So, you could say Friday has been a busy day in the NFL.
BYU QB Zach Wilson had his pro day in Utah, which immediately made news because despite skepticism in some circles, the signal-caller’s measurements stacked up right around where he had claimed they would be all along.
Then, with top league decision makers in attendance, including top brass from the New York Jets, Wilson put on a show and seemed to quiet any doubters about his arm strength.
On any normal day, this would have been more than enough to drive a NFL news cycle.
But this wasn’t a normal day.
Just as Wilson was getting ready to throw, a trade hit the wire that completely shook up the dynamics of April’s draft, as the Miami Dolphins traded down from #3 overall with the San Francisco 49ers.
San Francisco moving up to #3 overall can only mean one thing: Kyle Shanahan has his eyes on a QB.
We know from our friend Nick Spano at uStadium that the 49ers have had discussions with the New York Jets about a possible trade for Sam Darnold to the point where San Francisco was identified as the team that had been “most aggressive” in a pursuit of Gang Green’s QB thus far.
One would naturally think that if the Jets had conversations with San Francisco about Darnold, they must have also chatted about the #2 pick at some point because it would make no logical sense for a team to move up to #3 if they could have had #2, especially given the strong relationship between Gang Green’s current coaching staff and top 49ers brass.
What this almost certainly means is that the New York Jets know who they want to pick at #2 and it is a quarterback, since nobody would turn down a haul like the one San Francisco just gave Miami if they wanted a player at any other position.
But which QB?
Philadelphia may have given us a clue, as not long after Miami’s move from #3 to #12, they jumped back up to #6 via a trade with the Eagles.
The Eagles moving down wouldn’t necessarily be relevant to what the New York Jets are doing at #2 overall on its own, unless you consider this report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, which came shortly after he initially tweeted that Philadelphia had considered trying to trade up to #3, but did not believe that would land them Zach Wilson:
To sum up: the Eagles really liked Wilson, but sitting at #6, they did not feel they could get him, so they traded down to build the rest of the roster.
All of this points to one likely conclusion: The New York Jets have all but decided to take Wilson at #2 and other teams know it.
Now, let’s say Gang Green has indeed decided to select Wilson #2 overall (pending medical checking out): What exactly does that mean for the team’s incumbent starter, Sam Darnold?
Last week, I argued that the New York Jets were mishandling the Darnold situation by holding onto him for too long and allowing the market for the former USC star to dwindle.
Whereas there was at one time reportedly a list of 8 teams that had called Gang Green to inquire about the quarterback, it was fair to wonder how many of those teams had taken themselves out of the running by making other arrangements at the position.
Chicago signed Andy Dalton for $10 million and are already on the hook to Nick Foles for $12 million. Washington signed both Taylor Heinicke and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Pittsburgh announced the return of Ben Rothlisberger. New Orleans re-signed Jameis Winston. And now San Francisco has traded up to #3 to get their guy.
At this point, who is even left?
Understanding that Darnold only has one-year left on his contract and that a team trading for him would be wasting an asset if he doesn’t at least have a strong chance of playing for them, the only teams that would appear to make sense on paper are the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
Carolina has Teddy Bridgwater, who is fine, but not considered a long-term answer. However, even if they see Darnold as a potential upgrde over Bridgewater, they also pick 8th in the draft, so they could choose to trade up for a quarterback or get aggressive in pursuit of Houston’s Deshaun Watson.
Denver is in a similar situation, with only the unproven Drew Lock in the fold. John Elway reportedly really liked Darnold heading into the 2018 draft, but like Carolina, even if he sees the #3 overall pick from that year as a possible improvement over Lock, he may prefer to trade up for a quarterback or chase Watson.
Essentially, while the Jets are in an exciting position now – being able to select a QB in April whom it appears they have decided they really like – unfortunately, in the process, they may very well have destroyed any chance to get quality value for the man Wilson would be coming in to replace.