2021 NFL Draft: BYU quarterback Zach Wilson scouting report

The Carolina Panthers select Zach Wilson in the first round of this 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
The Carolina Panthers select Zach Wilson in the first round of this 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Zach Wilson, 2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft prospect Zach Wilson #1 of the BYU Cougars (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Zach Wilson: Background

To understand how Wilson improved in 2020, we must look back at how Wilson started off his football career at BYU. While he was eventually highly sought after in high school, Wilson had a hard time finding recruiters to take him seriously before his senior season. Wilson had to attend a Weber State open camp just to get noticed, according to an ESPN article.

He finished his final season in high school with 2,986 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 rushing touchdowns, while also making the honor roll at Corner Canyon High School in Utah.

Eventually, Wilson would end up committing to Boise State.  But circumstances at BYU, which originally appeared set at quarterback that offseason, changed at the 11th-hour. With a chance to play close to home and for a school that has a legacy of producing excellent quarterbacks, Wilson eventually committed to BYU. Despite growing up as the son of a Utah Utes defensive lineman, Wilson would ultimately join his father’s interstate rival.

During Wilson’s 2018 freshman season at BYU, he got the chance to start in seven of nine games played, becoming the youngest freshman starting quarterback in school history. He finished the 2018 season with a respectable record, passing for 1,578 yards, with 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

In the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Wilson went a perfect 18-for-18 and 317 passing yards against Western Michigan, earning the game MVP. Not a bad list of accomplishments for a freshman quarterback. The stage was set for Wilson to show what he could do as the full-time starter in 2019.


His sophomore season, however, did not go according to plan. Wilson had to undergo surgery for a torn labrum before the season even started. He would end up missing the entire month of October due to a hand injury. Wilson’s completion percentage dropped to 62 percent by the end of the season, earning himself just 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

The team finished the 2019 season 7-6, putting into doubt how much of his freshman season was sustainable or just a case of faulty generalization. In any case, it was going to take more than this to get Wilson a prime spot on the 2021 NFL Draft board.

Wilson returned in 2020, fully healed from his injuries and was named the starting quarterback before Week 1 of the regular season. Wilson started his junior season off well, winning the first nine games of the year before finishing 11-1.

The game logs speak for themselves in regards to Wilson’s improvement last year. His stats wildly improved across the board, a complete rehabilitation of his 2019 form. He tripled his number of passing touchdowns to 33 and reduced his number of interceptions to just three all season. Wilson also brought in 274 rushing yards and punching in 10 touchdowns with his own legs. And finally, Wilson’s season completion percentage rose to 73.5 percent, an increase of over 10-points in just one season.

Just like Burrow the year before, Wilson had given pro scouts plenty of reasons to be excited about the young man, playing in a year as uncertain and restrictive as any since the Second World War. Wilson, with his quarterback stock peaking after the 2020 season, decided to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

But it’s not just the stats that improved in 2020. His style of play, his presence in and outside of the pocket improved. Wilson took big risks and put up some amazing plays this past season. In the next section, we’ll explore what Wilson showed on the film, breaking down what he did well. Afterward, we’ll also explore the areas Wilson must improve if he is to be successful in the NFL.