now, in his fourth year, Wilson is one of the few dependable cogs in coverage on this team, and we would be remiss if we undervalued his importance.