The focus for the New York Jets coming off one of their worst years now shifts to the upcoming offseason. Interestingly, no matter how much the team has to address other needs, it seems to constantly be working on a quarterback change. Sam Darnold has been said to have been placed on the trade block.
Meanwhile, New York could be looking to bring in a new playmaker of the caliber of Deshaun Watson. However, the demand for Watson is much bigger than that for Darnold. Therefore, another widely-discussed option could be drafting a quarterback in the Jets 2021 NFL Draft.
How We Got Here
In 2020, Sam Darnold had the worst campaign of his three-year stint at the professional level. The former USC standout posted a passer rating of 72.7, a career-low. Furthermore, Darnold had a completion percentage of 59.6%, slightly better than his nearly 57% in 2018. However, he made about 50 throws fewer in his rookie year.
This marked a significant downturn compared to his promising sophomore year (84.3: 61.9%). Even in that campaign, some components of his game left a lot to be desired. However the improvements, even with an increased workload, were noticeable as Darnold became a much more prolific pocket passer.
The obvious reason for his rise and fall is the weapons that have surrounded him throughout his tenure. As a rookie, Sam Darnold found it difficult to get off to a fast start with just Robby Anderson as a reliable target. The next year saw him flourish with the support of the star duo of Anderson and Jamison Crowder. Also, his performance in both years was affected by a lack of depth in the receiving corps.
However, when Anderson departed to Carolina and the Jets failed to address both his absence and the lack of depth, he re-aired his 2018 display, if not to a worse outcome. Most people have realized the urgency for pass-catching upgrades. Moreover, Sam Darnold has to also be assigned his share of the blame as 2020 was not a solid year, even with the circumstances.
Last year’s situation raised some important questions. Firstly, will Watson, or Justin Fields, or Zach Wilson amount for any net increase in quality at QB with a receiving core of this caliber? Secondly, does wasting draft picks (or money) on a new QB, instead of dealing with other position shortcomings, do any justice for the Jets to improve upon last year’s 2-14 fiasco?
Those are the most crucial questions as regards the Jets 2021 NFL Draft. When it comes to Justin Fields, the frontrunner to get the nod at No.2, they have some very clear answers.
Jets 2021 NFL Draft: An Overview of Justin Fields
Justin Fields has made a name for himself for Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to two straight Big Ten titles and a trip to the National Championship game. However, considering the program’s overwhelming dominance in recent years, it’s difficult to assess Fields’s transition to the much more mature and competitive NFL game.
Justin Fields has shown signs that are reminiscent of young quarterbacks that have struggled when joining the professional ranks. Yet, he seems to have some leverage that they don’t, making him a promising option (on paper) even for the Jets 2021 NFL Draft.
As crunching the numbers becomes a top priority, the most positive component of Fields’s game is very apparent. For a quarterback who frequently runs the ball (about a 3-to-1 ratio), Justin Fields has been surprisingly accurate in both of his last two seasons in the NCAA.
In 2019, Fields ranked third within the conference in completion percentage with 67.2%. Moreover, he managed to increase that accuracy rate to 70.2% the following campaign, climbing to sixth in Division I and second within the Big Ten. Even though he had over 130 rushing attempts during the former season, he still managed to balance that trade-off and remain fairly solid through the air.
However, there’s a catch. Firstly, his initial NFL team, if he lands a top-10 selection, will not have the weapons that the Buckeyes provided him with. Secondly, it is noticeable how his accuracy drops when the workload goes up.
Therefore, if he plays a full season at the NFL level (something that will be a reality if the Jets draft him), he will register even more pass attempts with NFL teams playing 16 games. With tougher opposition, lack of weaponry, and insufficient ground game, everything could amount to a further decrease in that department. New York should take their time and evaluate Fields, as the Jets 2021 NFL draft is detrimental for future success.
Of course, a QB like Fields isn’t expected to experience the smoothest of transitions for an organization like the New York Jets. Nonetheless, many quarterbacks with his playing style would die for these completion numbers. That makes Fields’s resume much better upon further review, albeit not as good as the likes of Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence, and Zach Wilson. But the latter is a story for another article.
Jets 2021 NFL Draft: Team Offseason Needs
As mentioned about a million times so far, the biggest objection to the Jets trading Darnold, getting Watson, or drafting whoever it may be under center, has been that the Jets have many needs heading into the offseason. Unsurprisingly, the quarterback is nowhere near the most severe ones. The Jets 2021 NFL draft could be more well spent on other positions of need.
We already laid down the potential top priorities for Joe Douglas, including the Jets 2021 NFL Draft. In short, those are down to two tiers: secondary/wide receivers and offensive line/pass-rush/running back. New York was amongst the worst teams in the league or struggled mightily in all of those departments.
Heading into a busy offseason, the Jets have to provide both new starters and depth to their poor defense against the pass. NY’s secondary as a unit allowed a passer rating of 103.2 and a completion percentage of 69.1. The Jets were within the bottom four in both of those categories. Fixing this should be a top priority in the Jets 2021 NFL draft.
Additionally, the same applied to the club’s awful air raid, which found itself amongst the three worst teams in the NFL in yards, accuracy, and rating. Not to mention, if the team intends to add a rookie QB, getting him better weapons should be the main task even before that arrival.
The O-Line, which conceded 43 sacks, and the running game, which lacks options going forward, could also get Sam Darnold back to his old glory. Fixing the offensive line after the struggles at the guard posts would ensure time and accuracy for Sam. Meanwhile, a consistent ground-game would take off some of that workload, making for balance and efficiency.
One can only wonder why so many teams continue playing the “The QB Is the Only Player” game. But, needless to say, addressing the aforementioned issues would result in much more improvement at QB. With Darnold in charge and building around him makes more sense than simply replacing him.
An excellent example of how teams load up to make sure a quarterback feels comfortable is the new Superbowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay built weaponry around the playmaker spots before Tom Brady‘s signing. The difference with his last few years in New England was dramatic. Many teams keep thinking that Darnold has unfulfilled talent in the pocket. Simply put, the Jets have missed out on that star power due to not supporting him. For the Jets 2021 NFL draft, they may be better off finally building a team around Darnold for once.
Jets 2021 NFL Draft: The Impact of Drafting Justin Fields
The primary concern applies to not only Justin Field. It goes for any other quarterback in the draft. Furthermore, it also goes for any activity aimed at getting a new QB at the expense of capital, whether it’s the Jets 2021 NFL draft picks or cap space, that could be used elsewhere. The problem is that Sam Darnold has never had the weapons to prove his capabilities.
Just the opposite. Sam Darnold has shown that he could be very productive and lead an efficient passing offense, as far as depth and coaching allow him to. Aiming to provide depth on the roster in the Jets 2021 NFL draft could elevate the team beyond expectations.
If the team decides to bring in Fields, or simply any other QB, in the Jets 2021 NFL Draft, it passes on prospects that could help unveil Darnold’s potential. Those players include Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith at WR. Rashawn Slater at G, or Caleb Farley at CB, to name a few. All of those would lessen the bleeding as regards severe needs. Moreover, this could even absorb extra draft capital in the Jets 2021 NFL draft if New York opts to trade down.
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