Jets Called On to ‘Face Reality’ & Make Unexpected QB Trade

C.J. Stroud

Getty An NFL analyst believes the New York Jets should trade up for a quarterback prospect like Ohio State's C.J. Stroud.

With the 2022 campaign officially over after Week 18, New York Jets fans have set their sights on the offseason and one major question looms the largest: Who will be starting at quarterback for Gang Green next year?

It’s no secret that the assumption is a veteran signal-caller will take over for failed youngsters Zach Wilson and Mike White in 2023. After all, general manager Joe Douglas (20-45) is running out of time heading into year five of his NYJ tenure and head coach Robert Saleh (11-22) is staring at year three.

At least until they prove they can make the playoffs, Wilson may have been this regime’s only shot at drafting and developing a quarterback — but according to FanSided national reporter Matt Verderame, the Jets only real chance in the AFC is to try again in the 2023 draft.

Verderame: Jets Must Trade Up for C.J. Stroud or Will Levis

As of now, Alabama’s Bryce Young feels like the consensus No. 1 overall pick next April, but there are at least three other premier quarterback talents in this draft class: Will Levis (Kentucky), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) and Anthony Richardson (Florida).

During a recent article with FanSided, Verderame explained why one or two of them could be available for a borderline AFC contender like the Jets or the New England Patriots that are a QB away from being successful — and why both should stop at nothing to trade up for a new franchise signal-caller.

“The AFC is being dominated by young, transcendent quarterbacks,” Verderame began. “In that vein, a few fringe contenders can’t lie to themselves this off-season. Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence, and Deshaun Watson. All are top-10 talents at the NFL’s paramount position. All are 27 years old or younger… In short, it’s going to be very tough to make any run, let alone the postseason, if you’re an AFC team without an elite quarterback.”

That was the theory behind drafting Wilson, a dual-threat unicorn out of BYU. The only problem was his lack of seasoning combined with the Jets’ inability to coach him up. They could try again in 2023, but they must do so with a veteran offensive staff this time.

“In New York, Zach Wilson is finished,” Verderame continued later. “Head coach Robert Saleh can give all the false hope he desires, but Wilson can’t play [there]. He’s worse than Mike White, who is a fifth-year journeyman.”

“Normally, the [Tennessee] Titans, Patriots, and Jets — all 7-8 and currently picking 15th, 16th, and 17th [in the 2023 draft], respectively — would have no shot at landing such talents. However, this isn’t a normal draft,” the writer illustrated. “Partially due to last year’s trade bonanza, many teams picking early won’t need quarterbacks. The Philadelphia Eagles may have a top-10 selection and no use for a signal-caller. The Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions could take a quarterback, but they’ve gotten quality play this season from their veterans. The Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals both hold top-five picks through 15 games, and neither needs a quarterback.”

Verderame concluded that this provides the Jets with an “incredible opportunity.”

Reasoning: “While it’ll be expensive, they can trade up and use their mid-first rounders along with future draft capital to acquire their futures. If they don’t, they have no chance. Yes, there’s the choice of signing Jimmy Garoppolo or Geno Smith in free agency, or trading for Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr. But what’s the point? Outside of Rodgers, none have the chops to win the AFC… This season, we saw the Jets, Patriots and Titans all give their fanbases hope. But as the weather turned along with the screws of opposing defenses, all three fell apart from the quarterback out. Come the offseason, either make a big move or face reality: you have no chance.”

C.J. Stroud Makes the Most Sense

Considering Richardson feels like another total project QB — like Wilson — and Young and Levis are expected to go top five, the Jets best bet would be Stroud if they go this route.

Ohio State quarterbacks tend to drop in drafts because of an unfair stigma. We saw it with Justin Fields and many before him.

Can Douglas and Saleh right their previous wrong, passing on the more battle-tested Fields in favor of Wilson? While also doing a better job of developing their selection this time around?

The argument can definitely be made that the Jets need a transcendent talent to get past the perennial MVP candidates in the AFC on a yearly basis (Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Jackson). I’ve even made that argument myself.

At the same time, there’s no telling whether or not the Jets have the capability to develop a QB prospect in New York under a defensive-minded head coach. Historically speaking, they have not been able to do so since Joe Namath and why should any fan believe that’s going to change with Stroud or any other prospect?

Stroud only has two years of starting experience at Ohio State, but he has proven himself against NFL defenders of the future. While the Buckeye can scramble and move the pocket when needed, the 6-foot-3 gunslinger is more of a strong-armed, accurate passer with over 8,100 yards through the air in his past 15 games and 85 passing TDs compared to just 12 interceptions.

Pro Football Network draft analyst Ian Cummings described him as “a true franchise-caliber passer, with the physical and intangible tools to lead a winning team.”

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