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A Look at New York Jets WR Garrett Wilson

Speed, quickness and elusiveness

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jets first round pick Garrett Wilson is a super athletic speedster with great length and top notch agility. He can give it to you then take it away leaving defenders grasping at air. He was a top basketball recruit with great change of direction and leaping ability. He averaged over 21 points a game and was offered a Division I scholarship in basketball as well as football. He comes from an athletic family as his father was a great basketball player at Davidson where he still is the university’s 7th all time leading scorer.

Garrett is able to make contested catches regularly even at his size. He has instant acceleration. He can change speed from fast to blazing in a second which gains him separation. His ability to stop then start heading in a different direction is elite. He is a supreme competitor who works to get better. He just wants to win. He can run routes successfully at all three levels of the defense. This is why he is my top ranked wide receiver in this class. He is not a one trick pony who can only run vertical routes. He is a space eater with his 4.38/40 speed. He eats up cushion quickly then puts the defender in an impossible position. He will demand coverage over the top when against man coverage. He can play outside or in the slot with equal ability.

With his quickness and elite change of direction ability he is near impossible to cover on option, stick, or whip routes. He is a home run hitter who can take a play to the house from anywhere on the field. He has superior body control. He can contort his frame in order to make a tough catch. He could be a supreme deep threat or a highly targeted chain mover or both depending on the situation. He is said to be a hard worker, looking to always improve. He is near impossible to cover when a defender can’t get his hands on him. He can be special in space, leaving opponents moving in the wrong direction. He completes the play using his great ball skills. He is a natural hands catcher with long arms (32”) for his size. His length gives him a big catch radius for a player who is just under 6’.

Here he is in the slot which gives him a free release. The defender is helpless once he hesitates to look at the play fake on the run. The fake did all it needed to do as Wilson is free to work the intermediate part of the field in the 15 to 20 yard range. This is an option route so Wilson has the freedom to find the soft spot in the defense while giving his QB an open window to throw.

Wilson will run his routes anywhere. As you can see here he crosses the middle of the field without fear. He also has very nice elusiveness. You rarely see him make a catch without making the first guy miss or at least gaining extra yards before the tackle. This is just a quick dig route that gets open early which is what the Jets need. This will give (Zach) Wilson the option of getting rid of the ball quick if he is under pressure or wait to give (Garrett) Wilson a chance to work further upfield and away from some of the traffic near the line of scrimmage.

Wilson’s speed and quickness gives the Jets a chance to spread a defense horizontally as well as vertically. Here is an example of just that.

Not only is this type of play a defense spreader, it is also a nice call on first down that can occasionally pop for a splash play. Usually, though, it is a quick 6 or 7 yard gain that leaves the offense with a nice 2nd and 3 or 4. On this play Wilson got minimal blocking support but still gained the 6 yards to make this a positive play.

At Ohio State Wilson worked less than 20% of the time out of the slot which the Jets might increase. You could see Wilson and Moore alternating out of the slot on plays from one series to the next. Of course you can run more than one slot receiver on a play which is something the Jets might look to do. The one knock on Wilson as a receiver is he is not really that powerful or strong. You would like to keep him off press coverage as much as possible until he builds up more strength in the upper body. There is no real difference in the type of route Wilson can run from either spot (wide or slot). This first play was run from the slot, but so is our next play as well.

This is just a deep crossing route against the third level of the defense that was run from the same spot as the quick screen pass. On this play Wilson sets up his opponent by stressing the straight “9” route until he gets him to flip his hips in that direction. As soon as he does Wilson then cuts across the field wide open for an easy score. When you watch the game tape you can see (from the coaches all 22 tape) that Wilson is open a lot. He doesn’t always get the ball, but he can gain separation because of speed and quickness. On this play Wilson gets almost 5 yards of separation from his defender after the break.

On this next play we have just an easy 5 yard dig route that gains about 17 yards due to quickness and elusiveness. Also Wilson is not given enough credit for his superb contact balance. Whereas Wilson is not strong and powerful he does have sturdiness which keeps him from going down with the first hit. His teammate Chris Olave had 175 career receptions but was credited with only 9 broken tackles in 4 years at Ohio State. Wilson was 11th in the nation (for receivers) with 19 broken tackles this year alone.

Not only does Wilson avoid tackles at a high rate, he is also able to escape a vast majority of big hits. That quickness is needed here as he catches the pass and is immediately in line with a ILB who is ready to level him with a shoulder. So a quick jump step inside not only avoids the big hit it also avoids the tackle attempt of two defenders and Wilson is on his merry way upfield.

From the end zone view you can see the elusiveness for yourself. He is right in the center of the defense with players converging on him from all sides with a safety right in his path with solid tackling form ready to pounce.

