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QB KlassRoom

Quantifying Quarterbacks: Zach Wilson

by Derrik Klassen
Updated On: February 24, 2021, 4:47 pm ET

Quantifying Quarterbacks is an NFL Draft focused quarterback charting project geared toward providing as much information about as much of a quarterback's recent career as possible. Over 20 data points are recorded for any given pass attempt, ranging from down-and-distance, personnel grouping, play-action, depth of target, accuracy, and much more. Quantifying Quarterbacks charts the entirety of a quarterback's final college season, as well as a smaller sample (four games) from their previous season. All of this charting is done manually by me during and after the college football season. For a more in-depth look at what exactly Quantifying Quarterbacks is, here is a link to last year's final product: 2020 Quantifying Quarterbacks.


BYU QB Zach Wilson

Distance (Usage Rate)Left OutsideLeft MiddleRight MiddleRight OutsideTotal
20+ (16.86%)12/21 (4 TD)2/611/12 (2 TD)19/34 (5 TD, 1 INT)44/73 (11 TD, 1 INT)
16-20 (6.93%)4/56/77/85/1022/30
11-15 (19.63%)13/22 (2 TD)10/17 (1 TD, 1 INT)16/2315/23 (2 TD)54/85 (5 TD, 1 INT)
6-10 (13.39%)15/19 (1 TD, 1 INT)8/810/1114/20 (3 TD, 1 INT)47/58 (4 TD, 2 INT)
1-5 (30.02%)30/31 (1 TD)29/32 (1 TD, 1 INT)33/41 (2 TD)22/26114/130 (4 TD, 1 INT)
0 (10.39%)7/819/22 (4 TD)5/57/1038/45 (4 TD)
Total 81/106 (7 TD, 1 INT)74/92 (6 TD, 2 INT)82/100 (4 TD)82/123 (10 TD, 2 INT)319/421 (32 TD, 5 INT)

Games Charted: Tennessee (2019), Utah (2019), USC (2019), Washington (2019), All 2020 (except bowl game)

CHARTING EXTRAS

Blatant Drops: 12 (2.77%)

Forced Adjustments: 31 (7.16%)

Contested Drops: 17 (3.93%)

Passes Defended: 39 (9.01%)

Explosive: 61 (14.08%)

Throwaways: 12

Zach Wilson’s profile is outstanding. There’s no other way to put it. Even Wilson’s “worst” areas are not concerning so much as they are not as impressive as the rest of his profile. Nothing about Wilson’s charting profile suggests there is a glaring weakness in his game or reason to be deathly concerned. 

That said, it’s worth prefacing that with how Wilson’s profile came to be. While Wilson is, indeed, a good quarterback prospect, it’s a lot easier to put up elite charting numbers when your team clearly outclasses the opponent week after week. While that was not true in 2019, it was for most of 2020 when BYU played a much easier schedule. To be fair, he is not the only QB this year who that is true of, but it certainly applies to him. 

While it’s difficult to capture how regularly Wilson had wide-the-hell-open receivers (and he often did), we can look at how often Wilson’s pass-catchers were hurting him with failed receptions. For the most part, they really weren’t. Only 2.77% of Wilson’s attempts went down as blatant drops, which is the lowest of 2021’s top-four QBs and below the 2020 average. Likewise, only 3.93% of Wilson’s attempts counted as contested drops, which can be considered situations where a wide receiver had a reasonable chance at the ball, but not a perfect shot, be that due to some solid coverage or questionable placement. Wilson’s figure is the lowest of 2021 (so far) and lower than anyone from 2020.

Now, part of that low figure could be due to Wilson not forcing throws, but that doesn’t really track with his dangerously-high rate of passes being outright defended. 9.01% of Wilson’s passes were defended by a DB straight up getting their hand on the ball, which is higher than anyone from 2020 or 2021, save for Trevor Lawrence

Moreover, 7.16% of Wilson’s passes required clear adjustments by the wide receiver in order to be completed. That rate is higher than anyone from 2021 (so far) or 2020, just barely climbing higher than Trey Lance’s 7.01% of such passes. While Wilson is still an accurate passer overall and deserves credit for getting the ball in the area on these throws, it’s clear his teammates were bailing him out pretty regularly. 

