Prior to Wilson, Taysom Hill was the BYU alumn that most NFL fans recognize as emblematic of BYU’s footprint. Guys like Fred Warner, Kyle Van Noy, Jamaal Williams, and more, all suited up for the Cougars in recent years. Warner has become a budding star in San Francisco. Coming into the preseason, BYU was thought to have limited 2021 NFL Draft prospects.
However, Wilson used the 2020 college football season to increase his NFL Draft stock exponentially. Wilson now finds himself at the epicenter of the quarterback draft buzz.
Zach Wilson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: BYU
- Year: Junior
- Height: 6’2 1/8″
- Weight: 210 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Zach Wilson Scouting Report
Positives: Smart, instinctive quarterback whose draft stock has been on a straight rise north the past year. Heady, poised, and does a tremendous job commanding the offense. Patient, buys as much time as necessary and spreads the ball around using all his targets. Natural-looking off the safety and shows incredible football instincts and intellect. Always on the same page as receivers, accurate and also resilient. Displays a sense of timing and does not have receivers waiting for the ball as they exit breaks.
Senses the rush, remains poised under pressure, and will take a sack or throw the ball away rather than force an errant pass. Puts the ball up and lets receivers compete for the reception. Rebounded well from the few errant passes he threw last season and knows how to ignite his offense. Effectively sets up screen throws and delivers a catchable ball. Easily gets outside the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and runs with the ball as a last resort.
Displays a lot of toughness carrying the ball on designed quarterback runs. Incredibly elusive scrambling away from defenders. Keeps the chains moving and leads the offense down the field.
Negatives: Lacks great quarterback stature. Does not drive deep throws with speed. Occasionally releases the ball off his back foot. Will struggle withstanding the rush at the next level. Has an injury history, including shoulder surgeries that must be checked out.
Analysis: Wilson has been the talk of the town at the quarterback position since December, and his legend continues to grow. He possesses outstanding intangibles, and his ability to quickly process information on and off the field is second to none in this year’s draft. He’s more of a system quarterback for a timing offense, but he will struggle in the vertical game. Wilson has a tremendous future at the next level if put in the proper scheme and properly coached.
Zach Wilson Player Profile
Before coming to BYU, Zach Wilson was a three-star quarterback who got his first high school start as a Junior. Coming from Utah, Wilson turned heads as the starter for Corner Canyon High School. Throughout his three years at Corner Canyon, Wilson racked up 5,842 passing yards and 45 touchdowns. Wilson added another 1,310 rushing yards on the ground, including 752 rushing yards in his senior year.
During that impressive senior campaign, Wilson took Corner Canyon to the state semifinals before falling. Wilson found himself as the face of Corner Canyon football and got calls from all around the country due to his high level of play.
Many Power Five teams called, including Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon State, California, and Syracuse. However, Wilson’s roots were closer to home, narrowing his final two teams down to BYU and Boise State.
The Broncos had a reputation for producing NFL talent ever since Kellen Moore came onto the scene and brought Boise State to prominence in the late 2000s. Despite being just a 3-star prospect, Wilson was a First-Team All-State Selection and was named his divisional MVP. Wilson took an interest in stride and the quarterback committed to BYU over Boise State.
Arriving on campus
An early enrollee at BYU, Wilson got straight to work as soon as he got to Provo. Impressing coaches, Wilson rocketed up the depth chart throughout spring and summer practices as a freshman. It took a few weeks before it became a reality, but Wilson started his first game against Hawaii, becoming the youngest quarterback to start a game for BYU.
A three-touchdown performance to open his career gave him the starting role, and he was firmly entrenched in that role for the next two years. His freshman campaign’s standout game was his great four-touchdown performance against Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl as he led the Cougars to victory. Wilson was named the MVP of the game after the strong performance.
After the season, Wilson would undergo shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He had dealt with it since high school, but it progressively worsened over time during his freshman season. Nonetheless, he was ready to take the field healthy for his sophomore campaign as the starter. In that Sophomore campaign, it was a rough go of things. He only had 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions and was plagued by a right-hand injury that he had to have surgery on. Essentially, it became a throwaway year for the promising quarterback.
Rebounding from surgery
With the injuries behind him, Wilson still was the favorite to start at quarterback for BYU in his junior campaign after showing some tremendous flashes during that rocky sophomore season. Against Massachusetts in particular, Wilson threw for four touchdowns, including one that was a perfect throw down the middle of the field to hit his receiver in a small window on a post route. That throw was a flash of potential and showed what would come in 2020 as Zach Wilson launched his campaign for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Zach Wilson rockets himself onto the 2021 NFL Draft radar
Once a no-name quarterback at BYU who had shown flashes but was often injured, Wilson proved in 2020 that he has impeccable upside. In 2019, he had spotty accuracy to all levels of the field, but especially to the deep portion of the field. That all changed in 2020, however, with Wilson consistently hitting his receivers in stride. Despite a soft schedule, Wilson proved he can make NFL throws in tight windows.
Outside versus inside the pocket
Wilson has a special ability outside the pocket to make plays most players can not make. In the modern NFL, mobility is becoming more important, and Wilson has that. His feel for pressure in the pocket is calm but a pragmatic one. He does well to stand in the pocket and takes hits if needed but does a great job of moving in the pocket to find the creases to either extend the play or take off when necessary.
Featured | Miller’s 2-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
Against UTSA, the Roadrunners ran a stunt to the left side that collapsed Wilson’s far left side as the tackle was stunned back. However, Wilson felt the pressure, stepped up in the pocket, and fired a rocket across his body to his man over the middle of the field without even setting his feet. Few quarterbacks have the arm talent and ability to hit that play consistently, but Wilson has this ability.
Even against Texas State, Wilson made a throw that quarterbacks should never make by conventional wisdom look easy. Feeling pressure from his left, the BYU quarterback rolled out to his right. However, no one was open to his side, and Wilson set his feet and fired a frozen rope across the field for a touchdown. That is great vision and patience to find anyone that was open anywhere on the football field.
Appraising Wilson’s approach to the game
Wilson has a gunslinger mentality that people will love. It does end badly sometimes for Wilson, however. His interception against Navy was a ball that he forced when nothing was there. That is a prime decision-making issue. With his accuracy, I can not blame him for taking a chance, but sometimes he needs to learn to check it down. That is smart quarterback play, not being conservative. With Wilson’s arm, he will get plenty of opportunities to push it down the field.
Everything Wilson did this year has shown a willingness to process coverages and make the tough throws whenever necessary. Some flaws could lead to more turnovers at the next level, but Wilson has flashed his dynamic arm talent consistently to prove his precise accuracy.
Zach Wilson’s best NFL Draft fits
By the end of the 2020 college football season, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson had elevated his NFL Draft stock to the point where he was being involved in the conversation as QB1 with Trevor Lawrence. It would have felt crazy to elevate him above Justin Fields and Trey Lance prior to the season. However, he is now comfortably amongst them, and even above them for a large number of NFL Draft analysts.
Subsequently, teams that would have been deemed as a fit prior to the season are no longer in the running to acquire his services. There are a number of quarterback-needy teams, possibly more so than ever, but they would have to make an outlandish trade up to secure his services. Teams that fit in that category include the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Indianapolis Colts.
Of all the probable landing spots for Zach Wilson — New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers — two stand out in particular.
Both the 49ers and the Panthers have impressive ground games that could take advantage of Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his legs. That said, the Jets will have former 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur as their offensive coordinator. Therefore they offer an intriguing — and probable — landing spot. In fact, recent buzz indicates that Wilson is likely to head to New York with the No. 2 pick.
Want more 2021 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.