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Zach Wilson earns vote of confidence over Sam Darnold from former New York Jets GM

SHARE Zach Wilson earns vote of confidence over Sam Darnold from former New York Jets GM
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FILE: Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told the New York Daily News why he would prefer former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson for the Jets over Sam Darnold, the team’s starter the past three seasons.

Richard Shiro, Associated Press

In recent months, one of the more popular projections for Zach Wilson is that the New York Jets will select the former BYU quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

That’s made Wilson’s name spring up routinely in conversation when discussing how the first few picks of the draft will play out.

After Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, expected to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, there’s a handful of quarterbacks most experts foresee as first-round options, including Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones.

If Wilson were to be selected by the Jets, though, that would mean New York would have made a decision on what to do with Sam Darnold, who’s been the team’s starter the past three seasons.

The 23-year-old Darnold has thrown for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions after being the team’s top pick in the 2018 draft, though he’s coming off his worst year as a pro — a 59.6% completion percentage, 2,208 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions — and his 72.7 passer rating last season was last in the NFL.

Of the QB options past Lawrence in this year’s draft, a former Jets general manager would prefer Wilson over the others at the No. 2 pick, if New York keeps it.

“Zach Wilson has the highest upside,” Mike Tannenbaum told the New York Daily News earlier this week. “He is a guy that in my opinion is really special. He can make throws on the run, has athleticism and accuracy. When the play breaks down, he can still do a lot of really good things. I think he has tremendous upside.”

Tannenbaum served as the Jets’ general manager from 2006-12, then as the executive vice president of football operations for the Miami Dolphins from 2015-18.

“I think from a player perspective, (Zach) Wilson is just better than (Sam) Darnold. I just think the player evaluation is so different between the two players, I don’t think it’s close.” — Mike Tannenbaum, former Jets GM

The Jets have gone through a coaching change this offseason, with former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh coming in as head coach and hiring Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator. 

Tannenbaum, who now works as an ESPN NFL insider, believes Wilson has a higher ceiling than Darnold.

“If I was the Jets, I would make that decision pretty quickly. I would trade Sam and get the best possible package,” Tannenbaum told the Daily News. “... I think from a player perspective, Wilson is just better than Darnold. I just think the player evaluation is so different between the two players, I don’t think it’s close.”

Wilson will participate in BYU’s pro day, which will be featured on NFL Network, this Friday. The 2021 NFL draft is set for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.