Over the next few months, we’ll be breaking down every Jets rookie, including the undrafted free agents. Today we break down Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson, selected by the Jets with the 10th overall pick, in detail.
The 21-year old Wilson is listed at 6’0” and 192 pounds and was an all-American in 2021 and all-Big Ten first-team selection in 2020. He had a career year last season with 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Wilson was a five-star prospect out of high school and was an immediate contributor as a true freshman for the Buckeyes with 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns in his first season.
In 2020, he got off to a great start with four 100-yard games to open the season and ended up being named as a first team all-Big Ten selection after catching 43 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns in just eight games.
Then in 2021, he and teammate Chris Olave were both named as all-Americans with Wilson posting a thousand-yard season and scoring 13 touchdowns. This time, he finished the season with three straight 100-yard games. For his career, he had 10 games with over 100 receiving yards, nine of which were against teams from Power-5 conferences.
Having opted out of Ohio State’s bowl game to prepare for the draft, Wilson bolstered his credentials at the scouting combine. The Jets selected him 10th overall with their second pick of the first round.
Now let’s take a look at what Wilson brings to the table, divided into categories.
There were concerns that Wilson was considerably smaller than his listed height, but he measured in at just a quarter of an inch under six feet at the combine and his catch radius is adequate, with big hands. He weighed in at 183, though, almost 10 pounds less than his listed weight with the Jets. You can probably expect him to add some mass between now and training camp.
He ran an impressive sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash and posted above average explosiveness numbers at the combine before deciding to sit on these numbers at his pro day. He opted not to lift and his short shuttle was below average, although he had reportedly run it faster in college.
One of the impressive things about Wilson is his versatility, as his primary role was different in each season. This will appeal to the Jets, who memorably cut down Denzel Mims’ opportunities last season because he hadn’t learned every position.
Wilson was in a reserve role playing primarily as the Z receiver in his freshman season, then played the majority of his reps in the slot in his second season. Last year, he became the starting X, a challenge he relished because it gave him a chance to work at getting off press coverage.
He’s occasionally been an option on jet sweeps and has been very effective on those. In 2020, he broke a 62-yard run on one and he made a first down on each of his four carries in 2021, one of which went for a 51-yard touchdown.
In high school, Wilson also saw some playing time on the other side of the ball as a defensive back.
Wilson has been an effective deep threat with 10 touchdowns on passes more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage in his career, including five last season. He has the speed to get behind the defense when in one-on-one man coverage.
When the ball is in the air, Wilson does a good job of tracking it and looks comfortable making catches over the shoulder.
Wilson has some developing route-running abilities and an experience of running everything on the route tree. However, there are still some things he may need to work on cleaning up.
His footwork and technique is generally good, as he will accelerate off the line, break down by sinking his hips and make sharp breaks to get separation from his man.
He does an excellent job of being deceptive with his routes, enabling him to shake loose from defensive backs in off-coverage.
At the line, he has quick footwork and can at times get a clean release against press coverage. There are times, though, when he stutters and shakes for a step too long so his route takes a little longer to develop, or he’ll come out of his release slightly off-balance and stumble into his route. The Jets will be confident he can clean these things up because when he gets it right, he’s difficult to stay with.
When he doesn’t hesitate and releases clean off the line, his threat to go over the top, combined with his ability to sink his hips and stop on a dime can generate the separation not just to get open but to get enough space to get loose once the ball is in his hands.
Wilson has reliable hands, with a catch rate of over 70 percent for his career. He did have a career-high with six drops in 2021 though:
He’s generally a hands catcher and is impressive at reacting and adjusting to inaccurate throws to make difficult catches with excellent body control. He’ll snag passes that are behind him while maintaining his balance to run with the ball and will dive to scoop up low passes before they hit the turf.
Wilson is also capable of bringing in contested catches and has a good ability to go up and over defensive backs to come down with the ball.
Many of Wilson’s 24 career touchdowns came from outside the red zone, but some of them were on shorter passes and his skill-set does lend itself to being a red zone weapon. His ability to release cleanly at the line makes him a good option to get early separation and he’s shown he can use his body to box out a smaller defender or go up and get it on a fade route.
