Expectations were rightfully sky-high for Zach Wilson entering the draft. He grew to be one of the most exciting and intriguing quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class. The Corner Canyon High alum ended up being selected at No. 2 overall by the New York Jets, marking the highest draft position for any former BYU football player in school history.
Wilson became the immediate starter in New York with immense pressure to perform right away. Whether it was the pressure, the bright lights of New York, the speed of the NFL, or the lack of talent around him, Wilson got off to a brutal start to his NFL career.
Through his first six games, the Jets went 1-5 and Wilson threw four touchdowns against nine interceptions. He completed less than 58 percent of his passes with a paltry 63.5 passer rating (league average in 2021 was 90.8). In Weeks 2 and 3, the Jets scored a combined six points while Wilson threw six interceptions over those two games. Jets fans groaned, as they have grown accustomed to disappointment, especially from their quarterbacks over the last decade.
In that Week 7 game against the Patriots, Wilson took a hit from defensive end Matt Judon and sprained his PCL, sidelining him and he ended up missing four games.
After he returned for the Week 12 game against the Texans, he played much better. He only threw two interceptions in the final seven games, along with five passing touchdowns and four rushing scores. His passer rating improved to 75.2.
Zach Wilson this season:— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 10, 2022
First 6 Games (pre PCL injury):
4 Total TD
Last 7 Games (post PCL injury):
9 Total TD
2 INT pic.twitter.com/bYsUZTdwcl
Over the entire season, Wilson finished with 2,334 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 69.7 passer rating. He also showed his athletic talent on the ground, with 185 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including a 52-yard scramble, a call-back to his BYU days.
The Jets won four games and three of those are credited to Wilson’s resume. New York won two games all of last year.
Perhaps the most memorable game of Wilson’s rookie year came in a loss. Against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 17, Wilson matched the Greatest of All-Time throw-for-throw. In fact, the Jets had Tampa Bay on the ropes, up 24-10 until late in the third quarter.
Even as the Bucs came back and won, the NFL world was impressed with Wilson and some of the off-script throws he made against a playoff-caliber defense.
Can’t get over this Zach Wilson throw from yesterday pic.twitter.com/sCY25EfYqJ— The Jet Press (@TheJetPress) January 3, 2022
Wilson finished the day with 234 yards passing, one touchdown and an 89.7 passer rating.
Another feather in Wilson’s cap is the fact that he beat the only player drafted higher than him straight up, in Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence. Wilson out-dueled the No. 1 overall pick in the 26-21 victory for New York.
While, in most statistics, Wilson was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL during the 2021 season, he also had the least amount of help and one of the worst rosters to work with. Giving him a failing grade doesn’t seem fair, but he still has much to prove. Jets wide receivers tied for the fourth-most drops in the NFL while Pro Football Network ranked New York’s offensive line 31st out of 32. The Jets’ Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle Mekhi Becton got hurt after one game and never saw the field again. He should be back next year to protect Wilson’s blind side.
The New York front office definitely needs to do their part in giving Wilson more to work with. The Jets own four picks in the first 38 selections including picks No. 4 and 10 overall. There are plenty of resources to give Wilson more talent around him to set him up for success.
Jets fans got a glimpse of why he was the No. 2 overall pick with other-worldly talent. At times, it wasn’t pretty, but Wilson gave us all enough of a taste to stave off the doubters for at least one more year with hopefully a better supporting cast.