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NFL Draft

Zach Wilson: Contextualized Quarterbacking 2021

  • The Draft Network
  • April 7, 2021
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For anyone new to the family here at The Draft Network, Contextualized Quarterbacking is an annual project I put together for TDN Premium subscribers. In Contextualized Quarterbacking, I chart the significant draft-eligible quarterbacks across their final seasons, tagging each dropback with a ton of situational features that allow us to understand their game at more specific and situational levels.

Each throw is graded both for Accuracy and for Ball Placement. Accuracy is a general metric for catchable passes—an accurate pass is a catchable pass—while Placement scores take more details into account: maximizing YAC opportunities, protecting the wide receiver from unnecessary hits, and protecting the ball from being played on by the defensive back. Throws are also charted relative to depth and passing direction, to understand how target distribution affects accuracy scores for each quarterback. It’s harder to throw deep!

Contextualized Quarterbacking helps us understand what each college offense asked of their quarterback, which gives us an additional tool for projecting these passers to the pros. When we understand their college offense, we can better identify those skills that will translate to the pro level, and accordingly, project the ideal scheme fits for each player.

Wilson is an excellent quarterback prospect. Wilson’s wicked quick release makes him one of the most successful quick-game quarterbacks in the class. His zippy arm strength lets him access outside of the numbers easily and his ability to escape and willingness to step into pressure both create explosive plays. There are clear gaps in Wilson’s profile, however, which introduce doubt into his standing as the clear consensus QB2 in this class: he doesn’t like the middle of the field, he requires a lot of tight window adjustments on his patented nine-ball portfolio, and he actually isn’t any more accurate on scramble drills plays than the other Big 5 quarterbacks. He’s still clearly a top-flight quarterback, though.


Left Middle Right
20+ 4.8% 4.8% 7.9%
10-19 7.3% 13.6% 10.0%
0-9 7.6% 20.5% 7.6%
<0 3.3% 9.0% 3.6%


Left Middle Right
20+ 12.2% 9.6% 13.4%
10-19 7.4% 16.5% 7.1%
0-9 5.8% 15.0% 3.2%
<0 1.8% 5.7% 2.3%

What stands out in Wilson’s production is how successfully he hit the intermediate areas of the field (10-19 yards). With a heavy dose of back-shoulder fades, deep comebacks, and crosses and climbs off of play-action, the BYU offense utilized Wilson’s snappy throwing process and explosive drive throws to make their quick game go about twice as far down the field as the average college team’s. On an NFL offense that utilizes heavy personnel and wide zone play-action—like the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, or Atlanta Falcons—Wilson’s accuracy to that area of the field is encouraging.


Left Middle Right
20+ .780 .737 .793
10-19 .815 .833 .810
0-9 .812 .862 .837
<0 .945 .928 .947


Left Middle Right
20+ .643 .537 .674
10-19 .728 .638 .752
0-9 .755 .746 .796
<0 .932 .905 .895

Wilson measured in at the BYU Pro Day at a healthy 6-foot-2, but behind a pretty tall BYU offensive line, he had to take deep drops to see the full field and could struggle to deliver accurate footballs in the intermediate middle of the field accordingly. Wilson’s got very competitive numbers throwing into tight windows, but those numbers are inflated by his back-shoulder throws against the sideline. When working the middle of the field, Wilson’s often late to the throw, inviting closing zone defenders and forcing tight window zingers.

In many offenses, that won’t be a problem, but Wilson would benefit from a Kyle Shanahan-style offense—similar to the one he enjoyed in college—in that the heavy play-action approach would move linebackers and widen middle-of-the-field windows.

Please click here for access to the full data sheet including QB alignment, X-step drops, MOFO/MOFC coverage, first read, beyond first read, pressured vs. unpressured, and much more.

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