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Fantasy Football: Should we buy Zach Wilson as a late-round QB option?

Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass during an OTA at Jets Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

Rejoice, rejoice: The Adam Gase era is over after 23 losses and a league-worst -297 point differential during the 2019-2020 seasons. There was never a single moment over the past two years when the New York Jets looked like anything resembling a contender; here’s to hoping their future under new head coach Robert Saleh is filled with far more real life success.

Of course, plenty of Saleh’s legacy will be tied to the performance of 2021 No. 2 overall pick  Zach Wilson. Some sort of a learning curve is to be expected for both the rookie head coach and quarterback; the Jets are again fully expected to function as one of the league’s worst teams ahead of next season. Still, at least there’s finally a sense of optimism in the air surrounding their future.

What follows is a breakdown on just how good Wilson was in college as well as what we should expect from him as a fantasy asset in 2021.

Wilson was a world-beater for BYU in 2020

PFF stated the following about Wilson in our PFF 2021 Draft Guide:

“Call him a one-year wonder if you must, but Zach Wilson's ascent isn't near the same as Joe Burrow's a season ago. Wilson was out here earning an 80.5 overall grade as a true freshman in 2018 while leading a team full of adults at BYU. A shoulder injury and hand injury limited him in 2019 before he lit college football on fire this past fall. Blessed with a snappy right arm, Wilson has thrown passes as far as 65 yards through the air this season (against WKU, to be exact) with little more than a flick. He can not only make all the throws, but he can also make them accurately.”

Level of competition be damned: There are more than a few absolutely absurd throws on tape that will take any lonely film grinder from six to midnight in a hurry.

Yes, it’s worrisome that it took Wilson until his final collegiate season to put together any sort of real high-level production. Also yes, Wilson proved to be nothing short of excellent when throwing just about anywhere, grading out highly in overall passing (95.5), intermediate throws (93.9) and deep balls (99.9).

The biggest potential red flag for Wilson is the reality that he wasn’t forced to deal with pressure much, and his 74.1 grade in these situations wasn’t nearly as ideal as we saw when he was kept clean (96.5). It’s not that Wilson can’t make plays under pressure; we just didn’t see him consistently rushed due to 1) BYU’s baller offensive line, and 2) the generally low-level competition at play.

The latter point is the largest issue when projecting Wilson into 2021. Clearly the young man has the sort of uncoachable arm talent to thrive if surrounded by even an adequate supporting cast; it just remains to be seen if the Jets will be able to provide that sort of environment as early as 2021.


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