With the second pick in this year’s NFL Draft, held last week in Cleveland, Ohio, in front of an estimated crowd of 50,000, all under mandated COVID protocols, the Jets ended two months of speculation by selecting Brigham Young University quarterback Zach Wilson.
The 6-3, 209 pounder from Draper, Utah, who will turn 22 in August, now has the hopes of a franchise who last played in a Super Bowl in 1969 placed on his shoulders. He replaces Sam Darnold, the Jets’ 2018 first round draft pick (No. 3 overall), who was expected to follow the path of Joe Namath, who quarterbacked the ’69 team. Those plans failed. During his three seasons with the Jets, hampered by injuries and stunted by instability within the organization’s front office and coaching staffs, Darnold won just 13 games in 48 starts in three seasons.
The Jets were 2-14 last year which resulted in them landing the second pick. There are many reasons why they were terrible, and it all can’t be blamed on Darnold. It is all moot now. Wilson is the present and future now, and the pressure for him to lift the franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010, is arguably higher than it was for Namath and Darnold.
“I’m so excited to get in there and figure out what we can do to make it better,” said Wilson at his introductory press conference. “When a team isn’t doing super well, and you can go in there and actually be a key piece to where it flips that organization around, that’s so special,” he confidently added.
The Jets’ new head coach, Robert Saleh, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator who was hired in January, is all in on Wilson. “The things that we value in quarterback play, he checks every box,” he said.
“You talk about arm strength and accuracy—check. The ability to work off-schedule and make plays—check. Fearless in the pocket—check. His ability to recall, process and make the right decisions to get the ball where it needs to go. … He’s a special young man.”
The Jets also selected nine other players, some they foresee as making an immediate impact. Among that group is USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, taken at 14 with the second of the Jets’ first round picks. Wide receiver Elijah Moore from the University of Mississippi, acquired in Round 2 (34th overall). And University of North Carolina running back Michael Carter in the fourth round (107th).
In Round 5, the Jets selected Auburn linebacker Jamien Sherwood with the 146th pick, Duke University cornerback Michael Carter II (yes they chose two players in this draft with the same name) with the 154th pick. They also added defensive back Jason Pinnock from the University of Pittsburgh at No. 175 in Round 5.
With three picks in the sixth round, the Jets drafted linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen out of Florida State (No. 186), cornerback Brandin Echols from Kentucky (No. 200), and Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall (No. 207).