The Athletic’s Mike Sando has released his official Quarterback Tier List, a ranking that divides quarterbacks into categories based on what they can accomplish, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their role can be on a team at this stage of the NFL.
The lists are generated via a rigorous interview process with 50 individuals consisting of head coaches, coordinators, talent evaluators/scouts, quarterbacks coaches, and analytics specialists.
The list stacks up as follows:
Zach Wilson found his way into Tier 4, which Sando classifies as quarterbacks that are “unproven players (not enough information for voters to classify) or a veteran who would ideally not start all 17 games.” Wilson, who only played 13 games last season, falls into the former.
The goal for the Jets’ staff is for Zach Wilson to crack into Tier 3 by the end of the year, not just in terms of being a top 24 quarterback, but being anecdotally recognized as one.
Tier 3 is described as a quarterback that is “a legitimate starter but needs a heavier run game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.”
The description of this tier is specific and inclusive enough to encompass some of the most discussed and debated quarterbacks in the NFL. Baker Mayfield heavily benefited from having a play-action pass-first offense in Cleveland. Kirk Cousins has had many of his flaws and limitations covered up by a run game centered around Dalvin Cook. Mac Jones walks into every game with less anxiety knowing he has Bill Bellichick’s defensive scheme to lean on. Jimmy Garappolo has benefitted from all three under Kyle Shanahan.
For Zach Wilson to work for the Jets and get to Tier 3, two things need to happen.
First, his rawness and recklessness need to be cut down. Not eliminated – remember, Matt Stafford led the NFL in interceptions this year. Just enough to wear it won’t actively lose the Jets games.
Second, Wilson needs some sort of combination of those three factors – fewer dropbacks, a reliable run game for him to lean on, and a defense to steer him away from winning via shootout.
All three seem to be heading in the right direction.
With an improved offensive line, Mike LaFleur will look to roll out Zach Wilson more and overwhelm certain sides of the field to create easier targets.
Spending a second-round pick on Breece Hall to go along with Michael Carter demonstrates a commitment to running the ball, manipulating the clock, and taking the pressure off of Zach Wilson.
Now in the second year of Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, the experienced veterans – new to the team or not – will be able to better understand the system and communicate it to exciting new pieces like Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson.
Any combination or all of these three things coming into place can elevate Zach Wilson into similar territory as the other Tier 3 quarterbacks, even if he doesn’t 100% polish up on the recklessness. Going from starting because the Jets are committed to developing a project like Tua Tagovailoa to being a legitimate starter in the same way that Jared Goff and Ryan Tannehill are is the perfect goal for Wilson.