Zach Wilson
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The Jets Made A Huge Mistake Drafting BYU QB Zach Wilson

The New York Jets’ desire to reset the quarterback timeline was evident after they traded Sam Darnold to the Panthers in the offseason. They filled that void with Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but is Wilson the right player for the job?

Wilson was the best player on the field in almost every game he played, but playing games in Provo and playing games in the Meadowlands are two different animals. The New York media chews up young athletes and spits them out, so Wilson is entering into a pressurized situation from the beginning. Wilson is also the seventh quarterback drafted in the first or second round by the Jets since 2000, most in the league of any franchise during that time period.

Wilson is also entering the much-improved AFC East division. The Bills look like the second-best overall team in the AFC, the Dolphins won 10 games last year and the Patriots just reloaded in free agency and the draft. Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all time, eats rookie quarterbacks for breakfast, and Sean McDermott and Brian Flores are two of the top defensive coaches in the NFL. Another disadvantage for Wilson is that he comes into the NFL with a first-time head coach in Robert Saleh and first-time coordinator Mike Lafleur. The inexperience of the Jets new coaching staff, combined with the top notching coaching around the division, means that Wilson will be playing with a coaching disadvantage in every division game this season.

The first mistake the Jets made was moving off of Sam Darnold. Whether or not Wilson is truly a significant upgrade over Darnold is still up in the air, as Darnold is only 23 and has not hit his ceiling yet, not to mention the fact that the Jets consistently neglected to surround Darnold with sufficient talent to allow the Jets to win games. Sam also played at one of the biggest brands in college football in USC, and even he could not handle the intensity of the New York press. The team should have stuck with Darnold, traded out of the second pick, and loaded up with several other picks, but they could have at least drafted Kyle Pitts with the number two pick while still picking up Alijah Vera-Tucker at 14. They chose neither.

It was apparent that the Jets were planning to draft a quarterback after they traded Darnold, but the second mistake the Jets made was believing Zach Wilson was a better prospect than Justin Fields. 2020 was Wilson’s breakout season, but 2020 was also the weakest schedule Wilson faced in his time at BYU. In their one game against a quality opponent, Coastal Carolina, Wilson and the Cougars suffered their first loss of the season. In the same season, Fields brought Big Ten football back and earned his second trip to the college football playoff. Fields also played in some of the biggest games in college football during his two seasons at Ohio State. In the semifinal game versus Clemson, Fields dismantled the Tigers, throwing for almost 400 yards and 6 TDs after taking a vicious hit to the ribs. Fields has the appearance of someone who can handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback, but Wilson’s readiness remains in question. I am not rooting for Wilson’s downfall by any means, but I think his time in the NFL is going to be rough.

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