Coming into the 2020 college football season, not many people had heard of BYU’s Zach Wilson. However, Wilson made the case as one of the best quarterbacks in the upcoming draft class after dominating all season. This year, he threw for 3,267 yards and 30 touchdowns with an outrageous 73.2 completion percentage. This is my first ever in-depth prospect scouting report and I am excited to share it with you. You can find the full graphic on my twitter (@RinaldiJer).
To make this report, I dove into the film of four BYU games (LA Tech 2020, Navy 2020, Houston 2020, Coastal Carolina 2020). While watching, I took note of six major traits in a quarterback, which are all listed below with an analysis of Wilson’s performance.
Wilson is aggressive and really likes to sling it downfield. Much of his arm strength is generated from the lower half. With time in the pocket, he can get about 60 yards in the air after stepping into a throw. Wilson possesses a solid ability to throw deep on the run and gets a decent amount of velocity on the ball. However, his velocity is not eye-opening. He sometimes overestimates his strength and gets carried away with the deep ball. This affects his timing on post or fly routes, where he tends to underthrown his receiver. Still, on the short and intermediate routes, Wilson can zip the ball into the receiver’s back pocket.
Wilson’s accuracy greatly improved statistically in 2020, as he completed on 73% of his passes. He is fairly accurate when in the pocket. The accuracy dips a bit when he is on the run, but he usually gives his target a chance. Wilson shows some inconsistency with the deep ball, as he can struggle to lead his receiver and throw more of a jump ball. However, Wilson has exhibited flashes of brilliance with the deep ball when his timing is on. He is very capable of changing the trajectory of his passes to avoid defenders and thread the needle.
Athletic Ability & Pocket Mobility
Wilson is an above-average athlete at the quarterback position and possesses a solid ability to scramble and throw on the run. He reads the defense well on run-pass options and zone options and is capable of fooling the defense for a chunk run. Wilson appears comfortable in the pocket, but often leaves a clean pocket, signaling his big-play mindset. He tends to struggle when faced with pressure, as he was hit infrequently at BYU and forced out throws rather than taking a sack. He maintains balance with his feet and his footwork is solid when throwing on the run. Wilson keeps his eyes downfield and is aware of when he can gain a chunk of yards by scrambling.
Wilson has a good understanding of BYU’s spread offense concepts. He has trouble identifying the safety help in coverages and sometimes throws deep into double coverage when a check down option is open. Wilson reads the defense well on run-pass options. He will need to become more polished with advanced defensive schemes. Wilson does not know how to fully handle pressure and sometimes moves right into the defensive lineman when rolling from a relatively clean pocket.
Field Vision & Decision Making
Wilson usually does not go through his progressions and throws to his first look, even if that target is running a deep route. He likes to extend plays with his legs and can handle pursuit from a pass rusher. Wilson typically does not like to rely on a check down option and goes for the big play. He has shown the ability to look off defenders against zone coverage, but seems to plan a target for almost every play pre snap. Once again, he seems to love the high-risk high-reward play as opposed to the safe route.
Wilson throws a solid spiral on short and intermediate throws. His deep ball is a bit inconsistent, as it can either be just about perfect or flail through the air. Wilson showcases an impressive ability to alter his arm slot/angle to weave the ball through the traffic of defenders. He chooses a high arm slot to dump the ball off to a screen or to his check down option. Wilson’s footwork in the pocket is clean when he has time, but he is very comfortable with rolling to either side and completing a throw on the run. He sometimes has a tendency to release the ball off of one foot while rolling out instead of setting his feet.
Zach Wilson is a quarterback best fit for a spread west coast offense. He is an athletic signal caller who can make plays with both his arm and legs. He likes to take plenty of deep shots each game but has a tendency to be off on his timing and underthrow the receiver. Wilson’s arm strength is adequate and he throws a fairly solid ball in terms of timing and precision. He goes through his progressions infrequently and has not needed to learn many complex offensive styles.
At the next level, he will need to learn how to read more difficult defensive schemes and be able to find holes in the middle of the field. Wilson will need to enter the league behind a capable starter while he learns how to improve his mental game and limit poor decisions. He will likely be one of the first quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, as the upside is clearly there.