2021 NFL Draft: Jets' Zach Wilson success among five overreactions

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DJ Bean
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Bean: Did the Jets do something smart? And other draft overreactions originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If there’s one thing we learned from watching three years of Sam Darnold with the New York Jets, it was that… we actually had no idea if Sam Darnold was good or bad; you just couldn’t tell given the situation he was in. 

So it stood to reason Zach Wilson would be a candidate for a similar fate. They’d surround him with junk, he’d get hurt here and there and in the end, it just wouldn’t work out. 

Now that the 2021 NFL Draft is over? Never mind. From certain angles, it actually looks like the Jets might be putting something together. Not for this year or even the next, but they’re at least making the moves a team at rock bottom should make.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Pats strengthen their front-seven adding Barmore and Perkins in NFL Draft | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

That’s not always a given. Look what the Cincinnati Bengals did with a bad offensive line and a young quarterback recovering from a knee injury. They got Joe Burrow a star wide receiver with the fifth overall pick — a fine move — but weren’t nearly as urgent as they needed to be in addressing that line.

They traded down in the second round, passing on some good tackles in the process, before eventually taking the ninth offensive lineman off the board. Maybe Jackson Carman will do well at guard and eventually move to tackle, but the Bengals played with fire.  

The Jets played it smarter. They followed the Wilson pick by trading up 12 spots from No. 23 to take USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who might have been one of the safer prospects in the draft. He’ll play left guard next to 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton, meaning Wilson will at least be upright while he tries to establish himself. 

Then they got receiver Elijah Moore, a player who made a lot of sense for the New England Patriots, with the second pick of the second round. They ended up drafting two players with the same name (Michael Carter), which is confusing, but all in all, the Jets had a really smart draft. We’re not used to saying that.

So Wilson is going to have a chance. Based on the two days that followed his selection, it’s a decent bet that he’ll work out better than Darnold did in New York. He’s just got to hold up his end of the bargain.

Perry: Patriots draft grade and superlatives for all eight picks 

Here are four more overreactions from the 2021 draft: 

  • I just don’t get how the Patriots are so cool with punting on the receiver position. Their tight end signings mean we’ll see more 12 personnel, but even when you add in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, the Patriots’ group of pass-catchers isn’t exactly electric. Remember, Henry has durability questions and Smith finished 20th in receiving yards among tight ends last season.

  • Until Justin Fields proves he stinks (or the Chicago Bears make it impossible for him to be good), the Patriots shouldn’t be commended for standing pat in the first round. We’ve talked for two decades about the advantage of having the better quarterback. Now that the Patriots have chosen not to be aggressive at the position, it’s smarter to be thrifty. I don’t buy that. Get the best player you can at the most important position. 

All that said, I won’t be shocked at all if Jones is better in New England than Fields is in Chicago. That’s not the comparison we should make, though. We should ask ourselves what Fields would have been as a Patriot. 

  • The Buccaneers took Kyle Trask with the last pick of the second round. If he can play and Tampa Bay ends up having the smooth transition the Patriots and Tom Brady could never quite time right, that’s going to make Patriots fans’ heartbreak just a little worse. 

  • The Jets aren’t the only AFC East team to draft well. Although I think the Miami Dolphins really messed up the 2020 NFL Draft (and the jury’s obviously still out there), Chris Grier had a good showing this year. He ended up missing out on Kyle Pitts due to that trade with the 49ers, but going Jaylen Waddle over DeVonta Smith was the right move. 

The Buffalo Bills’ draft wasn’t spectacular, but they replenished their defensive ends in the first two rounds. The AFC East didn’t get any easier this offseason.