Unfortunately for Zach Wilson, picked by the Jets 2nd overall, the modern NFL has no place for patience. Many pundits have already written him off as a bust. (See Joe Namath.) Below I will detail how the New York Jets fumbled yet another high draft pick spent on a QB. But the question is, can they recover?
The bill for this mess falls on head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas. The moment a franchise takes a QB with a high draft pick it creates a media storm of attention, from that moment the franchise should be centering around their young QB. The Jets management didn't get this memo.
The Jets Unaligned Planning
Last year Coach Robert Saleh invested heavily to build a premier defensive unit. And though the Jets 2022 was outstanding, this was not a recipe that could be successful with Zach Wilson behind center. Significant resources should have been diverted towards supporting the young QB.
A young QB figuring out the X's and O's on a franchise with Super Bowl asperations needs a lot of support to be successful. This resource mismatch spelled doom from the start. Wilson made the leap from a mid major university to elite Sunday football too soon; it would have been best to develop him over the long term. They tried to do it this year by bringing in Aaron Rodgers, but bringing in a veteran a year earlier that Wilson could learn from, would have been more responsible. Instead, the staff and front office were too impatient and didn't give Wilson some time to learn before throwing him to the wolves.
The results were not satisfactory. In 2022, the Jets elite defense was hamstrung by an incapable and young QB. The inverse would have been more desirable. "The best defense is always a strong offense." (See Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes.)
After failing to get the instant success they had hoped for last year, the Jets front office and coaching staff pulled the plug on Wilson and dialed in a new roster ready to compete this season. Offensive weapons meant to deliver this season were drafted and signed at a premium but not with Zach Wilson in mind, who was nowhere near ready to bear such championship burdens.
They acquired big-play weapons such as speed threats Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard who work best with a more experienced QB. To make this work, they brought in Aaron Rodgers and maybe it would have been an exciting year for the Jets if Rodgers stayed healthy. However, they left themselves exposed with Zach Wilson as their back up QB. A developing young QB needs safety nets, such as a tight end and solid contested catch possession receivers. Running back Breece Hall is a big play threat on any down, yet a less explosive, more methodical back probably compliments Wilson best at this stage of his career when he can't read defenses and is being spoon fed plays from the sideline.
As Zach Wilson floundered, he was publicly criticized by his own fans, despised by his teammates and his head coach quietly attempted to move off him by trading for a big-name veteran.
Rather than be patient with their young QB, and giving him the support he needed to develop. The front office abandoned their high draft pick for big - name QB Aaron Rodgers. Sadly for the Jets coaching staff and front office, a devastating injury to starter Aaron Rodgers has derailed all those plans. This is an outright disaster. The starter is injured, the back up is not ready or trusted and the franchise is signing no-names off the street, e.g. Trevor Siemian.
Zach Wilson, a once promising QB prospect, is a victim of a fickle, non-committal front office that has turned him into one of the worst performing QB's on a week in and out basis. The reason is because resources of the team are have been allocated to support everything except the things that would make Wilson successful, such as a stable offensive line, unit and coaching staff for the young QB to develop behind. Constant turnover of staff, sacks, interceptions and worst of all injuries have robbed Wilson of the moxie and confidence that made him an exciting prospect in the first place.
The Jets Fantasy Outlook
The Jets now sit at the bottom of the AFC East with only three teams in the league that have scored less thus far in the season, the Patriots, Bengals and Giants.
However, it doesn't matter how the Jets got to the place they are at. What matters is where do they go from here, and what can fantasy owners expect going forward.
With respect to this year, there are only two possibilities for trying to salvage the season:
- Bring in a veteran quarterback
- Be patient with Wilson and help him develop
The Jets obviously must back-fill the loss of depth at the QB position. The signing of Trevor Siemian feels more like that, than trying to start yet another QB.
Last week, Week 4, Wilson start to show some flashes, completing 28 of 39 passes for 245 and 2 TDs. The improvement was reflected in leading RB Hall being targeted four times, and lead WR, Garrett Wilson, being targeting 14 times. It wasn't great, not enough to win, but it was better. With nothing to lose, it looked like the coaching staff let Wilson loose in Prime Time. In response, Wilson started to make some great throws throughout the night and started to look like the player he was drafted to be. He still made mistakes and lost a fumble late in the game, but he looks like he made a step forward.
So what can fantasy owners count on from the Jets players they drafted?
In reality, they can't count on much. However, they can hope that the coaching staff and Wilson start working together better, learning from mistakes, and putting the pieces around Wilson that can lead to success. Some of this might simply be modifying game scripts and play calling by putting in more plays that give Wilson a relief value. Maybe we will see more from Conklin, maybe Breece Hall will be called on to catch more passes. We will just need to wait and see.
We are only in Week 4, and it is too early to completely write off Wilson and the Jets. If you have a dynasty team, it seems like you should hold your Jets players for now. If you are in a superflex league, Wilson might be a QB you could acquire at a bargain and take a dart throw on his development.