There’s Still a Sliver of Hope for the Busts of the 2021 QB Class

So you're telling me there's a chance

Zach Wilson throws a pass against the Bills.
Zach Wilson has a chance at a fresh start with the Denver Broncos.
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Like Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and Sam Darnold before him, Zach Wilson was drafted to play quarterback for the Jets but flamed out in somewhat spectacular fashion under the bright lights of New York City. Like many of his predecessors, Wilson was traded for peanuts and was sent to Denver for a sixth-round pick in a deal that also requires the Jets to send a seventh-round pick and pay half of their former quarterback’s $5.5 million salary.

The Jets, who are hoping to squeeze at least a couple of good years out of Aaron Rodgers before he hangs up his spikes, can now move forward without having the stench of arguably the worst draft pick in Jets’ history (and that’s saying something) lingering around a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Wilson — who was selected No. 2 overall in 2021 and completed just 57% of his passes for 6,293 yards, 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions across 33 starts (12-21 record) — will have the chance to compete for the starting job in Denver where the Broncos are attempting to overcome a failed quarterback experiment of their own.

It shouldn’t take much for the 24-year-old to beat out current Bronco quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci, neither of whom has demonstrated the ability to be a franchise QB in the NFL. It also won’t take much for Sean Payton, who is probably one of the only coaches capable of salvaging Wilson’s career, to cut bait with the 24-year-old completely and release him, as the Broncos have not invested much in the former BYU standout.

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With the trade of Wilson, four of the five quarterbacks who were selected in the first 15 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft have been moved to a new team, and none brought back more than a third-day pick. Like Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Trey Lance, Wilson was viewed as a bust. And, like Fields (who’s now a Steeler), Jones (who’s now a Jaguar) and Lance (who’s now a Cowboy), Wilson will have a chance to reverse the arc of his career with a strong second act.

Based on what Wilson has shown so far at the NFL level, there’s little reason to think he’ll find success in Denver, but it makes plenty of sense for Payton and the Broncos to take a flyer on the former Jet. Natural talent, after all, has never been the issue for the Mormon Mahomes. Wilson’s problems have more been his head and his heart, but it’s possible the Jets, who do not have a strong track record in developing young quarterbacks, didn’t put him in the best position to use either one properly.

It could be that Wilson is just a late-bloomer who didn’t get the right nourishment in New York. After three disastrous years with the Jets, that’s probably the best scenario Wilson could hope for.

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