Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson’s rise up the QB ranks was anything but likely.
A 3-star recruit, the Drapter, UT native stayed close to home by committing to BYU in December, 2017. At just 200 pounds, he seemed like a long-shot to start in the fall.
Instead, it took him just 3 weeks before overtaking senior Tanner Mangum as QB1. Wilson never looked back, completing 117 of 176 passes (66.4%) for 1,578 yards (8.9 YPA) over the final 7 games. He tossed 12 TDs to 3 INTs.
2019 provided adversity. He spent the offseason rehabbing a torn right labrum following January surgery. Wilson had played through the injury, which first surfaced in high school. The pain eventually became too much to tolerate.
“It always felt great in games,” Wilson said via BYU’s official site. “The problem was coming into practice the next Monday. I just felt terrible. I don’t know if it was getting landed on — I don’t think it was from throwing because in a game you don’t throw nearly as much as you do in practice. So I would go into Mondays and I could barely lift my arm up because I was getting driven down on my right shoulder, and guys were landing on me.”
Then, come October, he missed time with a fractured right thumb. Wilson’s sophomore year was ultimately a disappointment with a 62.4% completion rate at 7.5 YPA.
But forgive the kid for taking a step back. College football insider Bruce Feldman wrote in The Athletic that “sources close to the BYU program say [Wilson] was never really healthy for very long in 2019.”
Forced to compete for the starting job in 2020, Wilson went on to perform like one of the nation’s top QBs.
Across 12 starts, Wilson averaged a silly 11.0 YPA and notched the 4th best adjusted completion rate in the nation (80.3%). He tossed only 3 INTs, and upon further review, only 1 was a poor decision. (The WR slipped on another; the last was a Hail Mary pass.)
He earned excellent marks from Pro Football Focus in several key areas. Most notably: his 99.9 grade on deep passes (20+ air yards). Only 2 QBs in the nation accumulated more deep yards. And it’s not like he was a Jameis Winston-like gunslinger. Wilson’s 1.2% turnover worthy play rate ranked 3rd lowest.
Let’s see what makes him unique in the next section.
Games watched: Western Kentucky (2020), Troy (2020), UTSA (2020), UCF (2020), Navy (2020), Boise St. (2020)
Wilson’s arm strength is not an issue, despite his average stature. Here he flips a ball 50 air yards without overextending...and it's a dime.
Again … effortless. Smooth. On-target.
Here’s one of my favorite throws: an on-the-move dart (of 55 air yards) placed perfectly.
Wilson is lauded for his quick release. You see that below -- and the difference it makes in scoring the TD. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has called Wilson's throwing ability "twitchy, loose, natural, easy [and] explosive."
Wilson isn't Kyler Murray, but he has plenty of juice to contribute as a rusher at the next level. Wilson told BYU’s official radio show this month that he was running high 4.5 to low 4.6 forty-yard dash times in Pro Day prep. (He tweaked a hamstring and won't run at his Pro Day, so we won't get confirmation.)
You could really see his rushing impact last fall, as he handled multiple designed runs en route to 10 TDs. Below, you get an idea of his speed on a designed run.
Wilson's mobility both in and out of the pocket routinely showed up. He should be running a fair share of RPOs and bootlegs at the next level.
There's no doubt that Wilson was a highly accurate college QB. But he did have a tendency to miss some easy layups, like this 4th down pass to a wide open target.
Industry mock drafts have slotted Wilson as high as #2 overall to the Jets. Such a match would place him with a franchise LT (Mekhi Becton) and a promising WR corps currently made up of Jamison Crowder, Corey Davis and Denzel Mims. New OC Mike LaFleur -- a Mike Shanahan disciple -- would provide a bright young mentor.
Wilson does appear to be a lock to go somewhere in the top-10. So, odds are, he'll see the field early on.
If durability questions are kept at bay, Wilson will have a chance to develop into a future fantasy QB1. Accurate and decisive, Wilson also looks like the type of athlete who could supply a few hundred rushing yards and a handful of scores per year.
Currently, Wilson slots in as our rookie QB4 in dynasty.