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New York Jets-2021 NFL draft: Initial Zach Wilson thoughts

Zach Wilson
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Zach Wilson is rising up draft boards and has New York Jets fans hyped. Today, it’s all about starting the story with initial thoughts.

The grieving process is different for everybody. For some, it takes a long time to get over heartache. Others who feel the pain sit in darkness for a few minutes only to snap back quickly.

No matter the period of time, most people eventually move on to the next obsession.

Hello, Zach Wilson.

Shortly after the New York Jets beat the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday, the grieving process began for fans anticipating young Trevor Lawrence. Then, suddenly, the term “Mormon Mahomes” began circulating.

The BYU quarterback who regularly excites onlookers is the next Jets fan obsession, for obvious reasons. His 425-yard, three-touchdown performance through the air in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl (what?!) has fans at a fever pitch when considering the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Today, we provide initial thoughts on the kid, as it’s entirely too early in the draft process to throw out any definitive statement or choice. Too much film needs to be viewed before that decision can be made.

The kid’s arm is special

One glance at Wilson during a game makes it obvious that his right arm is something special. He can make throws from tough spots, different arm slots, and while on the run in a variety of situations.

The throw that everybody was buzzing about against UCF was the inside-led frozen-rope down the right sideline in a one-on-one situation. This is not a typical NFL throw. Generally, high and outside shoulder is the target in such a situation.

The really impressive throw happened on the move. Facing pressure on the left edge, Wilson was forced to step up and deliver a ball down the left sideline, while also moving to his right a bit, yet he delivers a strike.

The ball was overthrown just a bit, forcing the back to dive for the unbelievable grab. But that’s OK. The placement here is exactly what any talent evaluator would want to see from a collegiate quarterback. It’s better to be a bit long than a bit inside or underneath when a defender is trailing.

Against Western Kentucky earlier in the season, Wilson threw one of the nicest incompletions of all-time.

Again, Wilson is on the move. He steps up and places the ball in the perfect spot while understanding the free safety’s leverage. Throwing to the post here against a single-high look is an interesting thing, yet Wilson does it brilliantly thanks to understanding leverage and placement.

What happened in 2020?

Wilson put up 3,699 yards and 33 touchdowns to just three interceptions in the air on a 73.4 completion percentage. (He also ran for 10 scores and 254 yards.) In 2019, the kid mustered just 2,382 yards and 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions on a 62.4 completion percentage. The year prior wasn’t much better (1,578 yards, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions in 2018).

What in the world happened last offseason?

It’s a pretty similar rise we saw from Joe Burrow a year ago. In fact, Wilson’s 94.9 Pro Football Focus grade is exactly the same Burrow had during his senior season at LSU.

The general consensus for the jump seems to revolve around injuries. Wilson’s 2019 campaign was littered with injuries and recovery, forcing him to sludge along at times. He underwent shoulder surgery (torn labrum) in January 2019 only to go under the knife again on his throwing hand in October 2019. In June 2019, he also revealed that he had a torn labrum in his left shoulder as well—something that also required surgery.

He’s not 6-foot-3, injury history is worrisome

Any former player or coach watching this kid in-game realizes that the program is being kind to No. 1. He isn’t 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds.

At best, he’s 6-foot-1 and change. If I had to guess, I’d call it 6-foot-1 and under 200 pounds, which obviously means he’s a small kid—something that usually doesn’t bode well during the draft process.

Size means less at the position now than it ever has. Drew Brees helped pave the way, taking Doug Flutie‘s lead once upon a time. And now, thanks to a decade and a half of ensuring player safety and debilitating defensive football, the NFL is as soft as ever. Quarterbacks are also protected to the point one needs to wonder when they’ll start wearing flags.

Nonetheless, Wilson’s size deals more with durability concerns than anything else.

As previously mentioned, he’s suffered torn labrums in both shoulders already. His throwing motion might place added stress on the right shoulder. (And this is the case in spite of the idea that his release is quick and perfect for the professional ranks.) His smallish frame won’t help ease any injury or long-term concerns the Jets may have.

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He’s the prototypical new-age football quarterback

While the injury risk needs to be greatly factored into the discussion, Wilson fits today’s quarterback era like a glove. The kid isn’t a super athlete, but he’s more than athletic enough to get it done in a variety of ways that fits today’s NFL game.

We’ve seen him throw side-arm, under-handed and on the run many times, which has helped the “Mormon Mahomes” nickname along. But that tag only came after a previous one everybody wants to forget.

Wilson was initially known as “Mormon Manziel.”

The kid’s smaller frame and height falls more in line with the 6-foot Manziel than it does the 6-foot-3 Mahomes. It’s clear just how much bigger Mahomes is than Wilson. His overall flare for the game compares with Manziel’s collegiate play very nicely. His arm talent compares much more with Mahomes’s, however.

Nicknames and comparisons aside, Zach Wilson fits today’s bill at the position. What we need to know are as follows:

  1. Can he hold up in the long-run?
  2. Was his collegiate competition too cupcake-filled?
  3. Is he a competitor who’ll outwork the competition with a maniacal attitude?

Other on-field quarterback things such as tight-window placement, throwing in the face of pressure and big-moment situations will also have to be considered as the process officially gets going. For now, just understand that the kid has all the arm talent in the world and fits today’s game to perfection.

Is that enough to overcome the troublesome durability concerns that come with a legitimate injury history coupled with a smaller frame?

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3 years ago

I still say drafting a quarterback is necessary or a priority; drafting offensive linemen is both! With Penei Sewell sitting there are #2, Joe Douglas would be a fool not to take him. A really good offensive line is the cure for what ails Sam Darnold. We have one dominant tackle, two would be better. Fant has been more than adequate at right tackle, but Sewell would be a upgrade and Fant could be the swingman the extra blocker in the jumbo package and an excellent target for the tackle eligible play! The Jets have a young veteran quarterback who’s still on his rookie contract. The Jets must draft Sewell and a center or guard with the Seahawks first round pick. Drafting an offensive lineman with the #2 pick would show a commitment to winning, drafting a quarterback would show a commitment to making a splash and I thought the Jets ended splash making when Mike Tannenbaum got fired.