Draft evaluators whiffed on Jets QB Zach Wilson


If NFL draft evaluators were in charge of weather forecasts, they might be warning of an impending heat wave in the East.

Before the 2021 NFL Draft, Jets QB Zach Wilson was ranked as the fourth-best prospect by ESPN. In ESPN’s re-draft of the 2021 first round, no team selected the former BYU QB. 

In the re-draft, ESPN has the Jets taking Justin Fields with the second overall pick instead. He was ranked 10th among 2021 prospects.

ESPN’s Todd McShay had a glowing review of Wilson’s play prior to the 2021 draft, writing, “One of his best traits is his ability to extend plays, as he has the instincts and agility to create after the initial play breaks down.” 

But that trait hasn’t translated consistently to the NFL quite yet. Wilson has shown flashes of making something out of broken plays, but has also been hampered by inaccuracy and decision-making issues in situations where he is improvising. 

Per Next Gen Stats, Wilson’s average time to throw (3.11 seconds) ranks second in the league and suggests he’s able to extend plays, but his inability to consistently finish those plays with something positive has limited the upside. 

Per data from Pro Football Focus, Wilson averages 3.97 seconds time to throw when pressured. In those situations, he is 23-of-75 (30.7 percent) for 328 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions.

On all throws in which Wilson has more than 2.5 seconds to throw, his passer rating (61.9) is the worst among QBs with at least 250 drop backs.

His performance in college against Power Five opponents should have given people pause on claiming Wilson as a top prospect.

In five games against Power Five programs, Wilson went 2-3. In those games, he was 106-for-166 (63.9 percent) for 1,201 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. 

In 2020, when BYU didn’t play against a Power Five opponent, Wilson was 247-for-336 passing (73.5 percent) for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdowns and three interceptions. BYU finished 11-1.

Perhaps it’s too early to write Wilson off, but he appears to be much closer to a bust than a franchise quarterback, underscoring once again that the draft evaluation process is an inexact science.

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