Deep Dive: Garrett Wilson
Edition #126 - Taking a look at the newest Jets receiver.
☀️ Good Morning.
We now start the slow slog towards the season. For all the excitement of the last month with Free Agency and then the Draft, we now have a few months before any meaningful games take place which gives us time to really take a look at this 2022 roster.
Today I'm starting with Garrett Wilson and hopefully, you'll stick with me all off-season.
💲- The Jets are reportedly giving Middle Tennessee linebacker DQ Thomas $130k guaranteed. That shows some real confidence in him. My rule of thumb is that any UDFA who gets more than $100k guaranteed is thought of very highly.
📳 - I missed this a couple of days ago, but according to Mike Giardi of the NFL Network “I got a text from a Jets official this morning saying Zach Wilson is already bothering Garrett Wilson about throwing” - Give me things I love to hear for 💯 points.
😡 - PFF released their way too early 2023 Mock Draft. They had the Jets picking defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who's one of my favorite prospects in next year's class. But they also had the Jets picking #3, if that's the case then the 2022 season went horribly wrong.
👏 - There were 106 players drafted who appeared in Mobile at the senior bowl, that makes up 40% of all players drafted. The Jets who coached the National team selected Jeremy Ruckert from their own side and Max Mitchell and Jermaine Johnson from the Lion 🦁 coached American team.
Garrett Wilson 5️⃣
When the Jets took Garrett Wilson #10 overall in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, he became the highest-drafted receiver by the Jets since Keyshawn Johnson went #1 overall in 1996. The last time the Jets used the #10 selection on a receiver it was on Al Toon, a player who appeared on 3 All-Pro teams and finished his Jets career with 517 receptions for 6,605 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Wilson was born in Chicago Illinois and spent the early years of his life in Dublin Ohio before moving to Texas at age 11. Wilson won a 6A state championship at Lake Travis in Austin Texas (same high school as Baker Mayfield). While at Lake Travis Wilson set a number of records including total career receptions (204), total yards (3,359), and total touchdowns (55).
However before he was a star wide receiver, he was actually looking to be the Lake Travis QB. As a freshman, he accounted for 10 touchdowns in a scrimmage against Vandergrift which led the Vandergrift coach to exclaim: "It got so bad, I yelled at the Lake Travis coaches, we get it, he's good," Sanders said. "Then I thought we were going to be in trouble for the next three years."1
His high school head coach Hank Carter discovered Wilson while hosting a 7-on-7 camp for middle schoolers in the spring. Wilson a 6th grader at the time took a pass on a slant, ran for a touchdown, and then dunked the ball over the 9-foot goal post, Wilson was around 5 foot 2.
“I went over to him and said, ‘Hey man, what a great play. Great job, bro. What’s your name?’” Carter told cleveland.com.
“My name’s Garrett Wilson,” the kid responded.2
QB may have been the first idea for Wilson but Lake Travis already had a star QB in the making with Charlie Brewer. A player who spent 4 seasons with Baylor throwing for 9700 yards and 65 touchdowns before transferring to Utah for the 2021 season, and now hoping to replace Malik Willis at Liberty in his final year of college eligibility. Garrett reluctantly moved to wide receiver which ended up working out well.
“I don’t want to say that I knew he was going to be just like he is,” Carter said. “But we had all talked about this guy’s going to be something like we’ve never seen at Lake Travis before. No matter what he does, it wouldn’t shock me because he is super competitive. He’s the dog among dogs and an alpha competitor.”
As a 5* recruit, Wilson was recruited by nearly every major program in college football, in total he had 33 scholarship offers but his choice came down to his adopted home of Texas or where he spent the early years of his life in Ohio. As the #2 rated WR in the class (Jaden Haselwood was #1) and the 20th best player overall, his recruitment was a huge coup for OSU.
He recently revealed why he chose Ohio State over Texas on the Rich Eisen show:
“You know, Texas had had a few down years at that point,” Wilson said. “I was from Austin, but it wasn’t like they came and started recruiting me early, trying to get in on me early. They kind of came with the rest of the pack of schools that recruited me. When I went up to Ohio State and did that visit, it was coach (Urban) Meyer and coach (Ryan) Day at the time. The relationship there was just really special. It wasn’t like something I had anywhere else at that time. That was the thought behind my decision.”
Another big factor in his decision was the play of the late Dwayne Haskins at spring practice that Wilson attended, Haskins left the Ohio program after 2018 as a first-round pick of Washington, but his ability to push the downfield left a lasting impression on Wilson and showed the Buckeyes had come a long way in terms of their passing offense and their style of play:
“I came to the spring practice my junior year,” Wilson told cleveland.com. “I watched him practice, and it was just bombs away. He could really sling it. I could tell the offense was going in a different direction. I already knew what Ohio State was. But, you know, seeing that made me want to come play here.”
Haskins then proceeded to throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns…if there is a way to secure the signature of a highly-touted receiver, it’s for your QB to throw 50 touchdowns in a season.
Wilson wasn’t just a standout on the football field, he also earned All-Central Texas honors on the basketball court averaging 21 points a game. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering his father Kenny Wilson ranks 7th on Davidson university's all-time scoring list with 1,573 points.
Garrett made an instant impact at Ohio State as a true freshman catching 24 passes for 368 yards and 5 touchdowns, and while he wasn’t a starter he showed everyone why he was the #2 rated receiver in the recruiting class.
