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New York Jets coach, executive argued Zach Wilson was ‘better’ than Trevor Lawrence before 2021 NFL Draft

Coming off a 2022 season that saw Trevor Lawrence solidify himself as a franchise quarterback, the New York Jets enter another offseason with uncertainty at the most important position in football.

New York has encountered plenty of opportunities to get things right. Holding the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets drafted Sam Darnold only to trade him for Day 2 picks three years later. Trading Darnold was supposed to open the door for Zach Wilson, selected No. 2 overall in 2021, with the entire organization confident Wilson could be the face of the franchise.

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Instead, Wilson’s immediate future in New York is grim. The organization is expected to hang onto him in 2023, still believing in his physical tools. However, the commitment to the young quarterback might also be tied to sentiments held in the draft room before Wilson was picked.

Rich Cimini of ESPN detailed what went wrong for Wilson in New York, providing an in-depth perspective on the 2022 season and the pre-draft process.

Related: Zach Wilson could have influence on New York Jets trading for Aaron Rodgers

While it was known that general manager Joe Douglas was sold on Wilson months before picking him, it seems some influential voices might’ve been even higher on the former BYU star but there was some divide in the building.

A source inside the Jets’ front office said evaluators with the club were split. Some didn’t believe that Wilson warranted the second overall pick. Instead, skeptics within New York’s scouting department believed Wilson was a very unfinished produced who needed multiple years to develop into an NFL starter.

However, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and assistant general manager Rex Hogan reportedly stood by Douglas and even suggested Wilson was better than Lawrence.

“[LaFleur], along with Rex Hogan, were in 2021 draft meetings selling the narrative that there was a legit argument Wilson was better than [No. 1 overall pick] Trevor Lawrence. [Some of us], we’re like, ‘What the f—?!’ It’s one thing to like a player; it’s another to pump a prospect up higher than he actually is.”

New York Jets source on Mike LaFleur and Rex Hogan’s belief in Zach Wilson

Just two years later, Lawrence helped lead Jacksonville to an AFC South title and a home playoff game. He demonstrated the makeup and physical skills that made him the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, held in the same high regard as Andrew Luck and John Elway.

Meanwhile, New York was forced to bench Wilson multiple times this past season including for journeyman quarterback Chris Streveler.

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While LaFleur is no longer with the Jets, taking over as the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator, Hogan remains the assistant general manager and he oversees both the college and pro scouting departments.