The 2021 NFL Draft is imminent, and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is widely expected to be the second overall pick to the New York Jets. It could be the best decision in franchise history if the latest comparisons for Wilson prove to be true.
It’s officially silly season, and football fans are no doubt going to hear all kinds of crazy buzz leading up to draft day. However, the Jets faithful should be excited that Wilson’s pro player comparisons continue to put him in extremely elite company.
Zach Wilson draws Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers comparisons from AFC exec
Albert Breer of The MMQB reported what the executive thought of Zach Wilson after the BYU star’s pro day, where he wowed NFL talent evaluators with a dazzling showcase of his prodigious arm talent:
From a tape standpoint, he wasn’t as good as [Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers] coming out. But that’s easy to say now. Some of the ability to throw from different angles, and with a release that quick is similar to those guys. Rodgers is probably more appropriate. Remember, people weren’t super [excited] with Rodgers’ arm, either, which seems crazy now. So is he as talented as those guys, as an athlete? Maybe.AFC executive comparing Zach Wilson to Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers
Comparing Wilson to Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers in any capacity before he’s played an NFL down sounds ridiculous, but to be clear, this isn’t necessarily a reflection of where Wilson’s NFL career will end up — just what his skill set brings to mind.
The most obvious moment of Wilson being compared to Mahomes and Rodgers came when he launched a 58-yard, cross-body throw off his back foot to hit his receiver in perfect stride:
Wilson did have an electrifying 2020 campaign in which he threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 12 starts. He also rank for 10 touchdowns, which helps him fit into the mold of the modern pro quarterback.
But how exactly does Wilson stack up to Rodgers and Mahomes, at least when they were coming out of college? After evaluating the players from that standpoint, the AFC executive’s comparison may not sound so outlandish.
Comparing Zach Wilson to Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers as prospects
Some of us were ahead of the curve on Mahomes, like the author of this piece. It’s OK. No need to gloat.
Part of the reason Mahomes seemed like an intriguing prospect was the fact that he had the autonomy at Texas Tech to change the plays at the line of scrimmage, was tasked with adjusting protections, and routinely made full-field reads. Not the reputation that the Air Raid offense typically has. For those who watched Mahomes closely enough or read up on him, though, they knew that was the case.
Even with all that in mind, Mahomes had to sit for a full year —or did he really? — behind Alex Smith before proceeding to take over and win NFL MVP honors.
As for Rodgers, his phenomenal throwing ability reached new heights after college. Coming out, his throwing motion looked more like the unorthodox delivery we see in the 2021 class from Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Rodgers’ infamous draft day slide landed him with a Green Bay Packers franchise that gave him a long runway before he took over for Brett Favre, and it served Rodgers well.
Unlike Mahomes and Rodgers, Wilson will be thrust into action as a rookie. He won’t be going to a great organization, unless New York baffles the NFL world and passes on him, allowing the San Francisco 49ers to scoop up Wilson at No. 3 overall.
Wilson played a lot as a freshman and is at least a two-year college starter like Mahomes and Rodgers both were. There are undeniable similarities in terms of their raw talent at throwing the football as well. The crazy thing is, Wilson seems more precise and consistent with his off-platform throws than Mahomes was coming out, and is more advanced than the California version of Rodgers in terms of pure arm power and football IQ.
Although one could argue competition was better in the cases of Mahomes and Rodgers, it’s not like Wilson’s stats weren’t impressive. One key distinction: In terms of air yards per attempt in their final college seasons, Mahomes (9.2) and Rodgers (8.5) fell far short of Wilson’s mind-bending 12.6 AY/A stat.
In other words, Wilson wasn’t just dumping the ball off. He was attacking downfield constantly, challenging and succeeding at threading the ball into tight windows and still completed 73.5% of his passes in 2020.
While there’s no guarantee he’ll ultimately develop into an NFL player on the level of Mahomes or Rodgers, at least as a prospect with his physical skill set, Wilson is well on his way toward that type of trajectory — as he should be, if he’s a top-two draft pick.