Zach Wilson, BYU star and first-round QB prospect, declares for 2021 NFL Draft

BYU star quarterback Zach Wilson officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday, and could well be the second player off the board in April.

By Matt Fitzgerald
Oct 24, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) looks down field in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Texas State Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2021 NFL Draft officially welcomed a new entry on Friday, as BYU quarterback Zach Wilson announced his intentions to take his talents to the professional level.

Wilson is in the conversation as the No. 2 quarterback prospect behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and is a lock to go high in the draft’s first round barring something unforeseen.

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Zach Wilson officially declares for 2021 NFL Draft

It was more of a formality than anything else, but Wilson’s announcement is still a watershed moment. He thanked his Cougars coaches and supporters in breaking the big news himself:

Wilson guided BYU to an 11-1 record this season, capped off with a sensational performance in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl, which the Cougars won by a score of 49-23 over UCF.

After a couple of middling seasons when he saw action as BYU’s starter under center, Wilson exploded onto the scene in 2020, so it’s hardly a surprise the junior decided to forgo his final collegiate year of eligibility in favor of making the NFL leap.

Zach Wilson stats, 2021 NFL Draft potential

Zach Wilson stats, 2021 NFL Draft potential
Dec 22, 2020; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scrambles with the ball against the UCF Knights during the first half at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 21-year-old phenom put up mind-boggling numbers this year, throwing for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns to only three interceptions with a 73.5% completion rate and an average of 11 yards per pass attempt. Wilson also ran for 254 more yards and 10 TDs.

All those stats imply a combination of accuracy, and a knack for generating explosive plays as a passer and ball-carrier. That’s precisely what Wilson is capable of. His skill set transcends the sheer production any box score scout can see, though.

It was always assumed Lawrence would be the No. 1 QB prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft class, followed by Ohio State’s Justin Fields. However, a couple turnover-heavy performances from Fields and Wilson’s rapid rise has drastically reshaped that narrative, to the point where Wilson could well be the second overall pick.

Going from an afterthought of a pro prospect to potentially the second player off the board is quite an achievement for Wilson. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. believes Wilson has a chance to be the No. 2 QB in the class, while Pro Football Focus rates Wilson as the second-ranked player on their 2021 draft big board.

The question is whether the New York Jets select Wilson, or stick with incumbent quarterback Sam Darnold. If the team decides to proceed with Darnold, they could expedite their rebuild by landing multiple assets and trading out of the pick with someone who wants to select Wilson on draft day.

Other suitors who make sense for Wilson, per the current draft order, are the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 or the Carolina Panthers at ninth overall.

Atlanta in the midst of a regime change and could be looking for Matt Ryan’s long-term successor. Carolina will soon have a new general manager and could land an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater in Wilson, as the latter has a higher ceiling and more long-term potential.

The 2021 NFL Draft will begin on April 29 and is slated to take place in Cleveland.