3. Trading their prized top-3 2021 draft pick: San Francisco 49ers
After seeing that Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't the answer, the San Francisco 49ers were so desperate for a QB they traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins to jump up to third in the 2021 NFL Draft.
This massive investment occurred before the draft, indicating they were confident that their guy would be available regardless of what the Jaguars and Jets did at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
While I will always die on the hill that the Jets should've traded that No. 2 pick for a similar type of haul that the Dolphins acquired, the Jets had other plans and drafted Zach Wilson, while the 49ers picked Trey Lance.
While Wilson was thrown into the fire with one of Kyle Shanahan's proteges Mike LaFleur, Lance got to develop behind the aforementioned Garoppolo with the actual Kyle Shanahan as his coach.
He only appeared in five games, but he had five touchdowns to two interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.3 in that limited action. In the three games that Lance threw 18+ passes as a rookie, he threw four touchdowns and one interception and had two games with passer ratings over 110.
For reference, Zach Wilson has now started in three consecutive seasons for the Jets and has never thrown for four touchdowns in any three-game span of his career.
He became the first player in league history to be dead last in passer rating among qualified passers in two consecutive seasons (2021 & 2022). Zach Wilson had zero games with a passer rating over 100 in his rookie year and still only has one game over 110 in his three years as a starter.
- Trey Lance: 8 career games played, 2 games with 110+ passer rating, 6 total TDs (0.75 TD rate)
- Zach Wilson: 34 career games played, 1 game with 110+ passer rating, 28 total TDs (82.3 rate)
Can you guess which of these players was traded this past offseason by the team that drafted him? Don't talk about Brock Purdy because the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers, so in both situations, there was a QB on the roster who was the favorite to start over the prized 2021 draft pick.
Of course, Purdy is only six months older than Lance and is much cheaper, so both of those factor into roster construction differently than Rodgers being 16 years older than Wilson and much more expensive.
Still, especially with their extensive QB injury history, it wasn't hurting the 49ers to keep Lance on the roster and keep developing him alongside Purdy in the case of injury or any other sort of needed assurance.
Instead, they brought in Sam Darnold, a young, promising QB, as competition, and he beat out Lance for the backup job. With Purdy and Darnold in the room, they are 60 minutes away from potentially winning the ultimate prize on the world's biggest stage.
While this certainly was a fatal mistake for the Jets in 2023, this has been part of the entire saga of Wilson's career with the Jets.
Wilson has never been challenged for the job. Even with Rodgers, they were automatically slotted into their QB1 and QB2 roles, so while Wilson has been benched mid-game or season for just about every QB the Jets have employed in the last three years, he has never had to grind an entire offseason to out-work a competing option.
The Niners were able to admit they made a massive mistake by trading four picks and just traded their guy away for a fourth-rounder.
Just like Hackett on the previous slide, it seems like the front office was just too worried about hurting Wilson's feelings or ego, so they just kept riding with him in a position where he didn't belong. As a result, it'll be a miracle to recoup the fourth-round pick San Francisco was able to get.
Just to think, if the Jets traded Wilson and either rolled with Mike White as QB2 or got an actual quality veteran like Gardner Minshew or Carson Wentz, the previous slides would be nullified because their offensive wouldn't look as bad as it did (we hope) and the replacement needed for Rodgers would've already been on the roster.
Better luck next year, I guess.