Zach Wilson has been steadily climbing up the draft boards and is a projected top 5 pick. He has had his best year even with COVID making it really hard to schedule opponents. BYU also had said that they can play anyone at any time. Although they avoided almost every team that reached out to them throughout the year except Coastal Carolina. They would also go on to lose that game. Despite how crazy the year was, there is cause for concern with BYU’s strength of schedule. It did not seem like it was something that had to be evaluated, but it is important at the next level. For a franchise that is trying to get back into playoff contention, the QB pick is the most important. Zach Wilson’s best year came with 0 Power 5 opponents. Let’s rewind the tape on Zach Wilson.
Let’s start back in 2019 when we had no COVID restrictions upon the college football world. BYU played their normal independent schedule taking on 4 Power 5 opponents at the beginning of their season. They went on to go 2-2 in those games with two of them going into OT. If anything we know that Wilson is a winner. In both those games, the defense got a stop, and Wilson and the offense capitalized. They won enough games this year as well to prove that he is a winner. It is the first box that you have to check off to be an early pick in the NFL. Execs just like to have a winner behind their team. Let’s go in-depth to these first few games in 2019 before we dive into the 2020 season.
In the first game of the year, the BYU Cougars take on the Utah Utes. On paper, this game was supposed to be close with the Utes favored by 6. This game would go downhill fast and the 12 points that BYU scored would be defensive. Let’s look at the tape. Wilson had some great moments in this game, but also some not-so-great ones. Let’s head into the second quarter. It is a 2nd and 2 early in the quarter. Wilson sees the pressure and feels the pressure as soon as the play starts. He looks it face on and immediately attempts to scramble away. As soon as he starts to step away one of his legs gets wrapped up. Now when this happens as a QB, you take the sack and move on. We are early in the 2nd quarter and Wilson tries to make a hero play. The ball is picked off and taken the other way for 6 points.
Let’s move to the fourth quarter in this game. Utah is up 23 to 6 with about 13 minutes left. It is first and ten deep in BYU territory. Wilson takes the snap and can snap a pass to the outside quickly. He throws a good ball to the 20-yard line that is easily caught by the receiver. The best thing about this play is Wilson looking a lot better even with the pressure. He steps up and takes it on while throwing. Unfortunately in the next play, Wilson doesn’t make the right read at all. He throws a quick ball in double coverage which is eventually easily picked off after being tipped. It is just a sign of how much improvement Wilson still has left before he is ready. I could keep getting into moments Wilson had, but you get a good picture of how his 2019 season went. Wilson would go into the offseason and win back his job as the starting QB.
Upsets came left and right throughout the college football season as no one was particularly ready for what was going to occur. The COVID pandemic had made the season that more unpredictable. Teams fell left and right and made way for BYU to quietly creep into the rankings as they were undefeated. They eventually would make a lot of noise saying they were ready to play anyone. Although they would continue to dodge opponents until they finally scheduled a game against Coastal Carolina. A game they would eventually lose, but a good game nevertheless. Zach Wilson had plenty of moments in this game so let’s rewind the tape.
We pick up the action during the last play of the first quarter. This was a brilliant play by Wilson that would go overlooked with all the highlights throughout the game. It is a 1st and 10 at the BYU 24. Wilson fakes the handoff despite seeing the backside pressure coming towards him. What seems like an inevitable bad play turns around quickly when Wilson decides to go for a pump fake. This forces the backer to jump into the air and Wilson to turn on the jets. In fact, Wilson started his run so early that it seemed he had no intention to pass the ball downfield at all. This allows him to get a first down as the quarter ends giving BYU some momentum being down 6-0.
If you watched the game, did you also notice how many Wilson slides? Something that you see more experienced QBs do in order to not get hurt. We pick it up late in the 2nd quarter this time. Less than 30 seconds on the clock and BYU is facing a 3rd and 15. Wilson scrambles hard to the left and has virtually no options at all. The pressure starts to collapse near the Coastal Carolina sideline and Wilson leaves his feet to throw the ball. Now if you have played QB in the past you know that this is not preferred by any coach. The lack of power from his hips had no effect on Wilson as he gunned a perfect ball to his tight end in between two defenders.
Most people have seen the last drive in this game, but I think it is worth talking about when mentioning Wilson’s value. The kid has been rattled around all game being knocked down and slammed to the ground. He has felt the pressure against him and they start this drive in their end zone. He makes a great throw, but a better catch to get out of the end zone. After a short pass that gets them up to the Coastal 46, Wilson takes his time before finding an open receiver. Earlier in the game, we saw Wilson be a lot less cautious in these situations. He now is making the right play every time. The next play is Wilson finding the gap in the deep zone. He throws a lofted ball into the weakness of the zone on the BYU sideline. Giving them 18 yards to go with three seconds remaining. Wilson would find the same receiver again at the 4-yard line before he ultimately got tackled. The ball was thrown well, but I have more of a problem with Wilson’s eagerness here. The ball needs to be in the end zone to win the game. So why isn’t Wilson throwing into the end zone? A few of the routes hadn’t developed yet and there looked like more options could be available. This would ultimately be the end of the game and BYU chances at a New Year’s Six bowl. A win against UCF really didn’t give the Power 5 win that we so desperately desired out of Wilson.
I am not saying by any means that this isn’t a good option to have on your NFL team. All I am saying is I wish we got to see a little bit more of this guy before we see him as a top 5 pick. You have to beat the good competition in college in order to truly be ready for the NFL. The NFL is the best competition out there and there is a lot of games on the 2020 BYU schedule that screams out NFL-proven QB. That is my main criticism despite Wilson being such great potential at the next level. I don’t see Pro Day’s as something that should boost the QBs rank, but all people see it differently. Answering the question we were asking at the beginning of the article. Is Zach Wilson overrated? The answer is simply yes, he is not as good as his projected pick. That would say he is overrated. Wilson has his NFL rookie year to prove me wrong, although I believe it is going to be a tough adjustment for Wilson at the next level.
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