Trevor Lawrence vs. Zach Wilson: Will Rams be taking the QB draft risk in 2023?
The 2021 NFL draft contained one of the most hotly debated quarterback classes of all time, but not until the San Francisco 49ers traded with the Philadelphia Eagles for the third draft pick. There was no doubt who would be first and second. Thursday night’s game between the Jaguars and the Jets will feature those two top picks.
Will the Los Angeles Rams go quarterback hunting behind and ahead of Matthew Stafford in the 2023 NFL Draft with uncertainty?
A top pick in the 2018 college freshman class, Trevor Lawrence has long been a top pick in the 2021 draft. The decision became a no-brainer after Lawrence Clemson led to a national championship in 2019 with 30 TDs and four interceptions as a true freshman in a 15-0 season. Lawrence’s junior season wasn’t quite as impressive, but he finished second in the Heisman vote behind DeVonta Smith, and it took the Jaguars little research to make their decision on who would be number one.
Though the entire class of 2021 has struggled as rookies and most continue to fumble through the sophomore year, Lawrence has been one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks in the past six games: 14 TDs, one interception, 140 rushing yards while Jacksonville is 4th -2 in this range.
Nothing could be further from the Zach Wilson case.
The New York Jets never seemed interested in trading down or keeping Sam Darnold after securing the number two spot, as most analysts considered Wilson a clear number two and a future star from BYU. Now he’s hoping for a similar career resurgence as another former BYU QB who was terrible in his first two seasons: Steve Young.
That may seem an unattainable dream. But it’s still very early in Wilson’s career.
After a near-devastating preseason injury, Wilson returned in Week 4 and won five of his first six starts, but not without massive struggles. The Jets won in spite of him, not because of him, and head coach Robert Saleh benched Wilson for Mike White in late November. Now the team is back with Wilson after suffering a rib injury from White, but he lost to the Lions 18-of-35 last week.
There is no doubt about the ceiling. Wilson is electric even when he sucks, which most of the time he is. But with 55% completions, six touchdowns, six interceptions in eight games, Wilson is in danger of permanently losing a starting gig without a turnaround in the near future. If not, the Jets will leave Wilson open to trade offers.
Maybe Les Snead wouldn’t mind giving Wilson his second chance.
In any case, the Rams need to at least scout quarterbacks in the 2023 class, and although LA isn’t picking until the second round, intriguing options could fall from the first in that class. If teams are put off by poor collegiate production and the careers of Kentucky’s Will Levis or Florida’s Anthony Richardson, the Rams may be able to beat a quarterback in the second round.
Since a player like Richardson would need several years of development anyway, he could sit behind Matthew Stafford in the early stages of his NFL career with no pressure to succeed. But if Stafford gets injured again, the Rams would be stuck and putting a player out there who isn’t ready, potentially repeating the mistakes of 2022.
Jets and Jaguars is Thursday night football. What do you see of these two young quarterbacks? And should the Rams at least be open to a future at QB?