The ability to make the safety totally whiff from a position of strength is an innate ability Wilson has. You can’t teach that. You can’t think that through to make the right decision; you don’t have the time. This is instinctive. He set him up with a right, left, right move, and the safety doesn’t grab a shoelace. Here he was surrounded by defenders so he gained an additional 6 yards. In the NFL he could be all alone with a safety and this could turn into a splash play that could change the outcome of the game.

In football speed kills, especially when when you combine speed with astute, creative play calling. The Mike LaFleur offense will scheme players open by route structure and get the defense flowing one way. Then the offense goes back the opposite way. Here a deep dig route is combined with a short drag route to take advantage of Wilson’s speed and a defense that flows too far away from the boundary.

This is how you turn a 5 yard drag route into a 35 yard TD pass. By manipulating the defense you can get favorable matchups along with zones in the secondary that are devoid of defenders. Here you have two receivers to the left of the formation with the outside receiver running a 20 yard dig, and the slot receiver running a straight “9” route down the seam. The dig route makes the defender move away from the boundary, and the seam route holds the safety to the middle of the field. With no other receiver to that side the defense flows to its left. Wilson comes from far outside on the right, and the QB smartly waits for the defense to react. Then he lays the ball out to a wide open to Wilson with a straight shot to the end zone. Ohio State used Wilson’s speed, but the design of the play is what made this TD.

This next play is another little slip screen that nets about 10 yards while gaining a first down. This is another example of horizontal-vertical attacking of the defense. In a LaFleur offense you will run this play 5 times, but the 5th time the outside receiver feigns a block then takes off downfield. It’s a play scheme that gains solid yardage but can also yield you a game changing play once in a while, hopefully when you really need it.

What is special about this play is the lack of any real blocking which keeps Wilson from being in space and the tremendous ability Wilson has to make two men miss to gain the first down. This is speed and quickness at their best. You have the speed which forces defenders to play off coverage along with the quickness to avoid two defenders. If there was a bit more room you could have seen the suddenness when Wilson explodes by defenders into the clear.

Wilson is just under 6’ (5’ 11 3/4”), but he has good length (32” arms) along with some hops (36” vertical) which make him much better in contested situations than you might expect. It’s not like he is going to be forced to make contested catches a lot although he had 8 such receptions last year. This is going to be a talent used in or around the goal line in a condensed space. Here he has to jumps up and over a Michigan defender with his back turned to make the circus catch.

To make matters more difficult, this was on a cold, rainy day late in the year at Michigan. This is where Wilson’s basketball skills pay dividends. As Wilson tells it, “Just the constant jumping and getting up and down the floor, It’s so unpredictable. It’s not planned out. You’re kind of reacting a lot of the time in basketball. It’s not like running a route where you know where you’re going to break. I feel like that’s really good for you. It translates really well. A lot of times you see people that track the ball well and they have a basketball background. You’ve been taught to come and meet the ball since you were in first grade, just things like that.”

The speed factor is always in play for Wilson as it is able to set up such favorable coverage situations from the slot. Without the ability to press Wilson defenders have to play far-off coverage but they are still scared of the speed. That speed turns minor mistakes in coverage into scoring chances from anywhere on the field. Watch as the defender is retreating immediately at the snap even though he is 7 yards off in coverage.

To make matters worse he flips his hips to the left right away. Since there was no deep safety in the middle of the field he just assumed that Wilson was going to try and cross his face by breaking into the center of the field. This is how a simple 5 yard out turns into a 20 yard TD. Now Wilson isn’t going to see coverage like this in the NFL. There was basically no coverage but he will cause mistakes to be made. The faster a defender has to react the more likely there is for a mistake. It’s good to know that when mistakes do happen Wilson has the skills to make the defense pay dearly.

This next play is another type of route that is simple, effective, and a chain mover. This simple stop route that could possibly been more successful if the QB had not hesitated before he threw the ball.

I know it’s just a minor problem, but the ball needs to be on the receiver as soon as he turns around. This way he gets to make a move before the defender regains his position so the WR can take advantage of his backward momentum. The QB needs to play/fake then throw quickly, but the route yields a first down anyway. This is another route where you can run numerous times with good effect then run a stop and go route which could give you a splash play especially without a safety to that side. As it is, the speed will give you the space which makes for an easier completion with solid yards gained. It keeps drives going.

Another area that Wilson will need to work on is his technical route running. He rounds off a lot of routes which will be a problem in the NFL. Miles Austin should work long and hard to get Wilson the proper footwork into a break then work on sinking his hips into breaks. By doing so you lower your center of gravity which allows the receiver to come out of the break crisper and faster. Coaches refer to it as exploding out of breaks. It is the best way to gain separation. The defender doesn’t know when you will do this so he can’t anticipate it.

