Welcome back you our ongoing Scouting Report Series where we are breaking down the top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today, we are talking about Brigham Young University QB Zach Wilson. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!
|Justin Fields||N/A||Ja’Marr Chase||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
There will be much debate about who is QB2 behind Trevor Lawrence, and it may ultimately come down to what type of quarterback teams prefer for their franchise. Whoever you prefer, there is no denying the natural talent that Zach Wilson possesses to play the quarterback position. What are Wilson’s strengths and weaknesses? Which NFL teams are the best fits? Let’s get into it.
Measurables & Numbers
Weight: 210 pounds
A look at Zach Wilson’s College Performance
Zach Wilson was a 3-star recruit from Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah. Wilson committed to Brigham Young University after receiving attention from multiple Power Five programs. In 2018, Wilson became the youngest QB to start a game in BYU history against Hawaii. Wilson would complete 67% of his passes for 3 TDs and only 1 INT in a BYU victory. With that game, Wilson staked his claim on the starting job for the remainder of the season.
Following his freshman year, Wilson had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder that was sustained in high school but worsened throughout his inaugural campaign with BYU. Nevertheless, he was back and ready to start the year for the Cougars. Wilson’s sophomore campaign was a regression from his freshman year as he saw his completion percentage a TDs fall while his interceptions rose. His 2019 season would be cut short after a thumb fracture in his throwing hand, necessitating another surgery.
Wilson burst back onto the scene in 2020 and completed 74% of his passes for 3,692 yards and 33 TDs against 3 INTs. He added another 254 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the ground.
Wilson has a big arm and can push the ball downfield with regularity. When he does take deep shots, he possesses great accuracy that will make him an instant vertical threat at the NFL level. His accuracy isn’t limited to vertical shots, however, and is a major feature of his intermediate passing game as well.
Highest-graded deep passer (20+ yards) in the NFL Draft:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 25, 2021
🚀 Zach Wilson, BYUpic.twitter.com/3YwGwhcwp9
This might be the best incompletion of the 2020 season.— Luke Grant (@LukeGrant7) February 1, 2021
This is where Zach Wilson starts giving of Aaron Rodgers vibes. The rusher comes free, he climbs the pocket and flicks his wrist while being off platform.
This is the most accurate ball you’ll ever see.
Special #Jets pic.twitter.com/s9GaeGZqY9
Just because he can throw the ball with some heat doesn’t mean that is his default setting.
Wilson demonstrates a remarkable feel for when to put something extra on his passes and when to take something off. He is just as capable of dropping a throw in a bucket as he is zipping it between 2 closing defenders. Regardless of the type of pass he throws, Wilson does so with a short, compact throwing motion that QB coaches will love.
Wilson excels at working through his reads with timing, staying calm and collected when his first or second reads are covered. He has supreme confidence both in what his eyes are telling him and in his ability to place throws into tight windows. Sometimes, however, he takes his confidence a bit too far and steps over the line dividing confidence from carelessness.
Not sure I've ever been more wrong than I was couple months ago when I said Zach Wilson hits too many open receivers. Clearly hadn't seen nearly enough of him. He consistently squeezes the ball in to tight windows, often doing it on the move. pic.twitter.com/BApLNfaObR— Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23) January 30, 2021
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his mobility. While he doesn’t have the same rushing ability as Justin Fields, he is still dangerous with his legs.
His rushing yards may not pile up, but make no mistake about it: Wilson creates plays with his legs on a routine basis. He is more playmaker than true rusher, but he has proven to be dangerous in the read-option game in the red zone.
Zach Wilson will be fine. If our protection is even remotely competent, he can put up consistent numbers. Arm talent and sneakishly good athleticism will do him wonders when rolling out the the pocket and withstanding big hits. I expect an NFL training program to add few lbs too. pic.twitter.com/gU7HYRJ305— Jet Up Nation (@jetupnationcrew) January 27, 2021
While Wilson put up a stellar campaign in 2020, he did so against very lackluster competition. Navy, Army, Troy, Louisiana Tech, UTSA, Houston, Texas State, WKU, Boise State, North Alabama, Coastal Carolina, San Diego State, and UCF aren’t exactly inspiring competition. Wilson played the worst game of the year against Coastal Carolina in a loss. All you can do is play the competition in front of you, but it is worth noting that said competition was very meager in Wilson’s lone breakout season.
Wilson shows a comfortability operating out of structure and outside the pocket. At times, he tends to fade or roll out of clean pockets, a tendency that he will have to break at the next level. When under pressure, Wilson tends to sail passes, particularly towards the sideline. He also struggles to identify and dissect post-snap defensive rotations, slowing down his progressions noticeably when facing spinning safeties.
Wilson often throws from an unconventional throwing platform, without setting his feet. This has not impacted his ability to make the big-time throws required of the position at BYU, nor does it seem likely to have much impact at the NFL level.
However, I am listing it as a weakness because if there is one thing NFL coaches don’t like it is unconventional mechanics. I am less concerned about his throwing platform quirks than I am about the issues that may arise from trying to correct them but rest assured someone is going to try. Finally, injury history is a bit of a concern with Wilson. If you select him with a high draft pick to be your franchise QB, you do so knowing that he has had surgery on his throwing shoulder and his throwing hand, both in the last 2 years.
Wilson is trending up as a QB prospect while Fields may be beginning to fall in the eyes of scouts. Wilson brings more creativity, arm talent, and is more adept at moving through progressions than Fields but at the expense of pure explosiveness with his legs. Wilson needs to go to a team that is willing to let him use his natural playmaking ability behind the line of scrimmage to generate explosive plays downfield.
New York Jets
Should the Jets decide to part ways with Sam Darnold, they need a replacement who can work outside of the poor structure that is their offense and generate explosive plays. Speedy WRs Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims might dramatically benefit from a QB who can keep plays alive behind the line of scrimmage and allow them more time to create separation downfield.
Like the Jets, the Broncos need a QB and could benefit from Wilson’s playmaking ability. Last draft they tried to surround QB Drew Lock with talent in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler to bring out the best in Lock. That didn’t work out, so this draft they may be interested in surrounding Jeudy and Hamler with talent in Zach Wilson to take their offense to the next level.
Fields vs Wilson is a close battle for QB2 in a vacuum, but when evaluating them in the context of the Philadelphia Eagles the scales tip in the favor of Fields. I think the RPO proficiency and rushing threat that Fields brings fits better with the type of offense that aligns best with the Eagles personnel. That said, if Fields is off the board and Wilson is still there I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. New coach Nick Sirianni has shown proficiency for adapting his offense to different styles of QBs, and I have no major misgivings about the fit for the Eagles.
New England Patriots
The Tom Brady Era is over in New England, and the Patriots are in search of their next QB. In 2020, they showed a willingness to embrace a different style of QB in Cam Newton. That didn’t really work out for anyone involved, but it does show that the Patriots are willing to try something new. The Patriots don’t have a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, so a QB like Wilson who can buy time behind the line of scrimmage could do a lot to help out the offense. I like the fit of Wilson in New England, but the Patriots would very likely have to trade up to make a play for him.