In the COVID shortened 2020 season Wilson formed a sharp partnership with Justin Fields and caught 34 passes for 572 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Buckeye’s slot receiver, he spent 73.3% of his time in the slot in 2020 before moving outside in 2021.
During that 2020 season Wilson became only the 2nd Buckeye receiver ever to put up four consecutive games of 100+ yards, starting the season with 129 yards against Nebraska, 111 yards against Penn State, 104 yards against Rutgers and 169 yards against Indiana, he also scored 4 touchdowns over that period.
The move outside was based on the emergence of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the impressive prospect who put up 1,259 yards from the slot last season. Wilson’s move to the X receiver introduced new challenges for the 3rd year man, including combating more press coverage at the line, a key trait that impressed Robert Saleh (more on that below).
Like with more things for Wilson, he embraced the challenge of facing up to some of the best corners in college football as the starting X receiver in Columbus:
“I think it’s really good for my development just because it’s a little bit harder to get off press and stuff like that from the outside when you’re singled up,” Wilson explained. “So I just think it’s really good for my development to tie in playing slot last year and then bringing in with playing outside this year. Just being able to build my skill set to be able to play both. Personally, I want to be someone that you can put anywhere on the field.”3
The move outside proved a wise choice for Wilson and OSU as he instantly developed chemistry with CJ Stroud and he dominated the opposition on his way to 70 receptions for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns, 417 of those yards coming after the catch.
Most teams in college football play a heavy dose of zone coverage on defense and that plays out in the stats for Wilson, but he showed an ability to defeat both zone and man coverage.
Against man coverage, Wilson caught 18 of 23 targets for a 78.3% reception percentage, 260 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Against zone, he caught 38 of 58 targets for a 65.5% reception percentage, 589 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Wilson wasn’t used in the running game all that often by Ryan Day and the staff at Ohio State but he does have 6 career rushing attempts for 143 yards and a touchdown, that’s good for 23.8 yards per average. A small sample size I know, but worth mentioning.
After three years at Ohio Wilson left with 128 receptions for 1,998 yards and 22 touchdowns, good for 15.6 yards per reception. He caught 13 of 25 contested catches for a success rate of 52%, including a 61.5% success rate in 2022. That ability to go up and get the football can’t be overstated and it’s something that Wilson takes great pride in:
“I feel like I do a good job of going up and getting the 50/50 ball,” says Wilson. “I play bigger than my size and I play with a whole lot of passion. You can see the competitiveness and passion pour out of me when I’m on the field.”4
With only 10 drops over his career on 179 targets, good for a drop percentage of just 7.2%, he showed that his reliable hands are one of his best traits, a very important trait for a wide receiver who’s been taken in the top 10 to help a 2nd year QB make a jump.
New York Jets
The Jets are adding Garrett Wilson to a talented wide receiver room that already boasts Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, and Braxton Berrios and when asked to explain the pick coach Saleh spoke about Wilson’s ability to win one-on-one in a division that plays a lot of man coverage:
"He has the whole repertoire in terms of the route tree," Jets head coach Robert Saleh told the Associated Press. "He’s got great body control. You see him and he looks a little slight, but he’s actually very strong, plays the game very strong. He’s got great range. He’s got really good speed. He can win one-on-one. When you look at Buffalo, New England and Miami, they’re man-to-man coverage teams.”
The good thing about both Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson is that they can both play inside and out. Over the course of his three-year career at Ohio State, Wilson spent 27.3% of his snaps in the slot and 72.7% of the time on the outside, which gives the Jets a lot of flexibility in how they use him.
The Jets won’t just be getting a great player, they’re also getting a great person. This has been a consistent theme in my research, nearly every interview from previous coaches and teammates speaks to his character:
“Not only is he a freak on the field but he’s a great person,” said former teammate and current Texas QB Hudson Card. “Being able to play with him since high school and being able to see him about to be a first-round draft pick is pretty special.”
“The one thing we always worry about is when you’re so much better at the high school level, how will that translate to college,” said Carter his Lake Travis coach. “He kind of made it look easy at Ohio State and we think to a different degree he’ll also do really well at the NFL level.”
Vertical + Acceleration
This is from the Fiesta bowl in 2020, and there are two things to highlight in this one play:
The acceleration off the line is absolutely elite, the corner is playing a few yards off and Wilson eats that cushion up instantly.
This is why he had a contested-catch rate of over 50% for his entire college career and over 60% in 2021. He can really go up and get the football and he plays much bigger than his size and frame.
One of the main reasons I had Garrett Wilson as my WR1 in the 2022 NFL Draft was down to his release. He wins instantly off the line in a number of ways, if you’re in press and you don’t get your hands on a receiver, you’re going to lose the battle 9 times out of 10. Wilson sells his release better than anyone else in the draft and pay attention to his head, his hands, and his feet on both of these releases, both against Maryland in 2021.
Wilson is just a natural playmaker whenever he touches the football. Here are two examples against Purdue this year. Two very different plays but the same result in each. The first is an end-around which indicates his ability with the ball in his hands and how the Jets can use him in different ways, and the second is a difficult catch that he makes look easy because of his + body control, adjustment, and concentration.
Route Running + Intelligence
Wilson for my money was the best receiver in the draft when it came to his route running ability, and that’s based on two factors both of which were evidenced in the below video. He uses head fakes, body positioning, and tempo to keep defenders off balance and his suddenness in his movements provides separation. He also sets corners up well in terms of his consistency in appearance on different routes, he doesn’t telegraph his route depth or direction and this makes him extremely hard to defend.