The Jets did not set up Sam Darnold for success, but the new Jets regime looks to be focused on giving Zach Wilson the help he needs.
With no surprise to anyone, and after many months of speculations, the Jets made Zach Wilson the second overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. There is the worry that Wilson will be ruined by the Jets the same way that Sam Darnold was. However, with free-agent signings and the 2021 NFL Draft, it looks like Saleh and the new Jets’ regime will not make the same mistakes. Let’s look at the talent the Jets have already surrounded Wilson with.
Getting Wide Receiver Help From Free Agency
In Free Agency, the Jets used most of their money in signing five defensive players to help improve the 26th ranked scoring defense in 2020. They still managed to break the bank for one of the top WRs in the free agency class, Corey Davis. They signed Davis to a three-year, 37 million dollar contract to help add talent to the WR depth chart.
Davis is a former top-five draft pick by the Titans in 2017, but he never quite reached his potential. He had his best year in 2020 with 65 receptions, 984 yards, and 5 TDs. Davis is not necessarily a #1 receiver, but his addition should help the passing offense that finished 31st in pass yards per game in 2020. Davis ranked fourth in yards per route run (2.67) and 12th in QB rating when targeted (123.7).
Going Offensive in the 2021 NFL Draft
Even though the Jets’ new coach, Robert Saleh specializes in defense, the team decided to focus on the offense early in the draft. Their first four picks in the draft were all used on offense and look poised to all give support to rookie QB Wilson that should start right away. Let’s take a look at what the Jets did to help the offense in the draft.
Alijah Vera-Tucker OL USC – Round 1, Pick 13
The Jets felt strongly about getting, what most thought, the best Guard in the NFL Draft and traded the 23rd overall and two third-round picks to move up with the Vikings. Some may say that it was foolish to move up that far for a guard, but the Jets finished in the bottom third in sacks given up in 2020. Last year, they selected their Left Tackle of the future in Mekhi Becton, so they could afford to address the inside of their line. The versatility of Tucker also helps, as he has played extensively at tackle also, and in his three years at USC, only allowed three sacks in three years.
Elijah Moore WR Ole Miss- Round 2, Pick 34
Moore is personally one of my favorite prospects of this rookie class and he was moving up draft boards all offseason. Moore was given a 94+ grade by PFF on all three levels of passes and showed his ability to be great after the catch. He should be used similarly to the way Deebo Samuel was used on Saleh’s former team, the 49ers. The Jets will use him in the running game and short passing game to produce touches and let him just get in space. This will provide so many more options for the Jets’ offense that struggled in 2020.
Michael Carter RB N Carolina – Round 4, Pick 107
The Jets have not had a rusher break the 800-yard mark the past three years, which has hurt the offense and made them one-dimensional. The Jets surprised everyone by not taking an RB before the fourth round but got great value, as many thought Carter would be picked in the second or third round. Carter is a versatile back that is good at running the zone or gap scheme and is also a great receiver out of the backfield. He has big-play ability with over 62% of runs in 2020 going over 15 yards and also has an elusive receiver rating that was high than both first-round RBs taken.
The 2021 Jets Offense with Wilson
Wilson improved every year he was in college, with 2020 having a completion percentage over 73% and a crazy 11 TD to interception ratio. Wilson is very good inside the pocket and outside of it. He is great at improvising and actually completed 69% of passes when blitzed, and also threw 16 TDs. He is able to avoid pressure from the defense and, per PFF, only 13% of the time Wilson was pressured did he get sacked.
The Jets’ WR depth chart looks a lot better than it did just a year ago. Denzel Mims was a second-round pick last year and, though injured, he was 17th in average yards per reception in his rookie year. Mims and Davis will be able to line up outside with Jamison Crowder and Elijah Moore controlling the slot snaps and short passing game. As stated before, Moore will allow Wilson to get the ball out quickly and let him make plays in the open field.
The RB situation and offensive line have improved to help Wilson. The Jets brought in Tevin Coleman, who Saleh is familiar with from his time in SF. Coleman should bring a good veteran presence and can provide a good rotation with rookie Michael Carter and second-year player Lamical Perine. The Jets hope to be able to bring over the 49ers’ success in the run game, where many different players were successful.
Fantasy Implications for Wilson and Jets Offensive Weapons
- Zach Wilson – IDP GUYS SF ADP 42.5 -QB 15
- While many take Trey Lance higher than Wilson in rookie drafts, if you need a starter this year, Wilson will provide that. He is a solid option for a QB 2 in dynasty and could move up to QB 1 in time.
- Michael Carter – IDP GUYS SF ADP 139.5 -RB 40
- Carter is a good stash in the dynasty, as we do not know what he will do in his rookie year. He is the fifth-best rookie RB based on the situation, and a late second in a rookie draft would be a good spot to acquire him. He would be more valuable in best-ball formats in his rookie year.
- Corey Davis- IDP GUYS SF ADP 159.5 -WR 57
- Davis will not be on a run-heavy offense anymore and does not have an elite WR1 like AJ Brown on the other side. So, I feel he is a better option than his ADP suggests. Anywhere from WR 30-40 would be a good spot to pick him up based on his upside.
- Elijah Moore – IDP GUYS SF ADP 173 -WR 65
- Moore, based on the landing spot, has been going late in the first round to mid-second round in rookie drafts. He has the upside on the Jets’ offense, and with his ability after the catch, he should be a target and PPR monster. His upside in startups I believe would be within the top 50 WRs and worth a stash in the WR3 territory.
Only time will tell if Zach Wilson will succeed with the Jets. But it is good to see that they have learned from the Darnold years and want to provide a better situation for their young QB. I personally was low on Wilson coming out compared to the other top QBs, but after seeing the rest of the Jets draft, I am optimistic about Wilson. For once, I think that the Jets will have some fantasy options that will be valuable and not just used if you need a bye week filler.