Zay Jones came off, by far, the best statistical year of his career in 2022, racking up 82 receptions on 119 targets, 823 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns in the regular season. Jones added 157 receiving yards and another touchdown in the 2 playoff games.
Where Zay Jones Thrived in 2022
Zay Jones proved his value on 3rd and, especially, 4th downs in 2022.
On 3rd Down, Zay Jones saw 31 targets, converting 51.6% of those attempts (14th in the NFL among WRs with 20+ targets). This conversion rate bested receivers such as Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and Ja’Marr Chase.
On 4th down, Jones converted on 5 of 6 targets (83.3%). Only 4 players with at least 3 4th Down targets converted a higher percentage (Mack Hollins 5-for-5, Russell Gage 3-for-3, and Keenan Allen 3-for-3):
As you can see in the graphic above, only Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, and Justin Jefferson are the number 1 targets for their respective teams.
It is common for defenses to zero in on number 1 targets on 3rd and 4th downs. This makes Zay Jones, the Jaguars' 3rd or 4th option in 2023, extremely valuable as a trusted piece for Trevor Lawrence.
Zay Jones is becoming an important Jacksonville Jaguars WR.
Where Zay Jones Struggled in 2022
Drops. In 2022, Jones led the league with 12 drops on 94 “catchable” balls. While the positive spin is that Jones had no more than 3 drops in either of his previous 4 seasons, the 2022 numbers are concerning. Let’s hope this was either a fluke season or something Zay improved on in the offseason.
Despite being the 20th most-targeted WR in the 2022 regular season, some of the underlying metrics are concerning.
Of the 80 Wide Receivers with at least 50 targets in the 2022 Regular Season, Jones ranked 62nd in Average Depth of Target (aDOT) at 8.4 yards and 66th in Average Yards Gained at 7.01 yards.
Only 3 WRs with at least 100 targets had lower Average Yards Gained (Diontae Johnson, Michael Pittman, and Adam Thielen).
Furthermore, while Zay Jones ranked 7th in Red Zone targets at 18, he only finished with 5 touchdowns. For reference, A.J. Brown and Amari Cooper both had 16 Red Zone targets and they recorded 11 and 9 touchdowns, respectively.
What to Expect in 2023
One of the main benefits of adding a player like Calvin Ridley is that it pushes everyone else down in the depth chart. Where Zay was easily the number 2 Wide Receiver in 2022, you could argue he is now 4th in the pass-catcher depth chart (Ridley, Kirk, and Engram).
This means that when the Jaguars play 11 personnel (Ridley, Kirk, and Jones on the field), Jones will likely be matched up with the opposing defense’s third cornerback or a safety.
Based on the information on where Zay thrived in 2022, Trevor Lawrence clearly trusts Zay in key situations. With more defensive attention going to players like Ridley, Kirk, and Engram, this leaves an opportunity for Zay.
Overall, I expect a decline in most statistical categories in 2023 (catches, yards, and drops). There will be games where Zay ends the game with less than 5 catches.
However, I would not be surprised in the slightest to see Zay continue his impact on 3rd down and be toward the top of the NFL in 4th down targets and conversions.
Don't forget about Zay!