With Trevor Lawrence potentially gone, Sam Crnic breaks down the New York Jets’ four likely scenarios with the No. 2 pick.
It happened, folks. The weeks of counting down to 0-16 have come to a conclusion. The New York Jets finally ended their march toward a winless season, beating the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20. As a result, the Jets lost control of the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft due to SOS (strength of schedule), succumbing to the 1-13 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The goal all along for almost every Jets fan was to secure Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. With that out of the picture (for now), Joe Douglas is left with an incredibly hard decision of what to do next.
Ohio State QB Justin Fields was once considered the clear No. 2 in the class, but his recent poor performances against Indiana and Northwestern – two ranked opponents – have scouts adjusting their grades on him.
The rise of BYU QB Zach Wilson has intrigued the nation, as he has been lighting up the scoreboard and the stat sheet at a level rivaled by few.
Or, is Sam Darnold still the answer?
A week ago, the Jets’ path forward looked like an obvious one. Drafting Trevor Lawrence was a given. After he had just gone 25 of 36 (69.4%) for 322 yards and three total touchdowns in a blowout of Notre Dame on Saturday night, Jets fans couldn’t have had much more confidence in their team’s future.
Now, as we approach Week 16, that confidence has quickly turned to panic.
Before everyone downplays the Jets’ future success based on missing out on one prospect, it needs to be understood that there are still many intriguing options still available.
The Jets did not ruin their future by missing out on Lawrence. Instead, they simply left themselves with harder decisions. These decisions can lead towards the same success anticipated with Trevor or the downward spiral of a missed opportunity that plagues the Jets for a decade.
Today, we will discuss every scenario the Jets face with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
1. Draft Justin Fields and trade Darnold
A former five-star recruit and the highest-rated dual-threat QB in the class of 2018, Fields is one of the two QBs the Jets can draft at No. 2.
After Lawrence, Fields seems most likely to be Douglas’ preferred selection based on the players he took in the 2020 draft. Looking at Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Bryce Hall and even James Morgan, there’s a trend. All of these players were highly regarded for their physical tools. For Becton, the thought of having a 6-foot-7 364-pound eclipse of a man protecting Darnold’s blindside was too exciting to pass on. In addition to his height-weight combination, Becton has amazing foot quickness for a man of that stature.
The same goes for Mims. Standing at 6-foot-3, Denzel has an exceptional combination of size and speed. Even for Hall, Douglas was impressed by his length and body structure. Bryce’s long wingspan allows him to play and look bigger on the field than his actual height (6-foot-1).
The only QB selected in Douglas’ tenure with the Jets, Morgan could tell us a bit about what Joe values at that position. Continuing the trend of size, Morgan stands at an ideal height of 6-foot-4. As for physical ability, Morgan’s arm talent was highly regarded with the ability to make any throw from the pocket. Where Morgan lacked in decision-making and accuracy, he made up in natural talent.
All of these draft picks favor natural ability with the confidence to maximize it. While it’s a small sample size, Fields perfectly fits into this trend. Capable of making any throw on the field with a strong yet accurate arm, there’s no limit to what Fields can accomplish as a QB.
As highlighted in my 2019 film review of Fields, the Ohio State QB has so much more to his game than just a talented arm. The guy can create plays out of nothing with his ability to escape pressure. Whether he’s running zone reads or creating time for himself out of the pocket to find a wide receiver downfield, Fields is a complete QB from a natural ability standpoint.
Alongside his raw skill comes the underlying issues that make Fields much more of a risk than Lawrence. Too many times on film, Fields fails to progress on his reads, not being able to capitalize on crucial opportunities throughout the game. This flaw also leads to interceptions. At the NFL level, over-the-top defenders read the eyes of QBs, allowing them to undercut a potential pass if the QB eyes down a WR too long. This can become a large issue for Justin at the next level if not addressed.
Fields’ poor performance in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl was a great example of this. Before the snap, Fields sees a single-high safety and assumes a middle of the field closed (MOFC) coverage. Off the snap, you see the safety’s hips pointed towards the bottom of the screen as he’s running towards the go route. The defense shifts to a two-high look, something Fields doesn’t recognize. Staring down his original read instead of surveying the field, Justin forces the ball and ends up throwing the interception.
Fields has the arm strength to fit this ball in but lurked the safety too close to the pass with his eyes, staring down the route the entire time. Great QBs use eye manipulation to move defenders out of position. We need to see the same from Justin once he’s in the NFL.
A player with as low of a floor as his ceiling is high, there’s a lot of risk with drafting Fields. Any team that takes the chance on him needs to ensure he has talent around him from Day 1 (which goes without saying for any QB), along with putting him in a scheme that fits his play style.
2. Draft Zach Wilson and trade Darnold
The second-best QB in my personal rankings, Wilson is built for the New York stage with the appropriate amount of swagger and playmaking ability.
The BYU QB has yet to officially declare for the 2021 NFL draft, but his meteoric rise up the boards here in 2020 surely makes it very likely that he will. Wilson had a season filled with ups and downs in 2019, showcasing tremendous potential, but he was never thought of as a Day 1 or 2 prospect. Fast forward to 2020, Wilson has answered his skeptics with amazing play, easily putting him in the first round discussion.
Although a loss against Coastal Carolina put an end to BYU’s undefeated season, Wilson has put his team on the map, leading them to a top 25 position in the country.
While he is not as gifted as Fields from a physical standpoint, I put Wilson ahead of Justin because of his special playmaking ability and added bonus of terrific deep ball placement. I emphasized this in my first film review of the star QB. It’s hard to find a QB as accurate as Wilson in the 2021 class. Time and time again, you see exceptional ball placement on the far side of the field, in between defenders, and on the deep ball. This was obviously a large point of emphasis for Wilson heading into 2020.
Not only is he accurate, but Wilson is such a smooth thrower of the ball. Being able to launch the ball with a single flick of the wrist, Wilson makes those off-platform throws look so easy. This clip against Boise St. is a great example of that.