Every year, there are college football players that jump onto the scene and catapult their team and draft stock into the national spotlight, such as Joe Burrow just a year ago. One of the most electric players through the season thus far has been Brigham Young University’s Zach Wilson. The three-year starter has finally put it all together, after showing flashes of greatness in his first two years. Through ten games, Wilson has amassed 2,724 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air, and added another eight TD’s on the ground.
Going into this past weekend, Wilson had carried the Cougars to a 9–0 record. However, the team suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday, losing to a stout Coastal Carolina team in Myrtle Beach, 22–17. While the BYU signal caller did not light up the stat sheet, there are still many positives to takeaway from this game, as he continued to demonstrate why he will likely be a top-10 pick come April 2021.
When you put on Wilson’s tape, his arm strength is the first thing that jumps out. By all standards, his arm is elite, which is evident by his ability to throw the ball outside the numbers and down the field with ease. The numbers back this up too, as just on throws 20-plus yards down the field, Wilson was 27-of-41 for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns in his first eight games, per BYU Statsman.
What makes Wilson as a prospect all the more impressive is the touch he is able to put on intermediate and deep passes. This allows him to throw comeback, corner, 9 routes, and others on a consistent basis. It is often the case that many strong-armed quarterback prospects don’t have the ability to consistently throw both with power and touch. For example, in year three of his career, we are just now seeing Josh Allen develop the finesse and touch needed to drop the ball into his receivers’ hands between linebackers and safeties.
Another strength of the Utah native is his mobility and special talent to throw from any platform. In today’s NFL, the quarterback’s ability to move around in and out of the pocket is becoming increasingly important. The days of the prototypical quarterback who is going to sit in the pocket and dice you up are over. Wilson routinely makes high-difficulty throws on the run and across his body look awfully easy every week. Just this last week against Coastal Carolina, on a 3rd-down play where Wilson was on a full sprint out to his right, he fired a strike down the hash to receiver for a 15-yard gain, and made it look easy, hitting his man right in the numbers with velocity. As the league continues to shift towards quarterbacks with dynamic skill sets like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, Wilson will fit in perfectly.
While the 6’3” quarterback does not have many downsides to his game, his injury history and level of competition will certainly come into play during his evaluation process. Last season, he missed time due to a thumb injury, and missed the 2019 spring camp after surgery to repair his labrum on his throwing shoulder. Some analysts are weary about him due to this injury to his throwing shoulder, which could be exacerbated by his three-quarters release, where Wilson throws the ball with his arm cocked slightly to the side rather than overhand. So this will be something to monitor come combine season when all these mechanics go under the microscope.
Another inevitable knock evaluators will put on Wilson is his level of competition through his career in Provo. Although BYU beat the University of Southern California in 2019, this year the Cougars haven’t faced the greatest of teams, and lost to the best team they’ll likely play all year this past weekend in the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. This won’t be a good look to the analysts who simply look at stats and records. But I’m a big believer that competition shouldn’t matter if the prospect still displays the ability to make all the throws, and Wilson does just that. When Wilson plays in the NFL, he will still have the innate ability to move around the pocket, and throw with touch and power. While he may be benefiting from playing lesser teams, all the traits and abilities are undoubtedly there and will likely translate to the NFL level.
Although it is very early to make a prediction on where he will land, the BYU quarterback is already a hot topic of 2021 draft talk. Despite a very strong upcoming quarterback class headlined by Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and others, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson finds himself in the top five in April’s draft, and potentially beating out Fields as the second quarterback off the board — he certainly has the talent.