Holding the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, the Jets front office has a big decision to make.
It's certainly not every year that an NFL franchise has the opportunity to pick this high in the draft, so New York will want to be sure they get this right.
Most draft experts expect New York to take a quarterback, as that is the position where the Jets arguably need the most help. We have seen in recent years what kind of impact a talented young signal-caller can have on a franchise, with Josh Allen of the divisional foe Buffalo Bills being the most recent example.
In some instances, like in the case of Allen, they can help propel their previously mediocre team into postseason contention in a short period of time. On the other hand, many quarterbacks drafted high in the first round fail to live up to their potential.
By most estimations, the Jets got it wrong selecting quarterback Sam Darnold third overall in the 2018 draft. They simply cannot afford to make that same mistake again.
The large majority of mock drafts, like that of ESPN's Todd McShay, project the Jets to select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. That said, the Jets should strongly consider placing their future under center in the hands of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
A major key to success in the NFL—not only as a quarterback, but as a franchise—is limiting turnovers offensively. Sam Darnold’s biggest problem in a Jets uniform has been taking care of the football. In three seasons as a starter, Darnold has thrown for a combined 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. Last season, he threw more picks than touchdown passes.
Fields has proven in college that he is both a prolific passer and has excellent ball security. In 2019, Fields threw for over 3,200 yards and, most importantly, threw 41 touchdown passes, ran for 10 more and threw an astonishingly-low three interceptions.
Not to mention he took the Buckeyes to the national semifinals in his first season as a starter, losing narrowly to the presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and his Clemson Tigers.
That same season, in his sophomore year, Wilson struggled. BYU's quarterback threw 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and completed just 62.4% of his passes. Wilson did have an excellent first full season as a starter in 2020—throwing for 33 touchdowns to only three interceptions—but he lacks the experience and consistency of Fields. Fields’ numbers were down this past year, but only because of Ohio State’s shortened season and some injury issues later in the season.
In eight games, the Kennesaw, GA native still threw 22 touchdowns with just six picks.
Many experts have pointed to Fields’ struggles against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game as a sign that he will struggle against NFL-caliber defenses. It was discovered after the contest, however, that Fields had sustained a right thumb injury early in the game, affecting his ability to throw the football. Trying to protect the thumb limited his mobility in the pocket as well, part of what makes him so dynamic.
The injury didn’t affect Fields for long. In the national semifinal rematch against Clemson, Fields had arguably the best game of his college career, even with the brightest lights shining on him.
He completely picked apart Clemson's perennially-dominant defense, throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns to help lead his team to a convincing win. This was all despite sustaining a rib injury in the second quarter. Despite being in pain, he showed off his deep-ball accuracy, throwing two touchdowns that went over 50 yards in the air.
After two seasons as a starter in Columbus, Fields has now competed in three College Football Playoff games and two conference title games. Even after playing in the Big Ten, widely considered one of the strongest conferences in the country, Fields leaves college with a 20-2 record.
Wilson simply does not have this kind of experience, racking up numbers against largely lesser opponents with BYU. In his last two seasons, he's faced six ranked opponents combined. Fields has faced 12.
It's not clear whether Wilson will continue to produce at a high level against NFL defenses. As a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, who has consistently excelled despite the pressure of high expectations, Justin Fields is the right move at No. 2. He's ready to manage the heightened attention of playing for a franchise in New York.
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