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Breakdown of Possible Destinations for Zach Wilson: New York Jets

Zach Wilson is receiving as much pre-draft hype as any quarterback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. What is the situation in New York for the Jets who own pick No. 2?

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Central Florida at Brigham Young Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t heard, Zach Wilson is one of the most highly sought-after quarterbacks of the upcoming draft. In fact, most pundits have him as the next quarterback coming off the board after Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

There are even some out there who are slotting Wilson ahead of Lawrence.

The draft is less than two months away and the evaluations and predictions are ramping up, especially with BYU’s Pro Day coming up on March 26.

The New York Jets currently sit at No. 2 in the draft after a dreadful 2-14 season. Let’s dive into what the situation looks like in New York and where Zach Wilson would fit if he were to be New York’s choice as their future franchise quarterback with the second overall pick.

Coaching

It all starts at the top with the Jets. They promptly dismissed Adam Gase after two seasons at the helm, in which he went 9-23.

New York then made one of the more “home run” hires in the NFL this offseason, hiring Robert Saleh, former defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers. Among many things, Saleh becomes the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. He arrives in New York with tons of support as one of the best defensive minds in the game today.

It doesn’t just stop there. Mike LaFleur came with Saleh from the Bay Area to take over his offense, after spending the last three seasons as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator. San Francisco ran a creative offense that highlighted the strengths of mid-level quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo.

Imagine what he can do with a talent like Wilson.

Rob Calabrese comes in as the quarterbacks coach. He worked with six quarterbacks over two seasons in Denver and has vast experience.

Under the previous regime, BYU fans shuttered at the thought of Wilson being thrown to the wolves in New York. Now, however, this new coaching staff could breathe new life into that organization.

Current quarterback situation

Plain and simple, if the Jets select Wilson No. 2 overall, it means they are going to move on from their previous high pick at the position, Sam Darnold. The Jets picked him third overall in 2018 and in three seasons, with two head coaches, the former USC Trojan has just not worked out. In 2020, it bottomed out for Darnold, with a career low in passing yards (2,208), passing touchdowns (9), and passer rating (72.7).

It would be surprising if the Jets selected Wilson to directly compete with Darnold for the starting job. Wilson’s arrival in New York would signal that a trade or release is imminent for the USC product.

Darnold is the only quarterback on the 2021 roster that would be any threat to Wilson.

Weapons

While the coaching hires are promising for Wilson’s success in New York, the cupboard is a bit barren as far as talent to which Wilson can distribute the football.

Jamison Crowder is probably New York’s best receiver. Frankly, that isn’t saying much. In 2020, he racked up just under 700 yards with a respectable six touchdown catches.

Denzel Mims came to New York with some hype as a speedy second round pick in the 2020 draft. He might have the most upside of any receiver currently on the roster but played in just nine games last year.

Wilson will rely on these two to carry the load in the passing game, unless the Jets also select some pass-catchers in this upcoming draft.

Wilson would likely hand the ball off to 2020 fourth round pick La’Mical Perine. He looks to be the starting running back next season after sitting behind the legendary Frank Gore, who is now a free agent. In limited action, the former Florida Gator ran for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

The story is the same year after year, the Jets just do not have any game-changers at offensive skill positions.

Supporting cast

Along the offensive line, the Jets look to have found their franchise left tackle in Mekhi Becton. Cougar fans can take comfort in the fact that he would be protecting Wilson’s blind slide in New York, if that is indeed where Wilson is headed. The 11th overall pick from the 2020 draft earned a stellar 74.4 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Aside from Becton, the Jets’ offensive line is a work-in-progress. Becton can’t block all of the pass rushers at once, so Wilson may need to use his other-worldly scrambling and improvisation skills to keep plays alive for the Jets.

On the defensive side, former third overall pick Quinnen Williams is a beast along the interior defensive line. Former BYU Cougar Harvey Langi’s is set to be a restricted free agent, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if New York retained him to start at one of the linebacker positions.

Free safety Marcus Maye is a borderline Pro Bowler.

Overall

Zach Wilson would certainly have his work cut out for him in New York. There is a bit of a grace period, given the fact that the Jets are breaking in a brand new coaching staff. Wilson would be in a favorable system with what LaFleur will likely bring to town. However, that city is ruthless on its sports teams and there would be nowhere to hide if the struggles continue for the franchise.

With several draft picks after their No. 2 pick, one would hope the Jets fill the room with weapons at Wilson’s disposal at receiver and tight end, the latter being a position the Jets seriously lack.

Certainly, there are more optimal places for Wilson to get picked but the vast majority of mock drafts have the Jets making Wilson their man at No. 2.