BYU quarterback Zach Wilson warms up before participating in the...

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson warms up before participating in the school's pro day football workout for NFL scouts Friday, March 26, 2021, in Provo, Utah.  Credit: AP/Rick Bowmer

Zach Wilson’s arm strength, athleticism and ability to make ridiculous throws on the move and at just about any arm angle are just some of the reasons that the former Brigham Young quarterback is expected to be taken by the Jets with the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft.

Wilson also happens to have plenty of familiarity with the Jets’ new offense under former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Wilson played in a similar system at BYU.

You might say Wilson is a perfect fit.

"We’re not shy about the fact that we use a lot of 49ers film to shape our offense," BYU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said by phone. "A lot of people in the game have commented to me about how much we looked like that. We have some connection to the Chiefs as well because Andy Reid is a BYU guy. But [Wilson] fits that system very well."

Roderick, who was BYU's passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach during Wilson's three years at the school and just became offensive coordinator, then described why the potential next Jets quarterback could shine playing in that wide-zone scheme that features a lot of play-action passes and quarterback rollouts. Wilson did last season as a BYU junior, finishing with 33 touchdown passes and 10 rushing touchdowns against three interceptions.

"They run a lot of protections where the pocket’s pretty wide and the quarterback gets some depth and gets a chance to get some good vision and a lot of down-the-field throws," Roderick said. "He’s a very accurate deep-ball thrower. There’s a lot of throws in that offense that are down-the-field, chunk-type plays.

"The other thing I like is a lot of the throws with the quarterback on the move where he can throw it or run it. I think Zach will thrive in that system, if that’s what ends up happening."

At this point, it would be stunning if the Jets didn’t take Wilson to replace Sam Darnold and become the latest quarterback who they hope can lead them to greatness. Ohio State’s Justin Fields once was linked to the Jets, but the overwhelming belief is Wilson is their guy.

The Jets believed Darnold could be the guy when they took him with the No. 3 pick in 2018. Three years later, they’re starting over again, and likely with Wilson. He does have traits similar to Darnold in terms of his maturity and wanting to improve through tireless work.

"He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, for coaching, for criticism," Roderick said. "He’s never happy with me telling him, ‘Hey, good job.’ If I’m saying good job, he wants to know why it was a good job. He wants more. ‘What wasn’t good about it.’ He wants to be coached on every single thing he does.

"I just have never been around a guy who was more committed to the game, more committed to learning. He’s football 24-7, 365 days a year. He’s all ball all the time."

General manager Joe Douglas has to do a better job of surrounding his next quarterback with better pieces than the Jets gave Darnold. But like Darnold, Wilson will have the weight of the franchise on his shoulders.

Being asked to end the Jets’ playoff skid, which began after a loss to the Steelers in January 2011, and their Super Bowl drought, which began more than half a century ago, is a lot to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old who didn’t play in one of the top conferences.

Roderick, who has known Wilson since he was a pre-teen, believes he will be able to handle the pressure, the criticism and whatever comes his way.

"He has a lot of confidence in himself," Roderick said. "He’s really just comfortable just being who he is. He’s comfortable with who he is. He’s not easily rattled by criticism. Look, playing QB at BYU is nowhere [near] the NY media. But the tradition of QB play at this university is really high.

"He was never rattled by criticism. He handled it with class and grace. I think he’s got a lot of maturity and confidence in himself that will lend itself to having a chance to succeed in that environment if that’s what happens. I think he’s got the right makeup to handle it."

Three positions Jets will target

The Jets are likely to use the No. 2 pick on a quarterback, but there are three other positions they will try to address in the NFL Draft:

1. Cornerback: The Jets didn’t fill this hole in free agency, but with the No. 23 pick they could draft a big potential lock-down corner with the size new coach Robert Saleh likes at that position.

2. Offensive lineman: The Jets need to protect their new quarterback. After taking cornerstone left tackle Mekhi Becton last year, they could pick a stud interior linemen or bookend tackle at 23 or 34.

3. Edge rusher: This is a perennial need for the Jets, and with their late first-round or early-second round selections they could find an edge rusher to play opposite free-agent pickup Carl Lawson.


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