Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson showed enough in his 12 games to garner consideration as a top-five pick. But could he really be the second quarterback drafted? Will he have a better career than Justin Fields? Tony Pauline had this to say on last week’s episode of the Draft Insiders podcast.
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Inside Information from Pauline on Zach Wilson
“A lot of league insiders believe that Zach Wilson will end up being a better NFL quarterback than Justin Fields. (NFL people) love Zach Wilson. They think he’s big time. They think the difference between Fields and Zach Wilson is Zach Wilson’s quicker processing things on the field — reading defenses, reading coverages, making decisions and seeing what’s going on.”
There is a lot of fire surrounding the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class. To begin the cycle, way back to the day following the 2020 NFL Draft, pundits far and wide would have three names gracing the top of their boards: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
But like last year, a new name skyrocketed up draft boards nationally.
Catching up with Wilson’s development in 2020
For most of the 2020 season, Wilson’s arm has been the party piece.
Now that the season is grinding down to the end, evaluators are beginning to take deeper dives into the mental side of the game. Wilson slashed his interception total from 2019 in thirds from nine to three. He did this while also averaging 3.5 more yards per attempt on 335 attempts, 16 more than last season.
Pauline also said that this is not a mark against Fields as a player, but more an example of just how much the NFL likes Zach Wilson at this point in the process.
Seeing the field isn’t just about progressions
It’s easy to see why he excites so many. Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield is superb. He makes a few throws every game that makes one think, “wow.” The BYU offense allows Wilson clean looks and avoids many complications. From a processing standpoint, he appears to have a great understanding of leverage from defenders. This allows him to place passes in places only his receiver can catch.
“People love his film, but it’s the things off the field that people really like about him. The way he studies for games. The way he prepares mentally for games. I’m told he’s going to be a great interview in the lead up to the draft.”
Pauline also added the caveat that just because teams believe Wilson might have a better career than Fields does not mean he is drafted before Fields.
Justin Fields vs. Zach Wilson: The battle for QB2
“Justin Fields could still be the second quarterback taken, but two or three years down the road Zach Wilson could be the better of the two signal callers.”
Fields’ 2021 NFL Draft prospects started while he was still in the recruiting process. Both he and Lawrence of Clemson battled it out for the prestigious top recruit spot, and both received some of the highest grades ever given quarterback recruits. They were legends before they ever stepped foot on a college field.
That pedigree matters, and Fields has now led Ohio State to back-to-back College Football Playoffs with only one career loss under his belt, and a ridiculously efficient 2019 campaign passing to boot. And that one loss was to rival quarterback and likely number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence. But in a “what have you done for me lately” world, Zach Wilson holds the upper hand.
Chances Wilson enters the draft
Pauline also discussed the chances Wilson declares for the 2021 NFL Draft. He believes it is “99% that he enters the draft.” It would be shocking at this point, with all of the upward momentum he is receiving not to see his name on the list of early declarations. Pauline went into even more detail.
“I know that his father’s been doing a lot of work. His father has spoken with people including the aforementioned John Dorsey about certain things.”
Those things include possible agent fits and related draft groundwork, which is why it would surprise Tony so much were he to stay in school. Chances are slim and for a good reason.
After BYU’s loss to Coastal Carolina, in his least efficient game of 2020, he bounced back against San Diego State and Central Florida in a big way. Wilson embarrassed the Knights to the tune of 26-for-34, 425 yards and three passing touchdowns. He would add two more touchdowns on the ground.
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