Analysis: Quarterback Zach Wilson impresses at BYU’s nationally televised pro day, just like the Cougars knew he would
Probable top three pick in April’s NFL draft makes all the throws in front of representatives from 31 of the 32 NFL franchises, shows the arm talent they all came to see
Representatives of 31 of the 32 teams in the National Football League, including several head coaches and general managers, got their money’s worth for making the trip to Provo to watch probable top-three NFL draft pick Zach Wilson throw the football at BYU’s pro day on Friday inside the school’s indoor practice facility.
Now it is Wilson who will be going to the bank.
By all accounts, Wilson impressed everyone in the building, throwing an assortment of passes to former BYU receivers Aleva Hifo, Micah Simon and Dax Milne and tight end Matt Bushman. Bottom line is that Wilson did nothing to hurt his draft status, but may have improved it, if that’s possible.
“I actually was training since January to do everything. I tweaked my hammy a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t have an (NFL) combine, so I didn’t want to do everything (today) and then not be able to throw. That was the most important thing for me.” — Former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson
After one throw in which he was moving to his left and throwing some 40 yards downfield to his right to Hifo, an NFL Network analyst proclaimed, “That’s the throw of the pro day season right now.”
In what was the most-attended BYU pro day in program history — only the Los Angeles Rams weren’t represented, because that franchise is not attending any pro days at all — Wilson gave the scouts exactly what they wanted, making easy and difficult throws alike. But as is his way, he was not totally satisfied with how the day went.
“Missed a couple (throws),” he said. “Too many balls on the ground, things I gotta clean up.”
Wilson measured at 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, erasing doubts that he wasn’t as tall as listed on the BYU roster. After walking into the IPF sporting headphones, chewing gum and smiling broadly, Wilson bypassed the agility drills and didn’t do the broad jump, vertical jump or 40-yard dash, either.
He looked calm, relaxed and at ease with all eyes in the building on him, often joking with teammates or with his QB coach, former Cougar John Beck.
Wilson said he tweaked a hamstring a couple weeks ago and made the decision to not do anything but throw because that’s what the dozens of scouts, coaches and GMs came for and he didn’t want to have their trips be in vain.
“Yeah, I thought about doing the vert,” he said, when his ability to dunk a basketball with two hands was referenced. “I actually was training since January to do everything. I tweaked my hammy a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t have an (NFL) combine, so I didn’t want to do everything (today) and then not be able to throw. That was the most important thing for me.”
After watching cornerback Chris Wilcox run a pair of 40s under 4.4 seconds (4.37 and 4.31) and former receiver Micah Simon post a 4.34, Wilson says the competitive juices started flowing and he thought about trying it, but it wasn’t wise to run with what is ahead for him.
The game is played on the field. But what we saw from Zack Wilson today, there is no comparison between his workout and Trevor Lawrence’s. It was out of this world awesome. The degree of difficulty of the workout was high and he made so many high level throws.— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) March 26, 2021
“The plan going in to today was to do none of the running stuff,” he said. “I will probably film (some runs) down the road and make sure I get some of that because it is tough watching these guys do their 40s and stuff and not be a part of it.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick in the draft, and are expected to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. However, some analysts, such as Chris Simms, have suggested that Wilson is better.
New Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, the former University of Utah coach, didn’t make the trip to Provo but did send new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who has a home in Provo and has a daughter who plays on the BYU softball team.
The New York Jets, with the second pick in the draft, are expected to take Wilson, according to most mock drafts. Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh were in attendance and chatted briefly with Wilson and head coach Kalani Sitake.
“Yeah, great staff, love those guys,” Wilson said. “Joe Douglas is a great guy and it was good to see him out here. They got a good thing going. My Zoom interactions with them have been like any other team, trying to go through (the process) and they just try to pick your brain, see what you are about, and how you process things, so it has been good.”
Said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah: “There’s no way the Jets don’t like him.”
Just before Wilson stepped up to throw, news broke that the San Francisco 49ers had acquired the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the No. 12 pick, a third-round pick and two future first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch was a last-minute attendee Friday, and was shown on television speaking to BYU AD Tom Holmoe, a former 49er.
Wilson said he accomplished his goals.
“The goal today was to solidify the film, show coaches what you are made of, how the ball comes off your hand, how you move in the pocket, how you interact with the guys, so it was good to be able to get that stuff in,” he said.
Current 49ers linebacker Fred Warner showed up as well, presumably to watch his brother, BYU safety Troy Warner, participate in pro day.
However, Troy Warner sustained an injury doing the bench press and was unable to do any other drills. That was perhaps the only downer on an otherwise bright day for the program.
Sad to hear that Troy Warner suffered a pectoral injury while doing his bench press workout during #BYUProDay today. Sounds like it was rather significant according to those in attendance. Best wishes to him as he works back from this injury#BYUfootball #BYU #LOC #NFL #NFLDraft— Jake Hatch (Yawk) “I need ammunition, not a ride.” (@JacobCHatch) March 26, 2021
In all, 14 members of the 2020 BYU team and six former Cougars who played in 2019 were measured, analyzed and made available for interviews with NFL teams.
“Having Zach here definitely helped a lot,” said defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga, who dropped about 25 pounds working out in Florida. “I think today was a success for everyone.”
That was especially true for junior offensive tackle Brady Christensen, whose decision to leave school early appears to be a good one. Christensen weighed in at 6-5 and 302 pounds, and did 30 reps on the bench press, slightly better than average.
The Bountiful product showed the athleticism that BYU coaches have raved about, posting a 10-foot-4 broad jump, the best all time for an offensive lineman at a pro day by three inches, according to the website mockdraftable.com.
10-4 broad for Brady Christensen is the best measurement of all-time for an O-linemen by 3 inches per the mockdraftable website.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 26, 2021
Christensen, who Pro Football Focus calls the top left tackle prospect in the draft, ran a 4.89-second 40-yard-dash and posted a vertical jump of 34 inches.
“My goal today was to go out and be me and have fun,” Christensen said, “so I was getting hyped with the crowd and my boys, my teammates, and just having a good time with them. That was what I really wanted to do, because I knew if I was having a good time I would test the best.”
NFL Network analysts raved over the setup and general operation that BYU produced, with one expert calling it “quite the show” and a “fantastic setup” for Wilson and the Cougars to take the national stage.