The New York Jets are on a crash course with a top-three pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and that means it’s time to talk quarterbacks.
The New York Jets are sitting at 0-4 with one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Fans put most of the blame for that on Adam Gase, and rightfully so, but he’s not the only problem. Sam Darnold hasn’t progressed at all since his rookie year.
Darnold is still throwing poor interceptions, taking bad sacks, struggling against pressure, and reading defenses slowly. There’s just been no improvement at all. A lot of that blame goes to the coaching, but Darnold isn’t blameless.
With the Jets staring the potential to draft Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance in the face they have to consider what comes next. More importantly, should they be taking a quarterback in 2021?
1. QB talent matters. Say what you will about supporting casts and coaching, but even if a quarterback is in a perfect situation, they aren’t assured to be great. Mark Sanchez was put on an elite team from his first snap in the NFL and he failed to become the quarterback the Jets hoped he would be. This isn’t to say supporting casts don’t matter, just that the talent of the quarterback is also an important factor.
Mike Sando of The Athletic polled NFL coaches, executives, scouts, and general managers to tier quarterbacks before the season started. They listed 13 quarterbacks in the top two tiers, elite and franchise QBs. Of those 13 quarterbacks, nine of them went in the first round. Not just any quarterback can succeed, even in a perfect situation and the Jets are far from that.
2. A new head coach deserves a fresh start. It’s going to be hard for the Jets to attract a new head coach if they force a general manager, quarterback, and drafting philosophy on them. Why would a top candidate want to come to a team where he has virtually no power to change how it’s run?
This goes double for the Jets. Sam Darnold is going to be entering year four of his rookie contract and if the Jets don’t pick up his option, which seems likely, then the new head coach would be coming into an unstable situation. He wouldn’t know who his quarterback is going to be in year two. That’s going to scare off the top candidates.
Allowing them to choose to work with an elite young prospect from a stacked quarterback class would change all of that. Working with on of Lawrence, Fields, or Lance could make the Jets one of the top destinations in all of the NFL. There isn’t a single coach in the NFL who would turn down the chance to work with Trevor Lawrence.
3. This is an elite quarterback class. This class has three quarterbacks who would go No. 1 in any given year. Trevor Lawrence is the star, but Lance and Fields are elite in their own right.
It’s rare that a team gets the chance to draft a quarterback of this caliber. Lawrence is arguably the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. Lance put up historically unmatched numbers in his first year as a starter. Fields fits the modern mobile quarterback archetype as well as anyone in recent years.
The Jets are likely going to be in a position to grab one of these guys this year. If they put off drafting a quarterback until they’re a better team they’ll undoubtedly be putting themselves at a disadvantage making it more difficult to find that franchise quarterback.
1. There’s only one con, but it’s a huge one. The supporting cast matters just as much as quarterback talent, if not more. Yes, quarterback talent matters, but even the most talented quarterbacks can’t thrive with little talent around them. For example, of the 13 quarterbacks that NFL evaluators put in the top two tiers, only two were the first taken in their draft class. Those two quarterbacks, Matt Stafford and Matt Ryan, both came into the league with an All-Pro wide receiverf on their team.
The reason for that is simple, quarterbacks struggle to develop when they have little talent around them. Take a quick look around the league at quarterbacks on their rookie deals, where are the elite ones? Pat Mahomes has All-Pros at offensive line, wide reciever, and tight end. Lamar Jackson has All-Pros on his offensive line. Kyler Murray has two All-Pros at wide receiver.
Just take a look at Deshaun Watson. He went from one of the elite quarterbacks in the game to slightly above-average after the loss of DeAndre Hopkins.
Young quarterbacks need help to become fulfill their potential. The Jets roster can’t provide that as currently constructed. It’s much more likely that they’ll bring in a young quarterback who won’t be able to carry the offense, but will be forced to anyway. That burden is going to drag them down and slow their development to a halt.
The truth is that elite quarterbacks are groomed not born. It takes a perfect combination of talent and surroundings to make an elite quarterback. There are some examples who break that mold, but they are few and far between.