It’s officially fantasy football season, and in the interest of making you, the fantasy fanatic, smarter in your draft decisions, I started my “The Case of Fantasy Against” series. I’ve already covered the likes of Justin Herbert, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley, and will have more players to discuss in the coming weeks for all fans of the redesign. Of course, not everyone plays only in the traditional leagues. Dynasty leagues are gaining more popularity, and making the right decisions about the best rookies has an even greater impact in these formats. If you put yourself on a draft pick, it hurts a lot more.
The fantasy case against …
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson. With Sam Darnold no longer on the list, BYU’s product is a virtual lock to open his rookie season as a starter. When you also consider that the Jets added help on the offensive line and on the offense, it seems like everything is gearing up perfectly for Wilson to become a fantasy asset for dynasty managers. But will it meet expectations?
Wilson was very good last season, throwing for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 254 yards and scored 10 times on the ground. He throws an incredibly effective deep ball, completing 74.1 percent of passes over 30 yards passing in 2020. That was the best of any FCS quarterback in the past nine years. The boy has made what some would call impossible shots, stroking him deep on the run or off balance with relative ease. Nobody disputes that talent is present.
However, despite all its positives, there are also some concerns. Wilson can be labeled a “one-year wonder” since his first two seasons at BYU weren’t all that impressive. In fact, he wasn’t even guaranteed the starting job heading into 2020. While I wouldn’t call him fragile in any way, Wilson also faced shoulder and hand injuries in college.
Wilson also played behind an elite offensive line. According to PFF, he finished with a 96.5 rating in a clean, pressure-free pocket and a 74.1 rating when under pressure. The talented field general also did not face what you would call “elite” competition during his breakout season, and Wilson was 2-4 for his career against competition from the top 25.
Did you know
The Cougars haven’t been very successful in producing fantasy stars at the quarterback position. Steve Young was undoubtedly the cream of the BYU crop at the next level, but he was the exception rather than the rule. Aside from Young, the best communicators to come out of school are Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, Robbie Bosco, and Max Hall. Neither of them had a major statistical impact on the NFL.
BYU hasn’t been very successful when it comes to its players in the first round of the NFL draft, either. Young was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft, so he does not take this investigation into account. Overall, the Cougars have had 10 players in the first round of the NFL draft. Two of them, Marc Wilson (1980) and Jim McMahon (1982), were quarterbacks. The rest were a mix of offensive and defensive linemen, neither of whom had much of an impact on the NFL. Does this mean that Wilson will be next? Of course not, but it’s still a notable trend for BYU alumni.
Some NFL teams just can’t get it right when they select a quarterback in NFL draws. The Jets are the protagonists of that trend. Let’s start in 1983 when the Men in Green selected Ken O’Brien with the 24th overall pick. He got ahead of Dan Marino, who became one of the best quarterbacks of all time. While O’Brien had some decent seasons, he had more than 15 touchdown passes just twice with New York.
Now, fast forward to 1991 when the Jets took Browning Nagle in the second round. He finished his career with more interceptions than touchdowns. Jeff Blake was in the sixth round in 1992, but much of his statistical success came with the Bengals, and he only had two good fantasy seasons. Over the next several years, the Jets drafted Glenn Foley (1994) and Chuck Clement (1997) before landing Chad Pennington with the 18th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. It wasn’t terrible, going 32-29 during His time with the Jets, but it wasn’t a fantasy asset. In fact, Pennington never threw more than 3,352 yards in a season. He also had more than 19 touchdown passes once (2002).
The following seasons saw Gang Green shoot even more blanks at the quarterback, as Brooks Bollinger (2003), Brad Smith (2006), Kellen Clemens (2006) and Erik Ainge (2008) did nothing at the next level. . Only Clemens was more than a fourth-round pick, but a lot of last-round quarterbacks have accomplished great things (Tom Brady!).
If you are a Jets fan, now is the time you might want to move on to the next few paragraphs. In 2009, they made Mark Sanchez the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft. He had a good fantasy season in 2011 when he produced 3,474 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes. However, his six rushing touchdowns helped him, which was an outlier during his time with the Jets. In general, Sanchez is best known for the “butt fumble” when he ran into lineman Brandon Moore’s keister and lost the ball.
New York selected two quarterbacks in the second round over the next seven seasons, including Geno Smith (2013) and Christian Hackenberg (2016). Smith was rarely relevant in fantasy football circles, and Hackenberg never attempted an NFL pass.
Now to his most recent failure: Sam Darnold. The USC quarterback was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he was never one of the top 25 quarterbacks from a fantasy standpoint. He wouldn’t put all the blame on him though, as the Jets gave him too few weapons on offense and inexplicably hired Adam Gase to be their head coach after the Dolphins fired him. Now in Carolina, after a recent trade, maybe Darnold will reach his potential. However, he certainly did not do so while in the Big Apple.
Here’s one last note that is sure to drive Jets fans crazy.
Since 2012, Gang Green has mostly not made the right decision in the first round of the NFL draft. Quinton Copes (2012) and Dee Milliner (2013) were eliminated, while Sheldon Richardson (2013), Calvin Pryor (2014), Leonard Williams (2015), Darren Lee (2016), Jamal Adams (2017) and Darnold (2018) ) all have been negotiated. The jury is still out on Mekhi Becton (2020). Will Wilson be the next to be another New York draft flop?
The Jets overhauled their coaching staff in the offseason, hiring former Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as their head coach. Saleh brought in Mike LaFleur, who has never been an NFL offensive coordinator but has worked with Kyle Shanahan since 2014. Since then, LaFleur has been an offensive assistant in Atlanta, as well as a passing games coordinator and wide receiver coach in San Francisco. . From 2018 to 2020, the Niners finished in the top 10 in scoring, total offense and rushing offense.
However, an important note when it comes to Wilson is the lack of success that fantasy point-based quarterbacks have had under the duo of Shanahan and LaFleur. Since 2014, only Matt Ryan (2016 – QB2) has ranked above 14 in fantasy points. To their credit, the duo haven’t had what they would call superstar quarterbacks. Aside from Ryan, his roster of field generals includes Jimmy Garoppolo (sorry, not a fantasy football star), Brian Hoyer, Nick Mullens, and CJ Beathard. Could Wilson be the best for LaFleur?
There is a lot of excitement surrounding Wilson right now, and he has shown the talent and ability to be a potential impact maker at the next level. However, the trends we’ve seen with BYU quarterbacks at the NFL level and the Jets’ historic failures as an organization in selecting signal callers raise concerns. Gang Green fans would say that the past doesn’t matter and current general manager Joe Douglas has a brilliant mind and will change the direction of the franchise. Those things could be true.
The Jets have also added help throughout the offense, as the line now features rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker and newly hired Morgan Moses. The team also signed Corey Davis and Tevin Coleman and selected Michael Carter and Elijah Moore in the NFL draft. The team also brings back Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims and Chris Herndon from 2020.
Still, would anyone be surprised if Wilson was just another in a long list of failed first-round picks by the Jets? Or that for all his talent, he couldn’t get the job done at the next level like so many other elite quarterback prospects? Fantasy fans, especially those in the dynasty leagues, should think twice before investing heavily in it.
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Michael Fabiano he is an award-winning fantasy football analyst in Illustrated Sports and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Y Instagram for your latest great news and the best analysis in the industry.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.