Jets put their hopes in Zach Wilson with No. 2 pick in NFL Draft 2021

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Jets general manager Joe Douglas got his man.

After months of speculation and conversation, the Jets selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson on Thursday night with the No. 2-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The move was no surprise. Wilson has been linked to the Jets for weeks, but the team made it official when commissioner Roger Goodell called Wilson’s name at the draft in Cleveland.

The 21-year-old now becomes the face of the franchise, as the team pins its hopes on yet another first-round quarterback, hoping Wilson works out better than Sam Darnold, whom they drafted with the third pick in the first round three years ago. The Jets became the first team to select quarterbacks in the top three picks twice within four years in the common draft era.

Wilson comes to the Jets after a breakout 2020 season for the Cougars. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also ran for 10 touchdowns. While his production opened eyes, it also raised questions because of the level of competition BYU faced. The Cougars are an independent and ended up scrapping their original 2020 schedule because of COVID-19. That left them scrambling for opponents and they did not face a single foe from a Power 5 conference.

The Jets fell in love with Wilson’s un-coachable traits. He has a huge arm and the ability to throw without having his feet set.

“He just has an unbelievable ability to throw the football anywhere he wants it to go off any platform,” said Jeff Grimes, Wilson’s offensive coordinator at BYU. “Having your body in an awkward position is something that happens a lot in the NFL due to pressure, and he doesn’t have to have the traditional throwing platform that a lot of guys have to in order to throw the ball where it needs to go. He’s incredibly accurate regardless of the position his body is in. He just has incredible arm talent.”

Those who have played with and coached Wilson say he is a football junkie who studies film nonstop. He has a high football IQ and great recall ability when talking about football.

The Draper, Utah, native rocketed up the draft boards this season. He was not projected to be a high draft pick entering last season. In fact, Wilson had to fight for his starting job last year. After becoming the youngest starting quarterback in BYU history as a freshman in 2018, Wilson struggled as a sophomore. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder in early 2019 and still was recovering when the season started. A thumb injury also hindered him. That led BYU coaches to open up the job in 2020.

Wilson spent the spring making trips to California to work with quarterback coach John Beck while COVID-19 prevented BYU from practicing. When he returned for summer camp, teammates say they saw a different quarterback.

The other major concern besides the level of competition he faced is his size. He is 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, but his frame is slight. There are questions about whether he can withstand the punishment the NFL brings.

Wilson is the first of 10 draft picks the Jets held in this year’s draft. Douglas now must find pieces to surround Wilson, something the Jets failed to do during Darnold’s three seasons with the team.

There will be pressure on Wilson to perform better than Darnold, whom the Jets traded to the Panthers this month, as well as fellow draft quarterbacks Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance, whom the Jets passed on in favor of Wilson.

The Jets are coming off a 2-14 season, and new coach Robert Saleh has a major rebuilding effort in front of him. Wilson’s success level will play a large role in determining how well that rebuild goes.

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