Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson put on a show in 2020 and should come off the board before Justin Fields. (Jeff Swinger/AP)

Trevor Lawrence is the number one pick, the best quarterback in this class. There is no doubt about it, he is one of the greatest prospects we have ever seen. After Lawrence is where there are question marks. Leading up to the NFL Draft, there is an ongoing debate as to who is the QB2, Zach Wilson or Justin Fields.  The Jets will likely draft one of the two with the second overall pick, and it is not a question that it should be Zach Wilson.

Even Chris Simms has Wilson ranked ahead of Lawrence. To compare the two, we will look into key quarterback traits necessary to succeed at the NFL level.

Arm Talent

Arm talent is one of the key traits to observe when evaluating quarterback prospects, and Wilson’s arm is special. Throughout his blowup season at BYU, Wilson constantly threw the ball across the field with ease. He would not need to set his feet and turn all the way through to make deep throws. There is no throw Wilson cannot make or see. Wilson will not only make an accurate throw into tight coverage, but the zip he puts on the ball to fit it past linebackers and safeties in coverage is unparalleled.

Justin Fields has comparable arm strength, but we have not seen him throw any deep balls when flushed out of the pocket. Fields without a doubt enough arm strength to be an NFL quarterback as he has displayed 60 yard passes multiple times in his college career. However, with pressure, Fields has not shown that he can deliver a deep strike as Wilson can.

Accuracy

In terms of accuracy, both quarterbacks are exceptional. The two prospects have thrown incredible passes this past year. Tight windows or blanketed coverages will not stop the two from fitting the ball in there. In 2020, 12% of Fields’s passes were uncatchable, with Wilson slightly behind at 13.4%. Those numbers are good for the 2nd and 5th best in the nation, respectively.

As far as completion percentage goes, Wilson beats out Fields at 73.5% to 70.2%. Wilson does win out slightly in this category from a deep ball perspective. Fields has been inconsistent in throwing the deep ball, and mostly when his receiver has a step or two on the defender. Wilson has displayed excellent deep accuracy in tight coverage.

Improvisation

This is where Wilson excels and what makes him a star at the next level. The ability to extend plays, roll out of the pocket, and find an open man downfield when the play breaks down. We have seen quarterbacks like Mahomes, and Russell Wilson feel the pressure, escape the pocket, and make the throw. Zach Wilson will display his mastery of it too at the NFL level.

Fields struggled heavily with this, he does not feel pressure quick enough and does not get out of the pocket, resulting in sacks. In a mere 8 games, Fields was sacked 21 times behind a solid offensive line. Whereas Zach Wilson took 11 sacks in 12 total games. This issue also comes with Fields slowly going through his progressions at times, but regardless he does not improvise very well, especially not when compared to Wilson.

Production

Zach Wilson exploded onto the scene in 2020 where Fields played in limited action due to COVID-19 affecting the Big Ten schedule. Wilson threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions in 2020. In limited Fields had 2,200 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Extrapolated to the same number of games, Fields’s stats were on par with Wilson’s being on pace for 3,300 yards, 33 touchdowns, but 9 picks.

The numbers do not give a strong advantage to Wilson, but another slight bump over Fields when comparing the two. What is really discerning between the two is the yards per attempt between the two. Wilson averaged 11 yards per attempt versus Fields’s 9.3 yards per attempt. Wilson not only took more shots downfield but was successful in doing so based on the impressive numbers he put up.

Athleticism

Justin Fields blows Zach Wilson out of the water in terms of athleticism. Justin Fields has the speed and elusiveness to be a threat in the read-option game. In his time at Ohio State, Fields has accumulated 867 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Zach Wilson is no slouch, however, as he ran for 254 and 10 touchdowns in his final season at BYU. Fields will be a dual-threat at the next level, but Wilson can make plays with his legs if need be.

Verdict

Through the two quarterback’s stats and abilities, Wilson is the clear cut number two quarterback in the 2021 draft. In no way does this mean Fields will not be a successful quarterback in the NFL. Coaching and the rest of the team can make or break a quarterback prospect in the NFL. If the fit is right Fields can easily become the franchise guy for any team. However, based on what each quarterback displayed in college, Wilson is the better prospect and should be drafted ahead of Fields.