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Who's Better: Daniel Jones or Zach Wilson?
Who's Better: Daniel Jones or Zach Wilson?

October 28, 2022

There seems to be a disconnect at QB in New York.

Zach Wilson has been mostly a bystander as the Jets have shocked the NFL world with a 5-2 record. They had an over/under forecast of just five wins for the entire season! 

He’s ranked 20th in QBR (48.6) and 24th In yards per dropback (5.93).  The Jets are the first team since the Tim Tebow-led Broncos in 2011 to win consecutive games with 105 or fewer passing yards. 

Daniel Jones, conversely, has been driving the Giants bus en route to their 6-1 record. He’s sixth in QB (62.7), well ahead of leading MVP candidates Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow. Yes, his yards per dropback is 30th but he’s hamstrung by arguably the league’s worst wide receiving corps. 

He’s making up for it with elite rushing – 343 yards on 58 attempts with 25.9% of them being 10 yards or more (trailing only Lamar Jackson at 31.8%). His success rate on runs (first downs, touchdowns or effectively setting up the next down) is 69.6%. For comparison, Josh Allen’s is 47.6%. Yet the market is saying that Wilson’s future value is far greater than Jones’

An explanation for this is that Jones is in his fourth year and the market is resigned to the fact that the Giants, who did not pick up Jones’ fifth-year option, will be moving on from the former sixth-overall pick (2019) in 2023. Wilson is only in his second season and still seems to be benefiting not just from his draft capital (second overall pick in 2021) but the expectation that he has the remainder of this season and at least two more seasons on top of that to prove he’s the Jets QB of the future and pile up the statistics that form the basis of Mojo value.

Any optimism for the future of both signal callers is rooted in the career progression we have witnessed from the only QB who actually plays home games in the state of New York, Josh Allen. He’s an elite athlete who was a dual threat player, similar to Jones (objectively a better runner and much bigger body). 

Of course, the Giants head coach Brian Daboll helped develop Allen from a project to a Pro Bowler. Allen and Wilson share elite traits, especially as throwers, while struggling early in their careers with accuracy woes that are generally viewed as unfixable. In Allen’s case, they were not. While not the proactive runner that either Allen or Jones are, Wilson demonstrates above-average athleticism, especially in escaping sacks, as well as providing a running threat.

Through four games of his second season, Allen’s QBR was 36.6 (much lower than Wilson’s). It was 45.5 including his rookie year (in an environment where QB was generally higher, 58.4 league-wide versus 52.0 so far in 2022). But note that most QBs who struggle like Allen did don’t develop. So, looking to Allen as if his dramatic career turnaround can be replicated is probably wishful thinking. 

However, Wilson has gotten better in his rate stats; his QBR last year was just 33.4 (a 46% improvement thus far in 2022). More optimistically, his QBR last year when not pressured was 56.2 (25th, league average was 67.5). This year, it’s 80.6 (third, just behind Patrick Mahomes and Allen; league average is 63.1). The analytics community believes non-pressure stats are more predictive because most passes come without pressure and thus the sample is larger and more reliable. Jone is 10th in non-pressured QBR (71.9). 

We’ve all seen Wilson play and, especially the past two weeks, it’s looked somewhere between ugly and hopeless. However the advanced numbers do paint a far more optimistic picture. So, his future value seems reasonably priced given these facts. But that doesn’t make it any easier to square with Jones’ relatively depressed future value

Jones is much better this year in QBR – 65.7 versus 52.4 last year (a 25.4% improvement). But let’s compare Jones’ QBR in his fourth year to other QBs this century drafted in the first round. 

These are raw numbers and not adjusted for opponents. There are 34 quarterbacks in the sample and Jones (65.7) ranks seventh. That’s just behind Allen (68.9). And it’s ahead of  Deshaun Watson (65.4), Matthew Stafford (55.9), Andrew Luck (49.6), Eli Manning (52.4), Lamar Jackson (58.6) and Philip Rivers (50.9). There was no doubt that these players were/are worthy of franchise contracts for their on-field performance. Note that Jones is crushing his 2019 draft contemporary Kyler Murray (52.2) and Murray already has his franchise deal. 

Jones is actually performing at an elite level and overcoming a lack of weapons. So given his performance so far in 2022, it seems a mortal lock that Jones is the Giants QB of the present and future. 

Michael Salfino is a Contributing Writer at Mojo. All trades you make are with Mojo, which sets the lines as the “house”. Recommendations are for entertainment purposes only. Please use your own judgment and data to make trades. 21+. Must be in NJ to trade. Gambling Problem? 1-800-GAMBLER
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