Commanders Warned About Draft QB Who’s ‘Like Zach Wilson’

The Washington Commanders have been warned about taking J.J. McCarthy with the second pick in the 2024 NFL draft, because the Michigan quarterback’s rise is eerily reminiscent of New York Jets’ bust Zach Wilson.

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That’s the view of Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, who believes McCarthy doesn’t merit going second overall. Cowhered laid out a number of reasons why he thinks the growing buzz about McCarthy is “starting to feel like Zach Wilson of the Jets, where he has a couple of throws on his pro day, we start going, ‘oooh his arm, o’ he moves well, there’s a lot of zip. Both he and Zach Wilson are 6’3″ and in my opinion, a little spindly.”

Those are strong words, but the new regime for the Commanders can’t afford for their attempt to secure a franchise quarterback to pan out like Wilson and the Jets. The latter took Wilson second-overall in 2021, but he’s gone just 12-21 in 33 starts and remains a candidate to be traded, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

New Commanders’ general manager Adam Peters and head coach Dan Quinn will surely be looking for jobs in three years if the quarterback they draft fares no better. That’s why the decision about which passer they pick is pivotal for their rebuild.

Top prospects like Drake Maye and Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels are firmly within their sights, but McCarthy has also entered the mix. He’s rumored to be a popular choice with Peters.

McCarthy would be a polarizing pick, and not just because of any comparison with Wilson.

Analyst Raises Multiple Concerns About J.J. McCarthy

Among Cowherd’s other concerns are McCarthy’s advantages playing on a strong Michigan team, where he went 27-1 and won a national championship. The numbers are impressive, but Cowherd stressed, “J.J. McCarthy’s college experience is not the NFL. I said this a month ago, it’s very Alabama quarterback. You always have the best coach, you always have a lead. You always have a great O-line, you always have protection, you always have a great run game.”

As Cowherd pointed out, the Commanders wouldn’t be able to provide McCarthy the same level of security: “You go to Washington, that was the 32nd-ranked offensive line. You’d go from the best college O-line to the worst NFL line. You’d go from the first or second-best college run game at Michigan, to the 27th run game.”

While those things are true, dealing with talent depletion is the challenge most rookie quarterbacks face. It’s the tradeoff for being drafted so high, a luxury offset by going to a struggling team.

Fortunately, Peters and Quinn are already building a more competitive roster. One strong enough to support a first-year passer.

Commanders Can Avoid Zach Wilson Problem

The Commanders’ moves in free agency have made it easier for any draft QB to succeed and avoid the problems Wilson faced with the Jets. Moves like adding center Tyler Biadasz and left guard Nick Allegretti to a line that surrendered 65 sacks last season.

Then there’s a ground game that should be transformed by the arrival of running back Austin Ekeler. Kliff Kingsbury replacing pass-happy Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator will also help.

An improved offense means the Commanders needn’t worry too much about throwing McCarthy straight into the mix. Especially when not everybody is as unmoved by what McCarthy did in college as Cowherd.

An opposing view is provided by Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager, who told “Good Morning Football,” McCarthy’s record in college matters: “I think 27-1 is a real stat and national champion’s a real stat and 15-0 in last season is a real stat.”

McCarthy’s run of victories is impressive, but Cowherd is more concerned about the 21-year-old not winning with his arm often enough. It’s something other draft QBs did, but not McCarthy: “Caleb Williams, Bo Nix, Michael Pennix, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels all averaged over 300 yards a game passing. J.J. McCarthy, last year, did it one time against awful 4-8 Purdue. He averaged under 200 yards throwing.”

Cowherd has raised valid concerns, but wins are the ultimate currency for quarterbacks. McCarthy won operating a pro-style scheme and protecting the football.

Efficiency is what the Commanders have lacked most at quarterback, not raw arm talent. If Peters values the broader intangibles of the position more, he won’t heed Cowherd’s warning about McCarthy.

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