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Zach Wilson would be better fit on Rams than Jets

Sean McVay’s history with getting the most out of top picks at quarterback should mesh well with Wilson

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Jets Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield. Sean McVay didn’t take part in drafting any of them, but Sean McVay has gotten the most out of all three. Why not Zach Wilson next?

I keep telling Mayfield that he should stay with the Los Angeles Rams, but convincing him of that may be harder than getting Les Snead to hold onto a first round pick. I do think that some fans are overestimating Mayfield’s value based his short stint with the Rams—don’t forget that not only did the Cleveland Browns give up on Mayfield with few suitors earlier this year, but that he was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the league with the Carolina Panthers—but no less than a competition could be in his future.

Would he rather accept a guaranteed role as a backup in a better situation, like the one with the Rams, or go compete for a starting gig next year with the Commanders, Jets, Colts, Raiders, Giants, Falcons, and so on? I concede that may be too many suitors to convince Mayfield to stay in L.A. rather than to accept more money and a better chance to start somewhere else, especially for potential contenders like the New York Jets or Giants. Barring a stunning move to re-sign Mayfield before free agency begins, he may never come back to the Rams once he starts talking to other teams.

Will this return a compensatory pick to the Rams? Well, it depends.

Number one, teams only receive comp picks if they don’t sign a corresponding free agent of similar or equal value. This is probably the most overlooked aspect of the comp pick formula. “That player will leave and the team I like WILL receive a comp pick!”

Actually, the vast majority of free agents who leave do not return a comp pick, not only because they didn’t make enough money but because their old team signed a new player. They filled the void in the salary cap with a different player and as you should know, the Rams sign a lot of players.

Still, Les Snead does a good job of getting back comp picks and it is possible that Mayfield could return a fourth or fifth round compensatory pick. Marcus Mariota left the Raiders for the Falcons in 2022 on a two-year, $18.75 million deal and would have been worth a fifth round pick to Las Vegas, but the deal was offset. So the Raiders got no pick.

I do not believe that Baker Mayfield will sign for starting quarterback money in 2023. A deal comparable to Mariota or Jameis Winston makes the most sense.

Let’s say that the Rams do receive a 2024 fifth round compensatory pick for Mayfield. Snead could potentially turn that kind of draft pick value, if not something slightly more valuable, into a different backup quarterback behind Matthew Stafford who is much cheaper and has a lot more potential than Baker Mayfield.

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets.

Now, for any of you who pay attention to what Twitter says and think that’s somehow important, remember that the social media website is loaded with the worst talent evaluators in the world. According to Twitter, the sky is always falling if a player has been deemed “okay to trash talk” if he’s someone like Zach Wilson right now, and that a player can do no wrong if trash talking him doesn’t return enough likes, retweets, and impressions.

Twitter doesn’t give you an honest take on any player, coach, or team. Twitter gives “the Twitter take” on players and me even suggesting Zach Wilson right now has some of you anxious to trash talk me for even bringing him up.

Funny, because a month ago, Baker Mayfield was in Zach Wilson’s exact shoes. Now it is sacrilege to suggest that Mayfield could be getting a little overrated based on about four of his 12 quarters with the Rams so far and that Wilson might be a good option to develop behind Stafford for two or three years. Don’t worry, if Zach Wilson does ever turn his talent into a starting career in the NFL, Twitter will quickly delete their old takes and heavily invest in pro-Zach takes so that the likes can start rolling in again.

That’s just how social media works.

Some NFL teams are actually dumb enough to fall for it. I get the sense that Les Snead and Sean McVay have never cared what people on the internet think about them or the L.A. Rams. And for that reason, acquiring Zach Wilson at a much lower rate than what he was worth in the 2021 NFL Draft may be the best solution towards getting themselves an interesting quarterback to develop and towards getting Wilson into his best odds of having a Steve Young-like career arc.

Of course, at this point, Zach Wilson would be lucky to develop into Steve McNair or even Vince Young. But it’s worth a shot.

