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NY Jets 2021 NFL Draft Profile: BYU QB Zach Wilson

NY Jets, Zach Wilson (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NY Jets, Zach Wilson (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson

NY Jets, Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no player has been connected to the NY Jets more often this draft season than BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. And with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets will have a prime opportunity to make him their next quarterback.

Wilson is a former three-star recruit who turned down offers from a host of Power-5 schools to stay local and attend BYU. The 2017 runner-up for Utah’s Mr. Football Award became the youngest QB to start a game at BYU in his freshman season when he suited up against Hawaii.

He wasn’t the starter in Week 1, but it didn’t take long for him to force his way onto the field. And when he did receive that opportunity, he shined throwing for 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions in nine games.

Wilson capped off an impressive freshman campaign with a victory over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a game in which he was named MVP.

The Utah native underwent right shoulder surgery in the offseason to repair a torn labrum that he had suffered in high school. But healthy once again, he looked to pick up where he left off in his sophomore season.

Unfortunately, the 2019 season proved to be somewhat of a throwaway year for the promising young QB. Wilson missed time with a fractured thumb that required surgery and regressed on the field.

Nonetheless, he earned the starting job in 2020 and went on to put together a breakout season that saw him emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

Wilson finished the year with 33 touchdowns (third in the FBS) and just three interceptions throwing for 3,692 yards while completing 73.5 percent of his passes (second in the FBS).

While it caught many in the national media by surprise, it was the talent that BYU staff had always known he had in him. Wilson now enters the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the top quarterbacks in a stacked QB class.

The Jets hold the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and various reports seem to suggest that they’re eying Wilson with that selection.

But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at Wilson’s game.

Next: 1. Strengths

NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson

NY Jets, Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

1. Zach Wilson’s strengths

Wilson has the arm talent, mobility, and moxie of a modern-day NFL quarterback. He’s a gunslinger in every sense of the word and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Patrick Mahomes and, one of his favorite players, Aaron Rodgers.

Watching his game, it’s easy to see why those comparisons are drawn.

Wilson’s improvisation skills are elite with his ability to create and keep plays alive unmatched by likely any QB in this class.

With mobility becoming more important by the year in today’s NFL, having a quarterback like Wilson who can not only create yards with his legs on the ground but also extend plays in the air is crucial.

Wilson can do that with the best of them. And he combines that game-changing mobility with top-end arm talent. There will be no concerns about his arm strength, both in his ability to attack vertically and zip passes into tight windows.

The 21-year-old throws with beautiful touch and anticipation and has never shied away from making a difficult throw.

And to do so at such an efficient rate as he did in 2020 (54 percent and 68 percent on intermediate and deep accuracy, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus), it’s easy to see why NFL scouts are in love with his game.

Wilson has the raw talent to succeed, but he’s not a perfect prospect.

Next: 2. Weaknesses

NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson

NY Jets, Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

2. Zach Wilson’s weaknesses

The biggest knock against Wilson doesn’t even come with his on-field play, but rather his off-field medical concerns. Wilson struggled to make the same impact that he did in 2020 earlier in his career, partially because of injuries.

A torn labrum in his right shoulder forced him to undergo surgery after his freshman season. He followed that up by fracturing his thumb in 2019 and undergoing surgery once more.

Wilson also stated in a 2019 interview that he has a torn labrum in his left shoulder that will eventually require surgery. Per his own account, it doesn’t affect his play which is why he hasn’t had the issue resolved yet.

Given his play in 2020, it’s safe to say that last statement is accurate. But it’s also easy to see that becoming an issue down the line.

Related Story. NY Jets add a new franchise QB in 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

As for his on-field weaknesses, Wilson, as with any prospect, is hardly perfect. His level of competition will be a concern for many and while that didn’t exactly affect his tight-window throws, it did allow Wilson to play a certain style.

Wilson has a tendency to play hero ball — a trait that is equal parts endearing as it can be worrisome. In 2019, many of Wilson’s risky passes resulted in interceptions or near-turnovers.

His lackluster level of competition allowed him to play somewhat of a “backyard football” style that likely won’t hold up in the NFL. He’ll need to become more refined as a decision-maker to fully reach his potential.

The natural gifts are there, he just needs to learn when the play isn’t. In the words of the legendary Kenny Rogers, “you’ve got to know when to fold ’em.”

Next: 3. Jets' prediction/fit

NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson

NY Jets, Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

3. NY Jets prediction

As we sit here a month out from Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets are widely expected to be the future landing spot for Zach Wilson. There’s so much smoke around Wilson to the Jets that it would be a surprise if he wasn’t the pick at this point.

Wilson may not be the consensus QB2 in this class, but he’s probably the quarterback that most scouts have directly behind Trevor Lawrence. And in terms of the Jets, he’d be a pretty seamless fit.

The former co-Polynesian Player of the Year Award (he’s of Hawaiian descent) throws with impressive touch and anticipation that make him an excellent fit in a Kyle Shanahan-inspired system.

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New offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s outside-zone-run scheme could also be ideal in maximizing Wilson’s mobility. Wilson ran quite a bit of zone-read and RPOs at BYU making the transition to LaFleur’s offense a little smoother.

On top of that, the Jets’ current wide receiver group could use a quarterback like Wilson who isn’t afraid to throw the 50/50 ball. Wilson made a habit out of giving his receiver a chance in jump-ball situations as he rarely shied away from those kinds of passes.

That’s good news for receivers like Denzel Mims and the newly-signed Corey Davis who both excel in 50/50 situations.

NY Jets fill major needs in post-free agency 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Next

Ultimately, Zach Wilson projects as a potential franchise quarterback if allowed to develop in the right system. His combination of arm talent and mobility gives him traits that most quarterbacks can only dream of.

If he stays healthy, Wilson has the potential to become a top-five quarterback by his third year in the NFL.

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