Let me make something very clear from the beginning of this article: I think New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson is extremely good at football.
Let me repeat for clarity: I think New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson is extremely good at football.
To go even further, I think Garrett Wilson is so good that if he plateaued here and never improved even one bit from now until the end of his career then he’d still be a fantastic wide receiver. The guy is good. I would never want to insinuate otherwise.
However, just like every one of us, Garrett Wilson has areas where he can be better. I expect several of these areas (e.g., yards per route run, yards per target) will improve simply by virtue of having what we expect to be significantly better quarterback play when Aaron Rodgers returns.
One area that my eye test tells me Garrett could stand to improve regardless of the quarterback throwing him the ball is his play on contested catches. I think the chief benefit of analytics is being able to check whether our eye test is accurate. According to PFF, my eye test seems pretty spot on in this regard. Wilson caught only 11 of his 37 contested catch opportunities this season. This is about a 30% success rate. For reference, among receivers who had 45 targets (a criteria for which Wilson did not qualify), the lowest recorded score was 47%... which ironically was recorded by fellow New York Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard. In theory, Wilson could have caught his next 8 contested catch opportunities, but even that would have landed him last compared to qualified receivers, with a success rate of 42%.
Garrett Wilson doesn’t need to improve his contested catches to be a really great receiver. He’s already there, and he hasn’t shown strong contested catch ability at a high level yet. However, if he can show that ability then he’ll likely find himself among the NFL’s elite receivers, included in conversations alongside the Dallas Cowboys’ Ceedee Lamb, the Cincinnati Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase, and the Minnesota Vikings’ Justin Jefferson.
There are a lot of different pathways through which the Jets can take a step forward and be a true contender, but Garrett Wilson elevating his play even further would sure go a long way towards accomplishing that goal. With that in mind, hopefully his 2023 play shows all of the skills we’ve become accustomed to and also an ability to win in tight coverage.