His ability to shake defenders in space and find open areas in the defense also make him a good option out of the slot.
After the catch
Wilson’s playmaking ability with the ball in his hands is one of his most exciting traits and he posted the best numbers of his career for yards after the catch and broken tackles in 2021.
He showcases some of his elusiveness here, by slipping out of a few tackles to turn upfield and avoid another tackler.
He’s a regular option on short passes, displaying good vision and acceleration and also having the ability to finish strong or break and elude tacklers once he gets into space.
Wilson’s ball security has been good as he did not have any fumbles as a runner or as a receiver during his collegiate career.
Wilson is not known for being a particularly good blocker, but he definitely gives good effort, even though sometimes he gets his angles wrong.
Here’s an excellent example of that effort, as he battles and readjusts to stay on his block long enough for the receiver to get to the marker.
He can also carry out assignments from the slot, such as here where he blocks down on a linebacker to help set the edge for a big off-tackle run.
While Wilson doesn’t bring elite physicality and can get held up in press coverage if he doesn’t get a clean release, he has strong hands in a crowd and the toughness to go over the middle.
For his size, his play strength isn’t bad and he doesn’t shy away from contact when running after the catch.
Wilson’s primary special teams role with the Buckeyes was as a punt returner. He was also on the hands team for onside kicks and played a few snaps in kick coverage, although he didn’t record any tackles.
On the face of it, his punt return numbers are unimpressive, as he averaged just six yards per return in his career. Remarkably though, on just 34 returns, he had six of 20 yards or longer, including a 52-yarder. Other than these six, though, he averaged less than two yards per return, which perhaps means his decision making was questionable.
In his first season, he had a muff against Rutgers but kept the job only to then have another muff two weeks later against Michigan.
Instincts and Intelligence
Wilson’s football IQ is regarded as good and he tends to do a good job of adjusting his routes to find open areas in the defense.
As already noted, he has good vision in the open field and an ability to react and adjust to the flight of the ball. His positional versatility will also impress teams.
There can be lapses of concentration at times. In 2021, he had three penalties, all of which were pre-snap.
Wilson has good character as he brings toughness, a good work ethic and a desire to improve. He’s a team-first player who took on a variety of roles and grew as a leader in 2021. These days, we’ve moved past the time where opting out of a bowl game in your final season was viewed as a character concern.
His on-field discipline has been adequate, with 11 penalties in three seasons, including one on special teams.
There was one isolated report in the Athletic that suggested Wilson hadn’t been very good in pre-draft interviews, but otherwise nothing negative has been raised in respect of his character.
Wilson hasn’t had many injury issues in his career so far, although he did miss the Nebraska game last year with an undisclosed injury. Reports indicate this was just a precaution as he had dealt with concussion-like symptoms.
While he was still in high school, Wilson also missed the start of his senior year with an injury.
Wilson’s experience in multiple roles with Ohio State should set him up well to contribute in the Jets’ offense. With Elijah Moore capable of moving into the slot, Wilson could start on the outside with Corey Davis or perhaps they’ll bring him along slowly and use him to spell Moore, Davis and Braxton Berrios at all three positions.
He only has one former teammate on the Jets’ current roster; his fellow 2022 draft choice, tight end Jeremy Ruckert.
It’s interesting to compare the film for Wilson with that of Moore from last year. With Moore being a second round pick, you’d expect Wilson as a top-10 pick to have superior film and that’s not necessarily the case.
Wilson has some exceptional traits - good hands, body control and playmaking - along with a good fundamental base which suggests he’ll develop into an excellent route runner. However, these were all areas where Moore excelled too.
There are some obvious reasons why Wilson might go higher. He’s slightly bigger than Moore, who some - incorrectly, it seems - felt was too small to succeed on the outside at the NFL level. It may also be the case that this year’s draft class, both overall and at that position, wasn’t as strong as last year’s.
Ultimately, Moore was an exciting addition last season and started to deliver on his significant potential before getting hurt. If all Wilson does is emulate this, he’ll be a great addition for the next few seasons as Zach Wilson remains on his rookie deal.
The Jets’ priority has been to surround their young quarterback with as many weapons as possible. With this selection, it looks like they got themselves another good one.