This is a really poor route. There is no break, just a rounded move, and he gives his QB no good angle to throw the pass. Wilson makes up for it with a great catch after he wrong foots himself. If you run a route like this in the NFL, it goes 105 yards the other way for a TD for the defense.

All players who come into the NFL must develop. The majority of the time that development will determine whether they fail or succeed. Wilson has a lot more quality traits that he could channel with minimal development.

There are more ways to use Wilson than just as a receiver. He can be a great decoy who pulls a least two defenders to his side. He can also be used in the running game with jet sweeps or reverses. He was very successful doing so like on this play.

With this formation there are few defenders to the left side of the offense to stop the play. Wilson barely gets any blocking but scores easily on a 51 yards TD run. Ohio State didn’t use Wilson enough in my opinion as a runner. He had only 6 attempts, but even if you take away this TD run he averaged over 18 yards a carry on the other 5. Being that Wilson has a slight build I can see the reluctance, but runs around the corner give him a chance to get what he can then get out of bounds before taking any big hits.

The ability Wilson has to stress a defense deep cannot be understated. His speed and elusiveness are enough for any defensive coordinator to take preemptive measures. At least the defense has to play off, over the top, or use bracket coverages. Here you see the 20 yard out route is an easy pitch and catch against this quarters coverage.

This is even another route that is poorly run as Wilson should run directly to the safety in order to stress him into making a decision to flip his hips. He then can sink his hips into a break outside. The wandering route makes the throw late as the QB has no idea when he is going to make a break. A definitive break cues the QB to throw the ball to the outside of the break. This way Wilson gets the ball earlier, with more room to maneuver then possibly head upfield. Wide receiver coach Miles Austin should make Wilson project #1, 2 & 3 on his agenda for OTAs and training camp. This was a possible TD if the route was run correctly.

This next clip you will notice a much better cut than you have seen thus far, and the results follow. The reason is Wilson is not in full stride at the cut point so the lack of speed allows for him to make a near 90 degree cut.

This is against straight man to man coverage (notice they are using two slot players) with Wilson’s defender inches away when he makes his cut. Yet after the nice cut he is now yards away from the defender and in space. Space is where Wilson can thrive because of the great elusiveness. A break back against the grain, and 20 yards later Wilson is in the end zone causing two missed tackles. This is a simple 5 yard dig route that turns into a TD.

Wilson will of course need to improve his route running and his route tree. He has so much talent to run many quick routes like stick, slant, whip, and deeper routes like a sluggo (slant & go) or a poco (post/corner).

Basically it comes down to how much Wilson can learn and how hard he wants to work. Don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. While NFL players have been resting since December, Wilson and the players in the Draft have been working for months to get ready for the NFL Combine, then go on interviews and private workouts. These kids are spent and now must learn a new playbook, work with a new QB in a new system, and pick it up fast. It’s a whirlwind what they have been through so if they can get to camp, work on some plays and formations, and get in some type of rhythm with their QB they will be doing well. Working on technique will take time and effort; a lot of time and effort. There is only so much time in the day, and a lot of that is in meetings and film study.

Wilson will probably have to put on a few lbs of muscle to help him thrive in the NFL. He needs to work on catching the ball as he is prone to concentration drops. He had a 7.9% drop rate which is too high with most coming on easier catches. He will make a great catch then drop an easy one. He needs to cut that drop percentage in half. His has the same speed and is just a little smaller that Ja’Marr Chase. What he gives away in size to Chase he makes up for in quickness. That is Wilson’s ceiling, a player similar to Chase with as much explosiveness but less strength. That’s a high ceiling, and although he will be a slightly different receiver he still has that type of potential. Remember Chase sat out a year to work on his craft and heal his body before he went into the draft in 2021 so he came in ready to rock. He also had a great working relationship with his QB who he worked with a LSU and won a Championship.

Joe Douglas told Peter King his thoughts on the 2022 wide receiver draft prospects;

Every single receiver brought something different and dynamic. You had guys that could run by anybody. You had big body guys with unbelievable catch radius. You had guys that were just pure route-runners. Ultimately, we felt like the guy that had the best combination of all those traits was Garrett Wilson, a guy that had the route skills, the ball skills, the catch radius, the ability to attack the ball and make contested catches, the ability to make people miss right after catch, create explosive plays in space, and a guy that had the top-end speed to get behind defenses and threaten vertically. He had the best combination of all the traits we were looking for.” Joe Douglas

My opinion is that Wilson has a long way to go to just be an average receiver in the NFL but he can also be very special as well. The Jets are betting their future on it and I agree.

What do you think?