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AFC QB coach would draft Zach Wilson over Trevor Lawrence

It doesn't seem like Zach Wilson will leapfrog Trevor Lawrence to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but could he have the better career?

Matt Fitzgerald

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The 2021 NFL Draft is imminent, and while Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick, Zach Wilson is being touted as a potentially superior quarterback prospect by some.

One AFC quarterbacks coach raved about Wilson in a lengthy article by NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, suggesting the BYU signal-caller would be his choice if he were in charge of the Jacksonville Jaguars:

“If I was picking No. 1 — hoo, man, it’d be hard for me not to take him over Trevor. He’s got real playmaking ability. He’s shorter (than Lawrence) — I get it. But he’s got ball all about him. He makes plays — unique plays.”

AFC QB coach on drafting Zach Wilson over Trevor Lawrence

Pelissero stated in his piece that some around the NFL compare Wilson to a certain Seattle Seahawks superstar who shares his surname.

Lawrence has been touted as the potential top draft pick since he was in high school. That he not only put together three exceptional, historic years of football at Clemson, but kept improving and played at a high level throughout, shows he didn’t merely rest on his laurels.

But while Lawrence was maintaining his status as No. 1, Wilson came out of nowhere to light up the gridiron in 2020, thrusting BYU into the national spotlight and helping his NFL Draft stock skyrocket.

Based on this buzz about Wilson, and the fact that prominent media members such as Chris Simms and The Draft Network’s Crissy Froyd have advocated for Wilson over Lawrence, let’s take a closer look at the two QB prospects.

We’ll base the head-to-head matchup purely on key factors that go into evaluating quarterbacks. Whether someone likes one or the other boils down to a matter of preference and how much weight these factors are given.

Read More: LOOK: Trevor Lawrence seems to confirm he’s going No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Comparing Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence as prospects

Comparing Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence as prospects
Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts during the first quarter during the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
  • Arm talent and accuracy: Wilson > Lawrence
  • Decision-making and turnover avoidance: Wilson > Lawrence
  • Processing/reading the field: Lawrence > Wilson
  • Competition level: Lawrence > Wilson
  • College production: Lawrence > Wilson
  • Athleticism/running ability: PUSH
  • Size and durability: Lawrence > Wilson

Instead of just regurgitating stats and comparing them with raw numbers, it seemed worth stacking up Wilson and Lawrence based on their attributes, one of which does include college production.

Lawrence played in so many bigger games than Wilson did at the college level, against far better opponents. That’s nobody’s fault. It’s just reality.

While we can concede the point that Wilson was lighting up inferior competition, he also didn’t have skill players around him anywhere near the caliber that Lawrence did. So, that can cut both ways, but Lawrence indubitably had higher expectations placed on him from the day he stepped onto Clemson’s campus, and exceeded the hype in many ways.

Despite playing in a spread-based offense for the Tigers, Lawrence did execute NFL concepts when called upon, and has always shown an exceptional ability to scan the field. Wilson is just a little bit behind Lawrence in this category, and again, the inferior competition level plays something of a factor here.

Wilson’s detailed medical history is what really stands out. He’s smaller than Lawrence and hasn’t proven to be nearly as durable. That cliche of “the best ability is availability” goes a long way in this heads-up comparison between the two field generals. Lawrence has such a huge advantage there.

Now, having said all of that, if we’re talking about the pure ability to throw the football with accuracy, varying velocities, off-platform and while under pressure, Wilson is actually better than Lawrence in this regard.

It isn’t by much. We’re not talking a landslide. But do consider the following Pro Football Focus numbers, coupled with the fact that Wilson averaged 12.6 air yards per attempt in 2020 to Lawrence’s 10.2:

Now, we have to bear in mind that competition level plays a part here as well. Wilson and Lawrence have similar running ability. They can create big gains through the air off-schedule, and also rip of chunk yardage as ball-carriers.

But while Lawrence was being chased by future NFL players in certain situations, that wasn’t exactly the case with Wilson. At BYU, he could get by with his raw athleticism to escape and extend plays. It seems like that’ll translate to the pros, yet Wilson will need to adjust, and may find it much more difficult to do against the world’s best pass-rushers.

To make a final verdict, as much as I love Wilson, I’d have to go with Lawrence just because he’s been scrutinized for years on end and is still proving he can handle the spotlight.

If Wilson goes to the New York Jets at second overall, that feels like it has a lot of boom-or-bust potential. Oh, but how big the boom could be!

Read More: AFC exec compares 2021 NFL Draft star Zach Wilson to two QB legends