With the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson….
Zach Wilson Career Statistics
At 6’2” and 214 pounds, Wilson is not built as sturdy as the other top quarterbacks in this class, but his off-script playmaking and arm strength playmaking are the traits that have boosted his draft stock this entire offseason.
As a true freshman at age 19 in 2018, Wilson took over as the starting quarterback just five games into the season. In that freshman year, he completed 65.9% of his passes for 8.7 Y/A with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. The highlight of that freshman run came in the Idaho Potato Bowl when Wilson closed the season completing 18-of-18 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
Wilson regressed in 2019 and missed time with a shoulder injury. In his sophomore season, Wilson saw all of his rate stats regress from his freshman season before roaring back in 2020 with by far his best season, completing 73.5% of his passes for 11.0 Y/A and a 33-to-3 TD-to-INT rate. Out of all quarterback prospects since 2000, it was just the eighth time that a quarterback had completed over 70% of his passes to go along with over 10.0 yards per pass attempt and over 30 passing touchdowns in their final collegiate season (spoiler alert, he was not the only QB in this class to do it, too).
The biggest slight against Wilson was that playing at BYU, he did not face the level of opposition as his other cohorts at the top of this class outside of Trey Lance. Over the past two seasons, Wilson faced just four total defenses in the top-20 of Bill Connelly’s defensive SP+ metric and just seven in the top-50.
In those four games against top-20 defenses, Wilson completed 64.7% of his passes for 7.1 Y/A and a 4-to-4 TD-to-INT rate as opposed to a 69.1% completion rate for 9.9 Y/A while throwing 40 touchdowns to eight interceptions in his other 17 games. To his credit, he did shred the best defense he faced in 2020, connecting on 26-of-35 passes for 303 yards and three scores against San Diego State.
Wilson has been compared to Patrick Mahomes this offseason due to his arm strength and creativity to press the defense from unique platforms, but objectively his career production through the air and on the ground looks similar to Alex Smith coming out of Utah in 2005. The primary difference is Wilson is aggressive down the field. Just this past season, Wilson was 20-of-27 on throws over 30 yards in the air.
Like most of this class, Wilson also comes with the additional bonus of having mobility in his arsenal to go along with passing upside. While his stature will not have him on as many designed runs at the next level as Fields or Lance, Wilson can still use legs, checking out in the 50th percentile in career rushing production among all quarterback prospects since 2000. Including sack yardage (because college football is still ridiculous in this regard), Wilson ran for double-digit yardage in 20 of his 28 starts to go along with 15 touchdowns.
Heading to New York, Wilson should be expected to start immediately in Week 1 surrounding an offense that is still being built up around him.
Jets’ quarterbacks were pressured on a league-high 43.6% of their dropbacks last season per Pro Football Focus. They ranked 29th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate Metric (50%) and 30th in their Run Block Win Rate Metric (67%). They have made no significant adds to that unit this offseason prior to the draft, so Wilson could face much messier pockets than what he was accustomed to at BYU.
A group, the Jets wide receivers ranked 22nd in receptions (11.8) and 25th in receiving yardage per game (145.0) while tied for 24th in the league in touchdown receptions (12) in 2020. The team signed Corey Davis to a long-term contract this offseason to help remedy that as they wait on the development of Denzel Mims in year two. Davis never lived up to the No. 5 Draft selection the Titans used on him in 2017, but Davis did close out his tenure in Tennessee on a strong note in 2020.
Coming off a 2019 season in which he caught 43-of-601 targets for 601 yards and two touchdowns, Davis caught 65-of-92 targets for 984 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games, setting career highs in catch rate (70.7%), yards per reception (15.1 yards), touchdowns, receptions (4.6) and yards per game (70.3). Among all NFL wideouts last season, Davis was fifth in yards per route run (2.58 yards).
Mims missed seven games due to a hamstring injury, but when on the field led the Jets with a 14.6 yard depth of target and 71.4 air yards per game while catching 23-of-44 targets for 357 yards and zero scores.
The team also still has a reliable slot asset in Jamison Crowder in the final year of his contract. In two seasons with the Jets, Crowder has secured 4.9 passes per game in each of those seasons.
Early 2021 Zach Wilson Projection: 357-of-564 (63.4%), 4,190 yards, 25 TD, 14 INT, 54 carries, 244 yards, 2 TD