Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields might be the top two QBs heading into this year's 2021 NFL Draft by consensus, but Zach Wilson's stock has risen among analysts. The BYU signal-caller enjoyed an outstanding campaign in 2020.
In his final year, Wilson completed 67.6% of his passes, tallying 7,652 yards, 56 touchdowns, and just 15 interceptions. A highly capable runner, Wilson also chipped in with 15 touchdowns during his outstanding college career. The BYU QB was also awarded a passer grade of 95.5, which is the highest ever awarded to a QB via PFF.
Despite Wilson's exploits, most expect to see Lawrence go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first overall pick in the draft, but the line between Wilson and Fields is growing ever thinner, with many Mocks now ranking the BYU QB higher than the former Ohio State Buckeye.
To be honest, it's hard to wedge a blade of grass between Wilson and Fields. The first to go off the board is ultimately going to come down to what exactly each franchise's scouting department and coaching personnel is looking for in a signal-caller.
If a team wants its QB to get outside the pocket, play safe with the ball, challenge defenses with the ability to scramble, and make big downfield plays through the air, Zach Wilson is the right pick. But if a team would prefer a player who's more of a force as a runner and willing to hang in there for a few extra milliseconds to make the play, Justin Fields is their guy.
It's horses for courses here. Both QBs look set to go on to big things once September rolls around.
It's for that reason that it's hard to determine exactly when Wilson will go off the board, and to which team. But let's take a look at the 3 most likely scenarios for Zach Wilson on draft day.
What are the 3 best draft fits for Zach Wilson?
Wilson is expected to go off the board by the ninth pick at the absolute latest. Teams picking after number nine would do well to make a contingency plan right now -- the BYU man is unlikely to be there.
The Jaguars seem odds on to go with Trevor Lawrence. Of course, there's always a chance that they won't -- it's a pretty strong QB class (in other years I think Mac Jones of Alabama would have been rated a lot higher!) -- but I worry there will be riots in Jacksonville if the Jags don't take the number one option.
Of the next 8 teams to pick, there are 4 that most agree are odds on to pluck for a new signal-caller; these are the Jets (2), Falcons (4), Eagles (6), and Panthers (8).
Personally, I think the Eagles would be crazy not to give Jalen Hurts another year. Having just shipped Carson Wentz off to Indianapolis, now's the time for them to get behind their man.
Though Hurts' form did trail off a bit towards the back end of the 2020 campaign, the Saints are one of the elite teams in the NFL right now, and Jalen Hurts caused Sean Payton and co. all kinds of problems during the Eagles vs. Saints contest back in December.
Hurts is a genuine dual-threat, and though he is rough around the edges for sure, one saw enough of him last season to form an opinion, and he deserves a full year with a solid veteran QB in reserve that he can lean on.
Bring back Foles, I say.
I digress, but with good reason: this now leaves us with only 3 possible suitors for Zach Wilson...
Would Zach Wilson be a good fit at the Jets?
Zach Wilson would be a good fit for every team; there is barely a single franchise that wouldn't be significantly strengthened by adding his name to the roster come to September.
At the Jets, Wilson will be working with new offensive coach Mike LaFleur, who is likely to bring a West Coast offensive scheme with him to New York. That means plenty of running and explosive catches out on the flanks.
A QB known for making impossible throws (running right and throwing left on a dime) such as Wilson would fit perfectly into a West Coast scheme. Imagine if Jimmy G could have thrown deep and threatened the run a bit more at the Super Bowl in 2019?
All that being said, I personally believe (and it's just a gut feeling; I've been wrong before) that Saleh will give Darnold a year to prove himself: the kid deserves a chance to work in a decent scheme, with a proven motivator as head coach, with some genuine weapons around him and a solid offensive line ahead. He's never had that. For my money, the Jets don't take a QB (feel free to troll me when they do).
Would Zach Wilson be a success in Atlanta?
Atlanta already has, in my opinion, a Super Bowl-winning caliber QB in Matt Ryan. The gunslinger threw for + 4,000-yards for the tenth year in succession in 2020 and did it without arguably the best receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones (or at least a fit `Julio Jones), for most of the year.
That being said, a number 4 overall pick doesn't come around too often and, unlike many, I do think that the Falcons will opt to take a new QB in the draft. Ryan isn't getting any younger, after all.
Zach Wilson certainly possesses Ryan's ability to make spectacular throws, and though the young QB can run, he's certainly got more of a pass-first philosophy, and plays safe; much in the mold of a certain Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes spent his first year as Chiefs under veteran Alex Smith's tutelage. It doesn't seem to have harmed the man. For my money, the Falcons will opt to do the same here. Zach Wilson to the Falcons at pick 4, even though he might have to sit and learn under Ryan for a year.
Wilson to the Panthers makes the most sense to me, but...
... sorry Panthers fans, the likelihood of Zach Wilson being on the board at pick 8 is getting slimmer by the day. It's a shame. The poise and consistency of Bridgewater combined with some of the flamboyance and scrambling ability of Cam Newton would be well received down in Carolina, no doubt.
But for my money, Wilson will be at NFC South division rivals' the Atlanta Falcons next year.
Mac Jones will still be available though. I'm telling you guys, he's underrated...