There was little doubt a year ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft that Trevor Lawrence would be selected first overall. The Jets and Jaguars eventually battled for the No. 1 pick, but after New York won two of its last three games in 2020, it was Jacksonville that had the chance to draft a quarterback many considered to be one of the best prospects in recent memory.
With Lawrence destined for Jacksonville, the Jets had plenty of time to decide who to draft second overall. General manager Joe Douglas settled on Zach Wilson, whose raw arm strength paved the way for a breakout 2020 season at BYU.
Lawrence and Wilson’s careers have taken twists and turns through nearly two NFL seasons, but their trajectories are starting to point in completely different directions.
As they prepare to face each other in the midst of a playoff race, The Sporting News looks at how Lawrence and Wilson stack up against each other.
MORE: How the Jets can still earn AFC wild-card berth after extending losing streak
Trevor Lawrence vs. Zach Wilson
This is the second time Lawrence and Wilson are facing off since they entered the NFL. Wilson and the Jets won the first meeting last year. It’s unlikely that another Jets win on “Thursday Night Football” will convince anyone that Wilson was the better choice.
Lawrence has transformed into one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks in his second season, showing steady improvement under Doug Pederson after a tumultuous first year under Urban Meyer.
In fact, Lawrence has been excellent of late, tossing 13 touchdowns and just one interception over his last five games while leading the Jaguars back into AFC South contention. He appears to be over the turnover issues that plagued him as a rookie, and his upward trajectory may make Jacksonville the favorite in the AFC South entering 2023.
MORE: How Jacksonville can still win AFC South in NFL playoff picture
Wilson, on the other hand, has not shown the same progress.
Like Lawrence, he struggled more than he thrived as a rookie, but he showed signs of improvement when he cut back on turnovers late last season. Wilson opened his 2022 season 5-1 as the Jets’ starter, but he threw just one touchdown pass across his first four games and continued to struggle with decision-making.
Robert Saleh benched Wilson after an ugly performance against the Patriots in Week 11, which was compounded by the quarterback’s unwillingness to take responsibility afterward.
MORE: It sure sounds like Zach Wilson is losing the Jets’ locker room
A rib injury to Mike White has pushed Wilson back under center for the Jets, but his future with the team beyond this season is very much up in the air.
Trevor Lawrence stats
Lawrence has made huge strides from his rookie season. He finished 2021 tied for the league lead in interceptions but has 17 more touchdowns than INTs so far this season.
Lawrence’s accuracy has also improved dramatically, though the arrivals of wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones have helped give him a more stable group of weapons.
Of course, we may never know how Lawrence’s rookie season would have turned out if Urban Meyer hadn’t been at the helm of the Jaguars, but the Clemson product’s talent is now shining through after that experience.
MORE: Fantasy QB Rankings Week 16: Who to start, sit at quarterback in fantasy football
Even if this late-season surge doesn’t produce a playoff berth, the Jaguars are clearly set up well for the future with Lawrence and Pederson in place.
Zach Wilson stats
Wilson’s rookie numbers weren’t all that different than Lawrence’s, but Wilson hasn’t been able to take the major step forward that Lawrence has in Year 2. In fact, he hasn’t taken much of a step forward at all.
Wilson has just six touchdown passes in eight starts after a knee injury forced him to miss the season’s first three games, and his completion rate has dipped slightly below 55 percent despite an improved receiving corps led by standout rookie Garrett Wilson.
Wilson was able guide the Jets to wins early in the season, which helped stave off whispers of a quarterback change, but a brutal performance against the Patriots in Week 11 abruptly forced Saleh’s hand.
White appears to be the Jets’ starter when healthy, but the rib fractures he suffered against the Bills in Week 14 shoved Wilson back into the spotlight. That makes Thursday’s game not just a critical one for New York, but also a massive opportunity for Wilson to prove he deserves to be a part of the franchise’s future.