When the New York Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers on Monday, it officially marked the start of a new quarterback era for the Jets.
The prevailing expectation is that the starting QB vacancy in New York will be filled by former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, with the Jets’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who broke the news about the Darnold trade, went as far as “officially” introducing Wilson, a Draper, Utah, native who starred at Corner Canyon High, to New York after the trade.
Several national media and NFL personnel weighed in on the expected partnership between Wilson and the Jets.
A defining moment for the Jets GM
The New York Post’s Steve Serby discussed how the Darnold move, and subsequent selection at No. 2, will be a defining moment for Joe Douglas, who became the Jets’ general manager in the summer of 2019. The story’s headline was as bold as you’d expect from the New York media: “The Jets now belong to Zach Wilson.”
“If Wilson is what Douglas is betting on him to be, if Wilson is what many talent evaluators around the league believe he is, then this is not a bad consolation prize for missing out on Trevor Lawrence,” Serby wrote. Lawrence, the quarterback from Clemson, is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“By no means does he deserve comparisons to Aaron Rodgers, but his arm talent is breathtaking,” Serby continued.
“The main concerns about Wilson are his slender build/durability and the level of competition, and you always wonder about how a young franchise quarterback from Draper, Utah, will cope with a market populated by those long-suffering Jets fans.”
Wilson the winner in trade
Colin Cowherd called Wilson the winner of the Jets-Panthers trade, based on what Douglas has already done as a GM, the pieces New York added this offseason and the draft capital the team has — that includes 10 draft picks in the first three rounds over the next two years.
Cowherd went through a scenario where the Jets could fill depth issues at cornerback, offensive line and skill positions early in the draft this year to help Wilson. He also discussed key additions since Douglas came on board, including the team’s starting left tackle Mekhi Becton — New York’s top draft pick in 2020 — and bringing in wide receiver Corey Davis this year in free agency.
“I think Zach Wilson is coming into a situation, it won’t be toxic, (you’ll have a) capable GM, you’ll have your right tackle, your bookend tackles, you’ll have very capable weapons at wide receiver,” Cowherd said. “Also, if you go out and get a running back — it’s not a great running back class, but if you look at your early second, late first (rounds), there’s a couple of potential star running backs in the draft. Good stuff for Zach, and we wish him well.”
A reset for the Jets franchise
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, as well as Douglas, talked about how the Jets’ QB situation helps the franchise reset its financial situation.
This is something we discussed on @NFLTotalAccess last night and NFL Now today: Zach Wilson comes in and starts from Year 1 on his rookie contract. Sam Darnold would be due an extension soon.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 6, 2021
Joe Douglas won Super Bowls with the #Ravens and #Eagles with QBs on rookie deals. https://t.co/ELBGiTalqO
Douglas spoke to the media Tuesday, and when asked about Hall of Famer and former BYU quarterback Steve Young’s recent comments about the Jets being “committed” to Wilson, he said, “Steve’s plugged in to BYU pretty well.”
Douglas also said the Jets’ position with the No. 2 overall pick influenced the decision to move on from Darnold.
“I think it’s safe to say, if our pick were a little later, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now,” Douglas said, per ESPN. “We’d fully be comfortable with moving forward with Sam.”
Not everyone was in favor of the anticipated Wilson-to-Jets move, with Darnold out in New York.
Former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who spent two seasons with the Jets, explained why he believes Ohio State’s Justin Fields, one of several other quarterbacks expected to go in the first round, should be the pick over Wilson.
Though this report came before Monday’s news, one of the top headlines about Wilson on Google right now concerns a former NFL scout’s negative take on the BYU quarterback. The Sporting News’ Joe Rivera found the NFL Draft Diamond’s draft evaluation on Wilson from last month, and Daniel Kelly, a former Jets scout, said he would list Wilson as a third-round pick. Even then, Kelly said he wouldn’t take Wilson.
“He would not even be on my draft board. It would be foolish to take him in the first round. He will get everybody fired. Best chance to succeed is in an offense filled with trick plays,” Kelly said.
For the most part, though, the sentiment of Wilson heading to New York was more positive.
NBC Sports’ Chris Simms, who has Wilson as his No. 1 quarterback in this draft class, and NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt gave their endorsements for Wilson.
As for the Jets, this likely means they’re all-in on Zach Wilson, which I obviously approve of. My #1 QB in this draft, feels like I am watching Mahomes again. Exceptional throwing, best arm in the draft, amazing off-schedule.— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) April 5, 2021
If you pinned me down and forced me to pick between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, I might pick Wilson. It's that close for me. Honestly, I'm surprised the Jaguars' new head coach didn't show up at BYU's pro day.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 5, 2021
Meanwhile, ESPN NFL draft analysts Todd McShay and Matt Miller all but called the Wilson to the Jets pick official.