Scouting Report: QB Zach Wilson 6’3” 209 (BYU)
Zach Wilson is a polished and erratic athletic quarterback who broke out in his junior season against a weak schedule and inferior level of competition. There is a lot of hype surrounding this kid, but in reality, he only looks like a glorified high school quarterback who excels at sandlot football. Operates exclusively out of shotgun formation.
Well schooled in terms of quarterback mechanics and fundamentals. However, overuses play-action fake — does it all the time and he does not hide the ball well. Often it looks like a wasted motion. Good pocket poise and toughness. Good mobility and athleticism — can step up and roll in either direction, but far more effective and has a tendency to roll out to his right. Smart and makes quick decisions with the ball. Looks really good overall in the pocket, but that is where referring to him as “good” ends.
I watched every one of his throws and runs in 2020 and I am not seeing it or feeling it with this guy in terms of arm strength, touch, ball placement, or accuracy. Half of his throws look great and half of them look receiver “unfriendly,” or downright bad. Many passes were high or low and were either incomplete or he gave the receivers literally no chance to pick up additional yards. It literally and consistently was like watching two different quarterbacks throw. He will be an interception machine in the NFL.
I really question how he will do throwing a larger NFL regulation football opposed to the smaller college regulation football he has been throwing. Seemed to do best throwing to wide open receivers or against zone defenses. I counted a good number of throws when receivers literally had to stand there and wait on the ball to get to them. Tends to put too much air under passes, they look like they take too long to get there and did not show much zip or mustard on the football in his junior season. Tends to work short and deep routes with mixed results. Deep passes are a 50-50 jump ball half the time. Covers up for lack of arm strength, touch and accuracy in the intermediate level by primarily only working sidelines. Tends to stay out of working the middle of the field in that range, especially in tight man. I was not impressed with his downfield results whatsoever.
Clearly and undoubtedly lacks consistency. Gives off a quirky vibe and energy. Absolutely at his best inside the 10-yard line. Throws excellent fade routes in those situations. Fades inside the 10 are his best pass. Has the ability to take off and run, but only averaged 3.0 yards per carry in his college career. However, I was more impressed with him as a runner than a thrower. Tends to do best when ad-libbing and has some Houdini to his game with a shovel and sidearmed passes. There is absolutely nothing dominant to his game combined with average arm and accuracy. Classic overhyped player. Manufactured quarterback. Surefire bust.
Where would I draft Zach Wilson?
Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board: 3rd round — and I would not select him if I was a GM. He would not even be on my draft board. It would be foolish to take him in the first round. He will get everybody fired. Best chance to succeed is in an offense filled with trick plays.
Probability of being a bust: Extremely high.
If I were a GM, this is the question I need to be answered in my mind about Zach Wilson: His uncle owns Jet Blue airlines. I would need to get a clear understanding and feel for his level of entitlement whether it is low or high, that would be a must.
My Top 10 concerns about Wilson:
- Accuracy and ball placement. Lacks consistent touch. Erratic. All over the road in these three areas throughout the 2020 season. This is as clear as day on the game film.
- Approximately half of the deep passes are “50-50” jump balls. At least that is how it seemed watching him throw. That story will not have a happy ending in the NFL.
- He will now have to throw a larger-sized football. He struggled enough throwing a smaller regulation-sized football, I can not imagine how much he will struggle to go to the NFL and now having to throw an even larger regulation-sized football.
- Level of competition. After two very domestic statistical seasons at BYU, he “broke out” in his junior season against a weak schedule, inferior level of competition who played a lot of zone. It seemed like the schedule was made to purposely make him artificially shine. I was not impressed even watching his full body of work at the college level he played at — I believe he will struggle mightily with competition in the NFL, which will be dramatically more skilled, faster, and more complex. This is a grave concern. Out of all the games in 2020, looked best vs. UCF. I have watched the game for 40 years and Wilson looks very average when I compare him to all the quarterbacks I have seen play in the NFL. He is nowhere near as good as RGIII when he was drafted. It is not even a comparison, to be honest. If this kid had played his college football in the SEC, we would not know his name.
- Throwing arm (shoulder injury) and previous surgeries. Watching him throw I think this is a lot bigger issue than anyone is admitting. He puts air, sometimes too much air under a majority of the passes he throws. The film does not lie. Rarely put much heat on passes. Lacks consistent zip on the football.
- At BYU he ranks 9th all-time on an extremely average list of their schools’ top 10 list in yardage. Outside of Steve Young (who was a star in the NFL), he ranks behind an extremely mediocre group of names; Ty Detmer, Max Hall, John Beck, Robbie Bosco, John Walsh, and Kevin Fiterik. That is an awful sign. I remember watching Detmer, who was a career NFL back-up. Detmer was dramatically better in my mind. That is alarming.
- Lack of instincts for the position of quarterback. He looks like a “manufactured QB,” In other words, he looks like a good athlete who was trained and well-coached to be a quarterback. He does not at all look like someone who was born to be a quarterback.
- Ran offense exclusively out of shotgun formation. There will be a real adjustment period if the team that drafts him plans on playing in a traditional drop-back system.
- A number of times his receivers literally had to stand there and wait for football to arrive on shorter intermediate routes. Those will be pick-sixes in the NFL.
- Can take off and run but only averaged 3.0 yards per carry in his college career. Nobody will ever mistake Wilson with Randall Cunningham or Michael Vick. He is not a quarterback who will beat any teams in the NFL with his feet. Not remotely elusive.
How NFL defenses will beat him: Play tight man coverage, bracket coverages, and force him to funnel throws to the middle of the field. Send heavy array of blitzes off the defense’s left side and take away his ability to roll out to his right, which he loves to do. Hit him hard early and often, bully him, talk a lot of trash and get under his skin. Dare him to respond. Take away fade inside the 10 — and take away his ability to run a play-action and to try to run it in.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.
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