Under the previous regime, the New York Jets did not give themselves a fair chance to evaluate the player they wanted to be their franchise quarterback. It’s entirely possible that Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, would have failed to live up to expectations no matter what the Jets did, but the group they surrounded him with on offense was never one that gave him a chance to succeed.
By the end of Darnold’s tenure in New York, the Jets were working with one of the league’s worst offensive lines and one of its least-inspiring skill position groups. It was ugly. Fast forward a little more than a year, and the Jets have put in a tremendous amount of work to upgrade the group around their new quarterback, Zach Wilson, whom they selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Take a look at their three-deep depth chart on offense from the end of the 2020 season, compared with the depth chart as they come out of the 2022 NFL Draft. Of the 29 players listed from 2020, only eight remain, only two or three of which are surefire starters. Everything else has been swapped out.
New York landed a player it hopes can return to form as its long-term left tackle (Mekhi Becton) in the 2020 draft and still has holdovers like Connor McGovern and George Fant as potential starters and both Greg Van Roten and Chuma Edoga as backups. But Denzel Mims is way down the depth chart at wide receiver now, as is Jeff Smith. Joe Flacco is still hanging around as a potential backup quarterback option but isn’t a major part of the team.
The Jets have used major resources to give Wilson better options just about everywhere else. They sprung for Corey Davis, Laken Tomlinson, CJ Uzomah, and Tyler Conklin in free agency. They used early draft picks on Elijah Moore, Garret Wilson, Breece Hall, and Jeremy Ruckert. They saw Braxton Berrios turn into an All-Pro return man and gave him a larger role in the offense as well.
It’s a much deeper, more versatile group, at every position. The Jets have actual quality depth on the offensive line, including several players who can play multiple positions. They have receivers who can fill multiple different roles and create yardage with the ball in their hands. They have two running backs who can both do work between the tackles and catch the ball on the perimeter. Rather than having nothing at tight end, they have two starter-quality options.
If nothing else, the upgrades they have made will allow the Jets a very clean evaluation of Wilson, who has this year and next to prove he is worthy before he becomes eligible for a contract extension. In the best-case scenario, the Jets don’t even have to make that decision, because it will be made for them due to his play on the field. In the worst case, they’ll know they did everything they could to put him in position to succeed, making it easier to determine whether his potential shortcomings are his own or due to the roster around him.