Zach Wilson, QB, BYU Cougars
Size: 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds
Age: 21-years-old (8/3/1999)
Of Hawaiian ancestry, Zachary Kapono Wilson is one of six kids. Growing up in Utah, his first love wasn’t football, but basketball. In fact, for much of his youth, his father accompanied him to basketball tournaments all over the country. That’s taxing on a family but might have been made easier for The Wilsons, as Zach’s uncle, David Neeleman (aka the “Steve Jobs of the Skies”), founded five commercial airlines, including JetBlue.
With an innate desire to be “the guy with the ball in his hands,” Wilson focused on football — particularly the quarterback position — in high school. After transferring from Jordan High to Canyon Corner as a sophomore, the teen became the Chargers’ starting QB his junior and senior years. He closed out his final season in Draper passing for 2,986 yards, 24 TDs, and managing 752 rushing yards and eight scores on 119 carries.
A three-star recruit in 2017, Wilson initially committed to Boise State but later chose to stay close to home and accepted an offer from BYU. Considered a bit of a one-year-wonder because of his blazing 2020 effort, it’s worth mentioning that the “Mormon Manziel” started seven games as a true freshman and nine as a sophomore (though his 2019 campaign was upended by hand and shoulder injuries).
In his final year as a Cougar, the 21-year-old broke BYU legend Steve Young’s completion percentage record, successfully connecting on 73.5 percent of his passes. He also earned an overall passing grade of 95.5 from PFF.
Wilson is expected to be the second overall pick (just behind Trevor Lawrence) in the 2021 NFL draft.
Pros: Uncanny ability to throw off-platform; heads-up player with plus anticipation and timing; elusive as a runner.
Cons: Level of competition faced; durability (shoulder/hand) issues; questionable fundamentals.
The Big Picture
Bringing that Big Leo Energy, watching Wilson is a full-body experience.
Whether he’s slinging it across his frame or eluding defenders with fast footwork, he is always sending it. Everything about his game — from his lighting-quick release to his eye-popping spin move — is fast and brash.
Demonstrating excellent anticipation and timing, Wilson has a knack for recognizing pressure. He also enjoys flirting with it, frequently (and successfully) throwing off-platform and slipping through holes with baffling ease.
Whether or not he’ll be able to flex as hard at the next level remains to be seen. There’s an obvious difference between D1 and NFL ball. Plus, he won’t have the benefit of working behind one of the best offensive lines in college football.
NFL Comp: The popular comp is Baker Mayfield, but I see a lot of Drew Lock in his game.
If the rumors are true, Wilson is headed to East Rutherford.
The rapidity reflected in his playing style is an undeniable fit for what the Jets are expected to install under Mike LaFleur. Frenetic athleticism — in tandem with an uptempo outside zone scheme — is peak Shanahan.
I expect Wilson to deliver on plenty of off-schedule throws in a system that plays to his strengths. But how quickly will the 21-year-old absorb the density of this particular playbook? And how many INTs will he throw in the process? How will this relatively green (or at least, new to each other) passing-attack mesh?
Right now Jamison Crowder appears the safest bet to produce. I’m hopeful that Denzel Mims will put it all together and shine. His physical gifts could make this a fun offense. And if the 2020 version of Corey Davis shows up, he could add some polish to the receiving corps.
What I’m most interested in, however, is if the Jets will take a receiver before Day 3. That’ll tell us a lot about where LaFleur believes his team’s strengths and weaknesses lie. And while it might be a longshot, if it’s THIS guy, I’m likely to be all-in, as he bonds with Wilson and represents a choice pick in the Jets’ newest era.
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