For the bulk of the offseason, the New York Jets were a team of serious intrigue when it came to the 2021 NFL Draft. The club is positioned with the No. 2 overall pick, which puts them in a prime position to select one of the top quarterback prospects in this year's class. However, there was a scenario out there for New York to not use that opportunity to take a signal-caller and opt to keep rolling with former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. Well, that avenue was slammed shut on Monday after the Jets pulled off a trade that has since sent Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for picks. Now, it seems like the club is full steam ahead toward hitting the reset button at the position and taking a young quarterback with their top selection.
"I think that's a fair assessment to say," Jets GM Joe Douglas told reporters Tuesday when directly asked if the club was going quarterback at No. 2. "I think based on the decision we made yesterday, you can kind of see the direction we're heading."
The specific direction the Jets seem to be heading in is BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who is widely looked at as the presumptive No. 2 pick in the draft. Douglas, new head coach Robert Saleh, and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur were all recently in Utah to take in Wilson's Pro Day, where the young quarterback did impress. While Trevor Lawrence is looked at as the 1A prospect in this class, Wilson is not that far behind and evaluators appear to have him a tier above his other classmates like Alabama's Mac Jones, Justin Fields out of Ohio State and North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
All signs have long pointed to Wilson being the pick, but Douglas did note that there were discussions about possibly keeping Darnold and still bringing in a young quarterback with that top selection. Upon further contemplation, having Darnold directly competing against whomever they picked, Douglas said, "would not be the best decision for the organization," that was able to accumulate more assets for their rebuild by trading him away. However, he added that "it's safe to say if our pick was a little bit later we wouldn't be having this discussion right now," signaling that they may have just moved ahead with Darnold if they were not in the range they're currently in.
In the end, Darnold and the Jets seem to be sitting pretty with the events on Monday. New York gains a clearer path towards picking a quarterback (likely Wilson) at the 2021 draft and can solely focus on building around him while Darnold gets a clean slate in Carolina where he can look to live up to his first-round potential as the presumptive starter for the Panthers.