ACCURACY AND ENVIRONMENT

Adjusted Accuracy: 78.53%

Outside the Pocket Percentage: 17.78%

Adjusted Accuracy Outside the Pocket: 62.47%

Under Pressure Percentage: 16.40%

Adjusted Accuracy Under Pressure: 59.72%

Most Common Personnel Package: 11 personnel (44.47%)

Shotgun Percentage: 94.00%

Empty Formations Frequency: 5.54%

Play-Action / RPO Percentage: 34.64%

Play-Action Adjusted Accuracy: 82.13%

Designed Rollout Frequency: 7.85%
 
Okay, now it’s time to (mostly) sing Wilson’s praises. 

While I did just touch on how often Wilson was helped by his receivers, Wilson reciprocated that help plenty. Wilson still finished as one of the most accurate passers I have ever charted, coming in as just one of five QBs to ever clear the 75% accuracy mark. Wilson was particularly accurate from positions in which the offense gave him a bit of a helping hand, i.e. when not pressured or when using play-action concepts. 

Wilson’s accuracy chart by target range is sort of funny, though. Wilson was kind of abysmal throwing behind the line of scrimmage, hitting just 84.44% of such passes. That’s worse than anyone from 2020 or 2021 (so far). His accuracy in the 11-15 range (63.53%) is also about average, which is far less concerning but still notable. The rest of Wilson’s target ranges show fantastic accuracy, though, and even some of the best marks over the past two classes. Wilson’s work in the 1-10 range as well as 20-plus yards down the field is just fantastic. 

Another interesting note with Wilson’s accuracy is that his accuracy outside the pocket does not quite match the narrative. Wilson is billed as a mad genius outside the pocket who can consistently make plays to move the sticks. While Wilson does have many memorable plays along those lines, his overall profile of throws outside the pocket is, frankly, pretty average. That’s not grounds for concern in a vacuum, but it does feel a bit weird that someone projected so highly because of their off-script ability could not produce particularly well in that area. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance all posted higher accuracy numbers outside the pocket, per my charting. 

That said, Wilson held up rather well against pressure. His 59.72% adjusted accuracy versus pressure is not quite elite, but it’s right on par with Lawrence, and comfortably above average relative to the 2020 class. Wilson could use some refinement with regards to pocket movement, but he plays with a rare calmness to him that makes it easy to wiggle around pressure and find ways to get the ball out cleanly. It’s rare that Wilson looks overwhelmed by pressure.

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PASS RUSH

Avg. Number of Pass Rushers: 4.27

Three or Fewer Pass Rushers Frequency: 10.62%

Four Pass Rushers Frequency: 57.74%

Five Pass Rushers Frequency: 25.64%

Six or More Pass Rushers Frequency: 6.00%

It’s not often a player has much to talk about in this section, but Wilson is different. Of the four main 2021 QBs, Wilson’s average pass-rusher count of 4.27 is the lowest. In kind, Wilson’s 10.62% rate of three-man rushes is the highest of the group. Oddly enough, that rate still would have only been around average relative to the 2020 class, but it’s interesting that his figure is nearly double that of the next-closest member at the top of this class (Trey Lance, 6.05%). 

Wilson also faced five-or-more man rushes on just over 31% of attempts, which is also lower than the other top QBs in this class. Granted, that may not be a fair comparison in relation to Lance in particular, who played in an offense that more regularly had extra protection and, in turn, faced extra rushers, but it’s still worth noting, especially when Wilson also saw as many three-man rushes as he did. 

SITUATIONAL

3rd/4th Down Adjusted Accuracy: 75.15%

3rd/4th Down Conversion Rate: 48.45%

4th Quarter/Overtime Adjusted Accuracy: 78.10%

Red Zone Adjusted Accuracy: 70.40%

If anything is of note here, it is the disconnect between Wilson’s accuracy on 3rd/4th down versus his conversion rate. A 48.45% conversion rate is fine, and will probably finish a touch above average for this class, but it’s somewhat low relative to how accurate he was on those downs. More often than not, that signals a quarterback being too conservative about attacking the sticks, which is a sentiment I felt while watching the film as well. Wilson is not Teddy Bridgewater or Alex Smith level conservative, but it’s probably fair to say he is not the wild boy on 3rd/4th down that would be expected of a player with his overall narrative and play style. 

Derrik Klassen

Derrik Klassen is an NFL, NFL Draft and college football writer covering CFB and NFL Draft for NBC Sports EDGE. Derrik also covers the NFL for Football Outsiders. Find him on Twitter @QBKlass.