Coming out of BYU in 2021, the same alma mater as Young, Wilson dominated college football opponents as a junior with 73.5% completions, 33 touchdowns, three interceptions, and 12.6 adjusted yards per attempt. Only Mac Jones, another 2021 first round picks who appears on the outs with his team, had better numbers. Wilson also rushed for 10 touchdowns and 254 yards that year.

As sure as folks were that Trevor Lawrence as going to the Jacksonville Jaguars at one, Wilson was guaranteed to go to the Jets at two. The San Francisco 49ers surely would have made a trade with the Jets for Wilson, instead of with the Miami Dolphins to eventually get Trey Lance, if New York would have only accepted their phone calls.

That’s how sure the Jets—and Kyle Shanahan’s staff, I’m sure—were that Zach Wilson would be at least as good as Lawrence.

Instead, it would be hard to be worse than Wilson has been over his two seasons with the Jets. That’s a fair evaluation of Wilson’s career coming from somebody like me who was overly confident that 2022 would be his breakout season. Instead, it has been his breakup season.

Out of 32 quarterbacks to throw at least 500 passes since the start of 2021, Wilson ranks 32nd in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (4.29), 32nd in passer rating, 31st in Y/A, 32nd in touchdown passes per throw, 29th in interception rate, and 32nd in completion percentage.

As far as passing statistics go, the only quarterback who is even close to Wilson at the bottom is Justin Fields. The quarterback who is 31st in many categories is Justin Fields.

Actually, in completion percentage, Fields is tied with Baker Mayfield for the second-worst mark in the NFL. Fields is 31st in adjusted NY/A (4.64), whereas Mayfield is 29th. Fields has the highest rate of interceptions in the NFL, whereas Mayfield is five spots below him. Mayfield is 30th in passer rating and Fields is 31st.

In fact, four of the five worst passer ratings since the start of 2021 were drafted last year—Fields, Wilson, Davis Mills, Trevor Lawrence—with Baker Mayfield rounding out the quintet.

Zach Wilson has been atrocious, to be sure. Notably, narrative is what is really controlling the stories around Zach Wilson and many of the people drafted in the same class as him, as well as some other more veteran quarterbacks around the league that are struggling. For Wilson, he’s been deemed as “the main character” on social media and “unfixable,” whereas others who have been just as bad at passing could be touted as franchise players. Instead of talking about the quarterback, just talk about their “supporting cast” or “their coaching” and direct the spotlight anywhere else.

For Wilson, the spotlight of every mistake he makes is on him. Okay, so then the solution is clear: Put him in a better situation. Better supporting cast, better coaching, and no pressure to be a starter in 2023.

The Los Angeles Rams make the most sense.

The Rams appear set to have as many ten picks in the 2023 NFL Draft—up to four compensatory picks—and as usual most of those are on day three. The Jets share at least a couple friends with the Rams, such as offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, not a direct branch on the McVay tree, but a mutual branch. Surely some of McVay’s concepts won’t be lost on Wilson.

Perhaps the cost of Wilson will be a third round pick. Sam Darnold, beyond reason, commanded a second, fourth, and sixth from the Panthers. Could Carolina be so stupid again and drive up the price for Wilson? I’m not suggesting that the Rams should trade their second round pick for Zach Wilson, should that end up being the case.

But if Snead could convince New York general manager Joe Douglas to bring Wilson to a better situation for the cost of two fourth round picks and a 2024 third, honestly it couldn’t be any riskier than L.A.’s typical returns in the same range. Which lately have been the likes of Terrell Burgess, Bobby Evans, Terrell Lewis, Earnest Brown, Bobby Brown, and so on.

Wilson won’t develop into his best self on the Jets. The Jets won’t be their best selves with Wilson. But Sean McVay has gotten the most out of Jared Goff, the most out of Matthew Stafford, and the most out of Baker Mayfield. With Zach Wilson, he’d have his best “prospect” yet, a 23-year-old with all the talent in the world and no idea how to use it. Plus, Wilson’s base salaries in 2023 and 2024 ($940k, $1m) are as cheap as it gets for a backup quarterback, although L.A. would have to convince the Jets to pay his 2023 roster bonus of $2.9 million, then be open to paying his $4.4 million roster bonus in 2024 if they like what they see next season.

I think the Rams should do it. If you disagree, tweet about it.