The NFL Draft will begin when the New York Jets are on the clock.
Okay, so technically it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars who will be picking first, but it’s all but certain that they will draft Trevor Lawrence. The real intrigue is what the Jets will do with the second overall pick.
Most of the draft pundits believe the Jets will most likely draft Justin Fields. This makes sense, as he is seen as the next best quarterback prospect in this class. The Ohio State quarterback has an impressive blend of size, arm strength, and mobility that NFL teams covet.
However, it may be that the Jets take Zach Wilson over Fields. While that might make some draft experts scratch their heads, taking Wilson might turn out to be a hugely successful, and franchise-altering decision.
Let’s take a look at why drafting Zach Wilson makes sense for the Jets, and how it could affect fantasy managers.
No QB prospect rose up the draft boards in 2020 more than Wilson. He had a monster year at BYU, finishing the season with just under 3,300 yards passing and threw for 30 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. He also completed an impressive 73.2% of his passes.
Compare those stats with his performance in 2019: 2,382 passing yards, 11/9 TD/Int. ratio, and a 62.4% completion percentage.
Wilson displays solid arm talent, and has the potential to make all of the necessary throws at the next level. He is especially impressive throwing the ball on short and medium routes from the pocket, showing excellent zip on the ball with good accuracy and hitting his receivers in stride.
He shows his ability to make a quick decision and hit his running back in a spot that allows him to get significant yards after the catch.
He also has the arm strength to connect with receivers on deep passes.
What might be Wilson’s best quality is his improvisational skills when moving outside of the pocket.
He shows excellent peripheral vision downfield and is able to throw a catchable ball while looking off every single member of the defense.
While Wilson shows excellent pocket awareness, throws catchable balls with plenty of power behind them, and displays unmatched confidence at the position, he still has areas of growth he needs to work on.
While he certainly is not Lamar Jackson as a runner, he possesses enough mobility to scramble away from danger. He is capable of pick up key first downs with his feet to keep defenses honest in that department.
Things are going to look quite different on the Jets sidelines next season. Adam Gase‘s failed tenure as head coach came to an end when he was fired this offseason. Enter defensive-minded Robert Saleh, who was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.
He brings with him a new staff, including new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Lafleur was previously the passing game coordinator for the 49ers. He should bring a similar passing attack as the one ran under Kyle Shanahan.
The passing attack
So what will that look like? Shanahan ran a West Coast passing game that relies on moving the quarterback out of the pocket and emphasizing short and intermediate throws to get into third-and-manageable situations. This style fits perfectly with Wilson, who excels in the short-to-medium passing game. Wilson is certainly mobile enough to move out of the pocket, and is a pass-first quarterback rather than a scrambler.
In short, Wilson seems to be the best fit among all of the top quarterbacks the Jets will be looking at, and could be a West Coast offensive monster in New York.
The running game
It’s also worth noting that the run game Lafleur and new running game coordinator and o-line coach John Benton will install in New York fits Wilson well.
We should see a running scheme comprised of inside and outside zone runs. This opens up opportunities for a mobile quarterback like Wilson to scramble outside the pocket and use his legs as a running threat. It will also open up play actions and naked bootlegs to get Wilson on the move and find open receivers at every level. This allows Wilson to show off his ability to make accurate throws on the run.
So if Wilson does indeed go to the Jets, what can fantasy owners expect out of him in the immediate and long-term future?
Will Wilson start right away?
By virtue of going second overall in the draft, he would be expected to start sooner than later. The organization will have to figure out what to do with Sam Darnold, but it would be expected that he would be traded in this scenario. They could then bring in a veteran quarterback to perhaps start the beginning of the season and ease Wilson’s transition into the starting lineup.
It’s hard to predict a rookie quarterback’s immediate fantasy impact will be, but let’s take a quick look at the rookie quarterbacks who started games this season. Out of Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts, only Burrow and Herbert were viable fantasy starting options in single-season leagues.
Out of those two, Burrow was the only quarterback expected to start right away. It took an unfortunate injury to Tyrod Taylor minutes before the start of the game in Week 2 for Herbert to get his opportunity, and the rest of course is history.
It might be worth taking a late round flier on Wilson in STD, PPR, and Half-PPR leagues, as the potential to start and do well at some point next season is there.
Dynasty and keeper league owners should certainly look to draft Wilson in the first or second round of any rookie draft, as he has the potential to be a top 10 quarterback in his future.
Will Wilson have enough weapons on the Jets?
The Jets receivers certainly did not light the league on fire in terms of production in 2020. Their top receiver was Jamison Crowder, who was 50th in total catches and 55th in receiving yards last year.
The overall level of talent on the roster currently will not inspire fantasy owners to hurry and draft Wilson onto their roster, but the hope is that implementing the West Coast offense will maximize the production from these receivers.
Crowder can be that veteran presence that any young quarterback needs early on in their career. Crowder is capable of lining up both on the outside and in the slot. He displays reliable hands, dropping only four balls in 2020.
Denzel Mims, their 2nd round pick in 2020, showed real promise in the nine games he suited up for, totaling 357 yards on 23 receptions. For an in-depth breakdown of Denzel Mims and how he could be used properly in LaFleur’s West Coast offense, click here.
Admittedly, the Jets will need more weapons to build around a young quarterback like Wilson to increase his fantasy value. They have five picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft, including the 2nd and 23rd overall picks in the first round. Assuming they use their first pick on Wilson, they could still use one or more of their early round picks on a young weapon to grow with him.
Wilson is not only arguably the second best quarterback in this year’s draft, but he may be the best fit for the Jets’ new coaching staff and the West Coast offense they will bring with them.
He plays with a similar athleticism and free-flowing gamesmanship of a Patrick Mahomes and has the confidence to match his natural talent. He has the makeup to excel early in his career, but he may not have the talent surrounding him to allow that to happen.
Do not expect Wilson to be a starting-caliber quarterback in fantasy football next season, but he may be worth a late-round pick if you think there is a chance he could be the next Justin Herbert. In dynasty and keeper leagues, Wilson holds much more value and should be targeted early in rookie drafts.