The NY Jets’ affinity for Will McDonald can be explained by one stat

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By: Michael Nania

This sneaky stat shows why the New York Jets think Will McDonald is worthy of the 15th pick

The New York Jets shocked their entire fanbase on Thursday night by selecting Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald.

Even after sleeping on it, many Jets fans are still baffled by this pick. But fear not: I’m here to provide a jolt of optimism. And, no, it’s not a contrived dosage of Kool-Aid that I concocted while wearing green-tinted goggles.

I have been digging deep into McDonald’s analytical profile ever since the pick was made. And, to be completely honest, there are undoubtedly some concerns in there, most notably his decline in sacks this past season (from 11.5 in 2021 to 5.0 in 2022) and his run defense.

However, while sifting through the numbers this morning, a golden nugget emerged – one that has completely flipped my perception of McDonald’s potential.

The nugget has to do with McDonald’s performance on “true pass sets” (TPS) – i.e. any passing plays in which there is no play action, no screen, no rollout, a time-to-throw between 2 and 4 seconds, and a rush of more than three players.

Essentially, true pass sets are a great method for isolating pass plays in which the pass rusher has a legitimate chance to win. Plays in which the pass rusher has little-to-no chance are removed. This gives us a much more predictive and accurate set of data if we are trying to evaluate a player’s pure pass-rushing skill.

McDonald was an absolute monster on true pass sets in 2022. He recorded a pass-rush win rate of 45.8% on true pass sets, per PFF, which ranked second-best among 443 qualified FBS edge rushers (min. 40 TPS) and first among defensive players in the 2023 draft class. For reference, that is far more than double the FBS average for edge rushers, which was 19.3%.

McDonald was credited with 22 pass-rush wins on a measly 48 true pass sets. In other words, when given a legitimate chance to win, he beat his blocker nearly every other play. With this staggering stat in mind, it’s hard not to see why the Jets are infatuated with McDonald’s potential.

The small sample size of opportunities raises slight concern about the viability of his efficiency on those plays, but with that high of a win rate, it’s unlikely to be an anomaly.

I would not be surprised if this specific stat played a key role in the Jets’ decision to rank McDonald high enough on their board to select him with the 15th overall pick. Fans and media will focus on surface-level statistics and information, but a deeper dive is required to find truly valuable data. Once the Jets’ analytical staff took that dive into McDonald’s profile, this stat likely came up.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the potential of a player who won nearly half of his one-on-ones off the edge.

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