Quarterbacks are going to dominate the top five picks in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, and almost certainly with the first two selections that are the principality this year of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets respectively.
The Jaguars are in pole position. Going first, as luck would have it, means they’re in the coveted top spot to snap up Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence. To have the first selection at the same time that a “generational quarterback” is set to take his turn down the annual catwalk of college football prospects is a dream come true for any franchise and its fanbase. Not least of all it’s a coach’s envy to get the opportunity to work with the highly touted quarterback prospect that’s been on everyone’s radar, including NFL scouts across the league — and Urban Meyer knows it only too well.
To put it simply, it’s really unlikely that Lawrence will land anywhere but Jacksonville — otherwise color the world shocked, as it would be a massive upset according to NFL draft futures that have the Clemson Tigers passer as the presumptive fave to go first overall.
Inasmuch as the Jets are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback too, having parted ways with Sam Darnold last month, they’re faced with an entirely juxtaposing selection quandary. A most unenviable one, you could say. Whereas the Jaguars are sure to go straight to Lawrence like a homing missile, the Jets must sift through a selection of quarterbacks that are rated high but that present, at the same time, with contrasting skill sets, qualities and abilities.
Indeed, one might argue the Jets have the toughest task of all of the draftees this year. Get it wrong, choose the wrong passer, and they might rue the day forever. Especially when they have competition in the form of several standout teams eyeing up the talent as well – from the San Francisco 49ers, who moved up to third overall, along with the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and others. All of which have shown more than a passing interest in the quarterback talent during the offseason in various ways, including attending pro days.
Overthinking the No.2 pick is enough to do anyone’s head in, not least of all a new staff that might be muddled by fear of making a mistake. Messing it all up even before the season gets off the ground, which would be a disaster and career suicide in a city where fans are simply tired of being the laughing stock of the NFL. Nonetheless, it’s a great opportunity that is before new head coach Robert Salah and Co., even if it comes with added pressure to get it right this time around after Sam Darnold proved to be a bust with the No.3 pick three years ago is great.
One reason this is the case is the fact that the group consists of outstanding young passers in their own right: Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones. Although none jumps out as the indisputable top/best passer of this group per say, the Jets are spoilt for choice. Ultimately, the decision boils down to what direction the Jets organization envisions and, by that token, which quarterback is (in their opinion) best-suited to deliver on those express directives and expectations. That said, it’s worth pointing out that sportsbooks are leaning towards Zach Wilson as the top pick to go second overall to the Jets.
Notorious busts are the source of ongoing discussion each and every season. When, in hindsight, draft vision is a perfect 20/20. And former draft picks are analyzed, dissected in accordance to their performance and results (or lack thereof) in the league, by a slew of armchair critics eager to serve up their verdicts. While Darnold might be dubbed a so-called “bust” in the Big Apple, largely based on his first three years with the Jets that paled in comparison to his AFC East counterpart Josh Allen, selected No.7 overall in the same draft by the Bills (Allen led the Bills to not only the division title but also to the AFC Championship game in 2020). The most talked about “bust” in the last five years is… none other than… drumroll… Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky was selected by the Chicago Bears – ironically with the second overall pick – in the 2017 NFL draft. The very same year that featured Patrick Mahomes, who ultimately went tenth overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s no hyperbole to sufficiently describe the vast gulf between those two quarterbacks, nor the implications that Chicago’s decision to pass on Mahomes in favour of Trubisky has had Suffice it to say, it’s a heavy burden Chicago Bears fans will carry forevermore until the day they win a Super Bowl again.
The Jets have 10 picks to their credit ahead of this year’s draft, all of which will be key towards building the roster of the future. However, arguably, the quarterback they choose will determine many of the ensuing picks that’ll be made, more likely than not, to his compliment on the offensive side of the ball.
BYU passer Zach Wilson is currently priced as the -2000 bet with BetOnline Sportsbook (see BetOnline review) to be selected by the Jets with the second overall pick. Wilson is considered to be a good fit for Mike LaFleur’s offense which is expected to feature lots of play-action and rollouts. Wilson is a good pocket mover, mobile and agile laterally which will be great for both the air and ground offense.
Ohio State Buckeyes passer Justin Fields is tipped at +550 to go second overall, which is a significant drop since markets went to press earlier this year. Fields was for a long while one of the top two prospects in the upcoming draft but his odds have recently drifted out of favour thanks to negative press that seems to throw a lot of unnecessary shade his way. Whether teams take those reports on board remains to be seen. All we can judge is his merit on the field which is undeniable. He brings athleticism and dynamic offensive potential that could really power up the Jets offense.
North Dakota State University passer Trey Lance hasn’t played since 2019 but he brings a quality not unlike Zach Wilson’s to the table, which makes him a sensible choice for the Jets and their offense – a seemingly perfect fit to what is expected of the Jets under LaFleur and Salah this season. Moreover, Lance appears to be an extremely popular kid as many NFL scouts are gushing over his personality, leadership and other traits. His pocket presence has been compared to Dan Marino by some while others have suggested his physique puts him on par with Ben Roethlisberger. Whichever way one slices it, it’s a compliment to be compared to two of the game’s great quarterbacks in such a way.
Finally, Alabama Crimson Tide passer Mac Jones rounds out the top four quarterbacks identified in the 2021 NFL draft. However, few believe the Jets will draft him because the verdict on Jones is divided. The main knockback being that he’s more of a product of the system rather than pure talent alone. Of course, being part of a championship program can’t be overlooked but there are questions about his individual merit which does seem a bit harsh. In fact, the first Mac Jones appears in terms of draft betting odds is in markets for the third overall draft pick, which now belongs to San Francisco. There Jones is priced as the second-best bet at +150 after Justin Fields at -150.
All told, Zach Wilson appears to be a shoe-in for the Jets but betting on his odds offers little to no value anymore. If there’s a value bet to spot it comes in the form of a couple of players – Justin Fields or Trey Lance. Of course, it’s a longshot bet either way and not for the fainthearted, especially where the latter is concerned.
Justin Fields has long been held as the likely quarterback to go second overall and at +550 he represents decent return on investment. Trey Lance, by contrast, seems to be growing in support that would stand in stark contrast to his large +2000 NFL odds. Of course, it goes without saying, betting on Lance promises substantial reward should he come through as the second overall pick. Consider Lance’s rising stock across various sports betting sites, it’s not entirely improbable. That said, considering his limited play compared to his peers and his absence in 2020, Lance may be better suited for a team like the Niners who have an established starter in Jimmy Garoppolo that could lend a hand in the development and mentorship of Lance.
It’s impossible to know for certain how these developing trends will pan out in less than a fortnight when the draft gets underway. Wilson may well prove to be the correct NFL pick, or it may come down to a choice between Fields and Lance. Last minute tactics, smoke and mirrors designed to muddle the process are not unheard of. That said, it could be a genuine decision between Fields or Lance that could see either defy the odds and emerge as the surprise early draft pick that few would have predicted a few weeks ago. If it does come down to the pair, Fields may well be the more ready quarterback of the pair and that would make him the better choice for the Jets and what they’re looking for.