Justin Fields
(Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Trevor Lawrence potentially gone, Sam Crnic breaks down the New York Jets’ four likely scenarios with the No. 2 pick.

Sam Crnic

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.

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The newest member of Jet X, Sam Crnic brings an endless supply of hard-to-find college football All-22 footage to the Jet X Film Room. Whether it be Film quick-hitters of future NFL draft prospects, or film reviews of current Jets players and draft picks, Crnic offers in-depth analysis of the NFL’s future stars with extensive scouting reports. Email: sam.crnic@jetsxfactor.com
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2 years ago

Great article. Drafting a QB at #2 means trading Sam. If we can get a 2nd and a day-2 pick, and then package the 2nd with other picks, maybe the Jets can move back into the 1st round again to get 4 picks in the first 34. There are other OL candidates out there. Sewell looks great but I dream of the Jets drafting Daniel Faalele, who makes Becton look small. He can be had in the 3rd round.

2 years ago

Excellent article, but I strong disagree with you on two points…one is drafting Penei Sewell, the other is drafting a CB. He is a great prospect, but that would be one of the worst moves Douglas could make imo. There are a number of reasons for this. One, he just took Mekhai Becton with his #1 pick last year. Both Becton and Sewell can’t play LT. Becton is already an elite LT and has HOF potential. They shouldn’t ask Becton to move to RT and it would be a crime to ask Sewell to play RT. The Jets won’t be able to afford to pay both in 5 years, and the top salary for RTs is usually about $5 million less than what top LTs get. Which one are you going to ask to take less. If they try to keep both, they either won’t be able to afford to pay elite playmakers, or will have to cut players at other positions to keep both. Having two OTs with HOF potential is a fantasy. It’s a luxury the Jets can’t afford. Fant was fine at RT this season. The difference between Fant and Sewell is much less than it would be between Wilson and Darnold, Chase and Perriman, Pitts and Herndon, or Parsons and Tarell Basham or Neville Hewitt.

#2 is also way too high to draft a RT. It would be a waste of draft capital. There are 5-8 OTs who likely will be taken between the bottom third of the 1st round and top of the 3rd round. The difference between Sewell and one of those would not be as big as the differences I’ve already cited. That high in the draft a QB or an impact playmaker should be taken, not any OL other than an LT, and the Jets already have a great LT. If Douglas really thinks that he needs to add an RT, he can take one of those other OTs and the Jets should be just fine, or he can play Fant for another year or two and draft a RT in 2022 or 2023.

If Douglas doesn’t like Wilson or Fields (in that order), then he should trade down. How far he trades down would depend upon if he has targeted a player. By the draft Trask and Lance could be considered top 15, if not top 10 picks. The one time a GM should not get greedy in the draft is when he wants a certain QB. Then he should just take him, even if he has to reach a little and not get ideal value. Getting the QB he wants trumps missing out on him because one got greedy. If he trades down 3-4 spots, then Ja’Marr Chase should be the pick, unless he really likes one of Trask and Lance, and their value has risen significantly. If he trades down a little further, he could take one of Trask/Lance or take Pitts or Waddle.

Sewell shouldn’t even be a serious consideration imo. If Douglas wants to trade down, he could use Sewell as a ploy to get some team who covets Sewell to trade up ahead of the Bengals.

Drafting a CB in the 1st round shouldn’t be a consideration at all this year. Regardless of whether Douglas plans to build around Sam or draft a QB, he needs to build around that QB. He can’t make the same mistake that Mac did and not build around his QB. A CB isn’t going to help the QB or the offense at all. Neither will an edge. Both can wait until next year if need be, or Douglas can take a flyer on one in the 4th or 5th round. The only way he should consider taking an Edge or CB higher is if all the WRs, TEs, and RBs he likes are gone at his first four picks , or if he trades down from #2 or maybe Seattle’s pick and gets extra picks.

If Douglas trades back anywhere from 3-10 spots, he has to take one of Chase, Pitts, or Waddle. With Seattle’s pick, he should take an IOL like Wyatt Davis or Creed Humphrey. If he didn’t get Pitts earlier, then he needs to target Pat Freiermuth in the 2nd. He also needs a starting RB, so Najee Harris, Travonte Williams, or Kenneth Gainwell should be the pick somewhere in the 2nd round or at the top of the 3rd round.

Another reason Douglas should focus on offense this year is that it can take a year for an offense to get full installed and everyone in sync. In that way. they’ll be ready to make some noise in 2022. Defense isn’t quite the same and doesn’t need the same timing and coordination, so he could focus almost exclusively in 2022 on defense.

Sean Bird
2 years ago

I would not sleep on Trey Lance. The Eagles in the 1st year with Joe Douglas picked a North Dakota State quarterback named Carson Wentz with #2 pick of the draft.