SALT LAKE CITY — An unheralded quarterback who could not get a scholarship from his favorite college team will likely be the second player selected in this month's NFL draft.
The New York Jets are expected to take BYU's Zach Wilson, making the former Corner Canyon High star the highest NFL draft pick in program history. The Jets cleared the way to pick Wilson by trading incumbent Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for several draft picks.
"You can use a sharpie to pen in BYU QB Zach Wilson to the Jets at No. 2 now," ESPN draft expert Todd McShay posted on Twitter.
Not bad for a player Utah didn't offer coming out of his high school in Draper, and one who wasn't exactly the highest priority for BYU either. Nothing new there for Wilson, who has faced a litany of doubters along the way.
College football fans throughout Utah ought to know Wilson's story by now, as a quarterback who committed to Boise State and then gave in to BYU's late pursuit. After making several changes to the offensive coaching staff, notably hiring Fesi Sitake and Aaron Roderick, head coach Kalani Sitake was able to land Wilson.
Three years later, after becoming the starter halfway through his freshman season, Wilson led BYU to an 11-1 record and declared for the draft following his junior campaign. By then, Wilson had built momentum as a high draft pick and then solidified it with a strong showing during BYU's pro day that featured a deep throw across his body that landed perfectly on target to a receiver some 60 yards downfield.
To date, television replays of the pass have practically numbered in the hundreds. It attracted even more attention on Monday, the day the Jets sent Darnold packing to Charlotte.
If McShay is right, along with virtually all the other draft experts, the Jets will get their franchise quarterback. And Wilson will get the Jets, a downtrodden organization that was 2-14 last season and hasn't had a winning record since 2016.
For sure, Wilson is going to a lousy team, an issue that concerns former BYU and NFL legend Steve Young. But the Hall of Fame quarterback doesn't doubt Wilson's ability.
You can use a sharpie to pen in BYU QB Zach Wilson to the Jets at No. 2 now. https://t.co/tK8HL64dPD— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 5, 2021
"Every quarterback needs help. You can't go somewhere where you aren't going to get the help. That's always the struggle of being drafted high, is can you get to a team that's decent that can show your talents?" Young said in a recent interview on The Zone Sports Network.
"One thing about Zach that everybody loves — and I think that's why people get more and more excited — you can see that the more (BYU) asked of him the better he got. And that's the physical qualities that are much like (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback) Patrick Mahomes with the arm strength, throw it anywhere, run around and the presence."
Getting selected high in the draft is only that — not necessarily a pathway to NFL success. Plenty of high picks have washed out as NFL quarterbacks, no matter their track record in college.
The college recruiters who were slow to realize Wilson's talent had plenty of company with legions of local fans, as evidenced in the comments section of an article I wrote for KSL in 2019. Titled "BYU back in the great quarterback business," the column drew the ire of many skeptics.
For fun's sake, here are a few of the responses in their original texts:
- "Keep hacking away Pat and maybe one of these years, you will get it."
- "Nothing like counting your chickens before the eggs hatch Patrick."
- "Believe it when I see it."
- "I want to believe it — I really do. But after a while, it's just the same old rhetoric."
- "He still looks like he's twelve."
- "And plays like he's 30."