Browns: Why it's not fair to call Jedrick Wills Jr. a 'bust'

Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns recently exercised the fifth-year option on starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. The move seems to have left many fans scratching their heads because what they see on the field during games does not always signal 'extension.' Actually, many fans are quick to label Wills as a 'bust' of a draft pick. But is it fair to call the three-year tackle a bust?

Now, of course, whether or not a player is a bust is strictly a matter of opinion (in most cases). There's no official over-arching NFL definition of a bust. In the case of Wills, the Browns selected him at No. 10 overall in 2020 to come in and be the team's starting left tackle. Keeping that main goal in mind, Wills certainly has not been a bust. Wills became the starting left tackle immediately as a rookie and has started 45 games for the team, having missed just five games due to injury in three seasons.

And it's not like Wills came in and started for a bottom-of-the-league offensive line. He's been the left tackle on one of the league's top-rated offensive lines for three-straight seasons. That's no small feat. I won't argue that his effort and consistency come into question more than they should, but I also can't label him a bust because he has essentially performed the role he was drafted to perform for the entirety of his young career.

Another factor going against the fan perception of Wills is that he is playing the same position previously held by Joe Thomas. Thomas will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. While it's unavoidable that Wills has been and will be compared to Joe Thomas, it's also not a fair comparison as very few players become Hall-of-Famers. It's simply not reasonable to expect Wills to have a Hall-of-Fame career just because the guy before him did.

Also, let's look at the first three seasons for Wills and Thomas. In three seasons, Wills has given up 89 total pressures on the quarterback, including 15 sacks. His pass blocking efficiency over his career so far according to PFF is 96.6%. He's also committed 25 penalties in three seasons, another area that Wills constantly gets knocked for.

In his first three NFL seasons, Joe Thomas gave up 67 total pressures on the quarterback, including nine sacks. His pass blocking efficiency over those three seasons was 97.6%. Thomas committed 18 penalties over that span.

So, yes, Thomas performed better in his first three seasons than Wills has, but the numbers were not substantially better. Wills has played his career in a much more pass-heavy league than Thomas started in.

Thomas was also the first tackle selected, drafted third overall. Wills was the second tackle selected, drafted seven picks lower than Thomas was. For a better comparison in terms of draft capital within the same draft, the New York Giants selected tackle Andrew Thomas at No. 4 in the 2020 NFL Draft ahead of Wills.

In the same number of games as Wills, Andrew Thomas has given up 96 total pressures (seven more than Wills), allowed 15 sacks (same as Wills), and produced a pass blocking efficiency of 96.6% (same as Wills). Where Andrew Thomas has Wills beat by a mile is penalties with just ten committed over three seasons (Wills has committed 25).

Outside of penalties, one could argue Wills has outperformed or at least equaled the only tackle selected ahead of him in his own draft. So within the scope of his draft class and the only player taken ahead of him, Wills has certainly not 'busted' as a player for the Browns.

Bust players don't have their fifth-year options exercised. As noted by Ari Meirov on Twitter, only 12 players from the 2020 draft class had their fifth-year option picked up. So out of 32 players eligible for fifth-year options, Wills was one of just 12 who had his exercised.

And while Wills may not be on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory, he's still a young player with his 24th birthday right around the corner. There's a lot of potential for growth and development ahead for the Browns left tackle.

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