Zach Wilson – Future of the Franchise?

“With the 2nd pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Zach Wilson, quarterback, BYU”

Coming off an amazing 2020 season with BYU, Zach Wilson’s draft stock rose exponentially months before the 2021 draft. Amassing over 3000 yards, 33 TDs, and only 3 INTs in 12 games, high expectations have been set for Zach Wilson coming into the season. However, a highly-touted college quarterback coming into a questionable Jets organization has been a popular tale for the city. Knowing this, what can we expect from Zach Wilson in his first year?

As the growing need for quarterbacks grows larger every year, more college quarterbacks are forgoing their senior year, usually after a great season, to declare for the NFL Draft. What comes hand in hand with this is the more common “single-season boom” of a college quarterback. If a quarterback were to have “questionable seasons”, they quite commonly become easily forgotten, and the “boom” season of a quarterback is the more common focus. Zach Wilson seems to be another one of these quarterbacks. After having a small sample size of his first two years at BYU, he blew up in his junior year. However, what does this mean for an NFL GM looking to find the next great quarterback?

The earlier teams picking a QB are more often looking to start them as early as possible to “save” the team. What has failed to be seen however, is the development needed to set up a QB for success. The transition from CFB to the NFL is one of the toughest battles for any position, but especially for a QB. The common action taken is that the QB is started for the season, and the team takes a “development” year. The QB learns the ropes through in-game experience and reps (usually looking rusty), and they try to rebuild around a (hopefully) promising young quarterback. The New York Jets seemed to have gone through the rebuilding cycle with former third-overall-pick Sam Darnold, before he was traded to the Carolina Panthers two seasons later. Many think that Zach Wilson will have the same fate as Darnold, but there are many factors that played into the Darnold situation and will not apply to Wilson. 

For one thing, Adam Gase was fired from the Jets. Coming off a 9-23 record, many believe that Adam Gase was the woes of the franchise. Now, Wilson can enter an organization with a new head coach, Robert Saleh. Saleh, who previously served as the defensive coordinator of the 49ers, is a fresh face for the franchise which is maybe what they needed. The ball seems to be in Wilson’s court now, and the doubts creeping up on him seem to have empty bases. 

Putting aside all of Wilson’s positives, his biggest knack is about “playing against bad teams, and putting up bad numbers against good teams.” The narrative we can flip around for this is actually the same knack that is put upon high-tier college football quarterbacks. “They’re only good because they have an insane supporting cast.” While Wilson might be playing against “lesser” teams (nonetheless still competitive college football teams), his supporting cast is the same. The FBS division doesn’t attract the greatest talent and Wilson still managed to put up great numbers. His receivers are not on-par to those from Alabama, Clemson, and other top-tier CFB teams, but his competition isn’t either. All in all, it balances out. 

Wilson has the physical tools to get the job done, but, time and time again, we see that that won’t be enough in the NFL. A multitude of other factors play into the development of a quarterback. Now that you’re in the NFL, regardless of where you were picked, regardless of what you did in college, the only thing that matters is if you can perform or not. The New York Jets seemed to have found a promising, young quarterback, now all we can do is wait and see the future of the franchise.

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