The New York Jets' perfect 2021 NFL Draft, from Zach Wilson to William Sherman
By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
In the vastly underrated Cameron Crowe movie "Vanilla Sky," New York City playboy Tom Cruise swoops in on a girl his buddy just met.
The result is this memorable quote from his forlorn friend, played by Jason Lee: "Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour."
As a lifelong New York Jets fan, I know sour.
The Jets currently own the longest playoff drought in the league, with 10 years having passed since Mark Sanchez fell inches short of a comeback against the Steelers in the 2010 AFC title game.
In the past decade, they’ve started 12 different quarterbacks.
You could make a compelling argument that the Jets have not had a franchise QB since Joe Namath wagged a finger after winning the Super Bowl in 1969.
Sam Darnold was supposed to be the guy after the team drafted him third in 2018. But 38 starts later, the result is the equivalent of downing a pack of sour patch kids.
Trading up for Sanchez worked in 2009 — if by "worked" you mean two AFC Championship trips in his first two seasons. In 2011 and 2012, Sanchez was a disaster, and then he was gone, yet another potential franchise QB who never made it to a big second contract.
Chad Pennington, Boomer Esiason, Ken O’Brien … it’s difficult to comprehend just how badly one franchise could do in trying to solve the most important position in sports over a 40-year period.
Enter Zach Wilson. The Mormon Mahomes. He joins a long list of QBs — Geno Smith, anyone? How about a jog down memory lane with Christian Hackenberg? — whom fans of the green and white got very excited about on draft weekend.
If Wilson is able to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl victory — yes, for now I’d settle for the playoffs — it would definitely be one of the sweetest moments in New York sports history.
It starts next weekend, when the Jets have 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here’s their perfect draft:
Round 1, pick 2: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson started 27 games in college but emerged only this year as a potential franchise QB. There are injury concerns — shoulder surgery after his freshman year and a fractured thumb — due to his thin frame (6-foot-2, 214 pounds), but his traits, accuracy and ability to read defenses are somewhat reminiscent of Patrick Mahomes. No pressure!
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If not for recent back surgery, Farley could have gone in the top 10. At 6-foot-2, he was a star QB in high school, shifted to receiver at Virginia Tech and then moved to cornerback. He’s light on reps but heavy on natural ability. Robert Saleh, who has coached defenses for nearly 20 years, is the perfect coach for Farley.
The Jets could use a 6-foot-2 red zone threat, and oh, yeah, Marshall ran a 4.38 40 at the LSU pro day. There isn’t going to be pressure on him initially, with Corey Davis and Denzel Mims starting on the outside, but Marshall could battle Josh Doctson for reps as the No. 3 WR this year.
As the Jets transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, they’re going to need edge rushers — yes, even after picking up Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry in free agency. Jones led the ACC in sacks and was named an All-American, and if teams think he can play OLB in the 3-4 as well as the 4-3 (where he played at Pittsburgh), he might not last this long.
How does a 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.42 40 speed fall this far? He doesn’t play fast, and he struggles to get separation despite that 40 time. He could go late in the second round but will most likely fall to the third. The Jets taking two big WRs might seem excessive, but they have three slot WRs (Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole), and the guess here is they don’t want to make the same mistakes with Wilson that they did with Darnold.
Saleh loves linebackers who can drop back into coverage, as evidenced by the signing of Jarrad Davis, who wasn’t a good scheme fit with Rocket Scientist Matt Patricia in Detroit. Saleh is looking for linebackers in the Fred Warner (No. 1 LB in coverage in 2020, per PFF) mold. Werner is no Warner, but the latter did go in the third round and after three seasons was first-team All-Pro.
Saleh was a defensive coach for the Seahawks during the Legion of Boom era, and he knows the value of big corners. Mukuamu’s size (6-foot-3) and length allow him to defend on the outside, and if he had been in the 2020 draft, he’d have gotten some early round consideration. But Mukuamu struggled in 2020. Complicating this pick: Does Richard Sherman sign with the Jets if they add two CBs in the draft?
The good news is he’s a track star masquerading as a 6-foot, 207-pound running back. The bad news is he has problems catching the ball, he doesn’t break tackles, and his blocking needs work. That said, Hubbard is perfect for the zone running scheme Mike LaFleur brings from San Francisco. And Hubbard will have a chance to play, as the Jets will rotate backs (Tevin Coleman, Josh Adams, Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine) instead of having a true No. 1, like San Francisco did.
An incredible, 252-pound athlete with a 41.5-inch vertical, Smith had 14.5 sacks in 2019. Saleh needs depth on his defensive line to generate a pass rush, and it’d be smart for him to take a flier on a former 2-star recruit who has added 60 pounds since high school.
Don’t be surprised if the Jets wait until the end to grab a developmental lineman. They spent all of last season tinkering with the OL and added Dan Feeney in free agency to be their primary backup. After blocking for Kyler Murray in high school, Sherman was a three-year starter for the Buffaloes. He is athletic enough to rotate all over the line — primarily guard and perhaps center — as a reserve.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.