Zach Wilson: The Forgotten Man of the 2021 QB Class

Through Martin Rogers
FOX Sports columnist

Of the five first-round quarterbacks who poured into the National Football League last year, Zach Wilson was sometimes the forgotten man.

Trevor Lawrence would always grab the attention that comes with the number 1 pick. Even when he wasn’t playing, Trey Lance’s predicament grew in intrigue as the San Francisco 49ers couldn’t decide if they liked it. Jimmy Garoppoloor not.

In New England, Mac Jones teased optimism in a position that will always be criticized for its longtime former resident, as Justin Fields mingled excellence with infamy as the Chicago Bears went through another strange and meaningless season.

Wilson had a forgettable start with what was soon rightly labeled a forgettable team, entangled in another doomed New York Jets campaign that went beyond the Big Apple without significant announcement.

Colin Cowherd: Zach Wilson is not Josh Allen

Colin Cowherd: Zach Wilson is not Josh Allen

Colin Cowherd thinks it’s wrong for Robert Saleh to compare Zach Wilson’s early struggles with the New York Jets to Josh Allen’s when he was a rookie with the Buffalo Bills. Watch Colin explain why this comparison isn’t right.

And yet, as Year 2 approaches for a collection of sophomores who no longer attach the same luster to them as they did forming a much-vaunted, pre-formed group of five, Wilson may have the most to look forward to once hostilities begin. field again.

The Jets didn’t hold back when it came to making offensive upgrades, using a combination of acquisitions and draft picks to give Wilson a tasty array of pieces around him.

Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and 2022 No. 10 Pick Garrett Wilson make up a youthful group of receivers worth checking out. Michael Carter and Breece Hall are expected to be a solid running duo, while tight ends CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin were added to give Wilson flexibility. A reinforced attack line should also make the QB’s life considerably more pleasant.

2022 NFL Draft: Looking at Jets’ #10 Overall Pick Garrett Wilson

2022 NFL Draft: Looking at Jets' #10 Overall Pick Garrett Wilson

Fox Sports’ Bucky Brooks summarizes the skills that placed Ohio State’s Wide Receiver Garrett Wilson at number 10 for the New York Jets.

“I think if you break it down to keep the most important things the most important things, it’s about developing and helping our young quarterback,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas told reporters.

It would be wrong to suggest that the Jets loved everything they saw of Wilson in 2021. Not with a team record of 4-13, not with Wilson hitting just nine touchdowns—although he did have a quirky stat of stopping six pitches within the 1-yard line. Not if he makes the kinds of mistakes you’d expect from a 21-year-old with limited college experience.

However, for what it’s worth, New York won’t follow the same path it did after picking Sam Darnold at #3 in 2018, which was essentially throwing Darnold to the wolves and bringing in next to nothing useful help.

“That’s a mistake they can’t afford with Wilson,” Mark Cannizzaro wrote in the New York Post.

Either way, optimism is on the rise among Jets fans. The moves made this season have been well received. Improvement is coming, although the bar needs to be set within realistic parameters, especially without a winning season since 2015, no playoffs since 2010 and no AFC East titles since 2002.

To end one of those streaks this year, the Jets will need Wilson, who has put on 210 pounds in recent months, to make a positive connection to his beefed-up attack.

The oddsmakers aren’t quite sold, with New York a staggering +1800 to win the division and +10,000 for the Super Bowl. Being in the same division as the Buffalo Bills isn’t exactly seen as a good thing these days.

Bet on the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl I FOX Bet Live

Bet on the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl I FOX Bet Live

Geoff Schwartz and Sam Panayotovich explain why you have to bet on Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills at +650 to win the Super Bowl.

In addition, the Jets have a schedule that will test their defensive limits. They picked cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with the number 4 pick, but it’s worth noting that in six of their first 10 games, Wilson will see these guys on the opposite sidelines: Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Joe BurrowAaron RodgersRussell Wilson and Josh Allen

The hope is that Zach Wilson will be a name in the foreseeable future – and the Jets’ attack will be a unit – giving other teams some trepidation before facing them too.

“There are little things he does where you see a little more safety,” head coach Robert Saleh told reporters. He’s not a rookie, so he’s a bit more vocal. He looks good. He feels more at ease and clearly understands the offense. He’s never struggled to catch the attack, but he was a rookie, so he’s going through it. He’s much further along now than a year ago, that’s for sure.”

Frankly, he should be too. Deeply disappointed for years, the Jets took a bold step to ride Wilson and perhaps just as big a step to put pieces around him. There’s a big gamble going on, but the Jets think they’ve got a winning hand.

As a result, Wilson will start the season in a rare spot for a Jets QB in the modern day – with genuine anticipation on his shoulders.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here


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