The 2021 NFL Draft featured one of the most hotly-debated quarterback classes of all-time, but not until the San Francisco 49ers traded up with the Philadelphia Eagles for the third pick in the draft. There was no doubt who would go first and second. Thursday night’s game between the Jaguars and Jets will feature those top-two picks.
Will the Los Angeles Rams be going quarterback hunting in the 2023 NFL Draft with uncertainty behind and ahead of Matthew Stafford?
As the top recruit in the 2018 college freshman class, Trevor Lawrence was earmarked for a long time as the top pick in the 2021 draft. The decision became a no-brainer after Lawrence led Clemson to a national championship in 2019 with 30 TD and four interceptions as a true freshman during a 15-0 season. Lawrence’s junior season was not quite as impactful, but he finished second in Heisman voting behind DeVonta Smith and the Jaguars needed little research to make their decision as to who would be the number one pick.
Though the entire 2021 class struggled as rookies, and most continue to fumble their way through year two, Lawrence has been one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks over the last six games: 14 TD, one interception, 140 rushing yards, as Jacksonville has gone 4-2 in that span.
Nothing could be further from the case with Zach Wilson.
The New York Jets never seemed to entertain trading down or keeping Sam Darnold once they secured the number two pick, as most analysts saw Wilson as a clear number two option and a future star out of BYU. Now he’s hoping for a similar career resurgence to another former BYU QB who was horrible in his first two seasons: Steve Young.
That may be a dream out of reach. But it is still very early in Wilson’s career.
Following a nearly devastating preseason injury, Wilson returned in Week 4 and won five of his first six starts but not without massive struggles. The Jets won in spite of him, not because of him, and head coach Robert Saleh benched Wilson for Mike White in late November. Now the team is back to Wilson following a rib injury to White, but he went 18-of-35 in a loss to the Lions last week.
There’s no doubting the ceiling. Wilson is electrifying, even when he sucks, which is most of the time. But with 55% completions, six touchdowns, six interceptions through eight games, Wilson is in danger of permanently losing a starting gig without a turnaround in the near future. If not, the Jets will leave Wilson open to trade offers.
Perhaps Les Snead wouldn’t mind giving Wilson his second chance.
In any case, the Rams must at least be scouting the quarterbacks in the 2023 class and though L.A. doesn’t pick until the second round, this class could have intriguing options fall out of the first. If teams are scared off by the poor college production and careers of Will Levis from Kentucky or Anthony Richardson from Florida, the Rams may be able to take their swing at a quarterback at the top of round two.
Since a player like Richardson would need multiple years of development anyway, he could sit behind Matthew Stafford with no pressure to succeed in the early part of his NFL career. But if Stafford gets injured again, the Rams would be stuck putting a player out there who isn’t ready and potentially repeating the mistakes of 2022.
Jets and Jaguars is on Thursday Night Football. What are you seeing from these two young quarterbacks? And should the Rams at least be open to a future at QB?