Falcons: Zach Wilson or Justin Fields?

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The NFL Draft is still a long way away, but this topic will be discussed heavily until Trevor Lawrence is selected 1st overall. After that, who knows what could happen. Even if the Jets select Penei Sewell, a team could swoop in on Miami’s 3rd pick. Atlanta may not even select a Quarterback — I’m personally in favor of trading down. I’m not really set in stone on anything, and I don’t think they’re going to ask my opinion.

Personally, I think Fields will go to the Jets, and Wilson will be available for Atlanta. IF they have to take a quarterback, and IF they choose not to trade down, who should the pick be if both are available? Myself, I like Zach Wilson. I think Fields would be a good fit in Atlanta because he can refine himself as a passer behind Matt Ryan. I’m going to break down both guys to come to let you come to your own conclusion. Box score isn’t a great indication of future NFL prospects, but I’ll include some stats (keep in mind Fields played far fewer games).

Zach Wilson:

 

73.5% completion percentage, 3692 yards passing, 11.0 YPA, 33 passing TDs, 3 INTs,

70 carries, 254 yards, 3.6 YPC, 10 TDs, 0 Lost Fumbles

6’3, 210 lbs

Zach Wilson’s status as a one year wonder will likely be called into question, but his intangibles pop off to me. I don’t go with narrative; I look at the tape. The tape tells me that Wilson has all of the gifts to be a great NFL quarterback. His arm talent is something you really can’t teach. He’s a superb athlete, and he shows a fantastic ability to climb the pocket and deliver on-target throws. He possesses that rare “it” factor, something that translates to the NFL more times than not. We jokingly call him Mormon Manziel, but he’s not quite like Johnny. Manziel relied on breaking the play on his own and throwing up jump balls to the freak himself, Mike Evans.

Their athleticism and overall playmaking are a good comparison, but Wilson is a much smarter quarterback that sticks to the gameplan and only improvises when he has to. His legs are going to give him an edge in the NFL, and his touch will play in almost any NFL system. As far as his fit with the Falcons.. it will all depend on the head coach. I wouldn’t worry about him with Arthur Smith, Joe Brady, or Eric Bieniemy. Nathaniel Hackett… maybe not.

It’s encouraging to see he throws downfield (11.0 YPA) without sacrificing accuracy. It will get lost after Fields’ fantastic College Football Playoff performance against Clemson. Still, Wilson dominated UCF in his bowl game en route to 425 passing yards while completing 76.5% of his passes and accounting for five total touchdowns — all coming in the first half (three passing, two rushing).

Onto the negatives. Wilson only has one year of real eye-popping production. In his toughest game against Coastal Carolina, he didn’t play particularly well. BYU lost, but quarterback-wins aren’t a stat. Wilson went 19/30 for 240 passing with a touchdown and an interception. He did, however, pick up 55 yards on the ground.

Other than that, there aren’t many warts with Wilson. He’s mobile, has the size, a fantastic arm, elite pocket awareness, touch, and can anticipate at an NFL level. I think he’s a lot cleaner prospect than most people online would have you think. The Mitch Trubisky comparisons are just dumb. Wilson is not a one-read quarterback, and although there’s only one year of production on tape, it’s good enough tape for me to categorize him as an outstanding future NFL quarterback.

Justin Fields:

70.2% completion percentage, 2100 yards passing, 9.3 YPA, 22 TDs, 6 INTs

81 carries, 383 yards, 4.7 YPC, 5 TDs, 0 Lost Fumbles

6’3, 228 pounds

Just because I said all of those nice things about Wilson doesn’t mean I’m about to rip Justin Fields, but he comes with more red flags, in my opinion. Fields’ playoff performance is undoubtedly going to factor into this, but he’s also been unfairly criticized at times. I’m not going to put too much stock into the National Championship Game, just like I won’t put too much stock into his dismantling of Clemson. Prospect fatigue and Dwayne Haskins’ historic bust status will play into the evaluations of him, but I’m going to put that aside and look at his game as a whole.

Fields is an upper-echelon athlete with excellent touch. His deep ball improved in 2020, and he commands a very efficient Ohio State offense. The Buckeye is normally cool and collected when flushed out of the pocket, and he’s done a good job over his entire college career of limiting turnovers. He offers an ideal blend of athleticism, size, and arm that you could ask for. I think he would fit in Atlanta with ANY coach because he has a chance to develop his reads behind an all-time great like Matt Ryan. He is more gift than polish, which is where I’ll start on the negatives.

Fields runs a one-read offense at Ohio State with loads of talent around him. He struggled in three of Ohio State’s eight games down the stretch, but he absolutely dominated a good Clemson team. In the first two games, he struggled. Fields was playing without a lot of talented Buckeyes. That’s not necessarily a knock because it would be the case for most quarterbacks. It will be imperative for a talented offensive coach to develop Fields at the next level. He isn’t asked to do too much at Ohio State, but when he’s running that offense like it’s meant to be run — he’s unstoppable.

I don’t think he would be able to dominate immediately at the NFL level unless someone like Kyle Shanahan trades up and gets his hands on him. I DO think he can dominate if he takes some reps behind an established NFL quarterback. The natural comparison will be to Deshaun Watson, but Watson put a lot more on tape at Clemson and was more ready. I think he can develop to that level with some seasoning.

In conclusion, I still have to give the edge to Zach Wilson. I think Fields’ potential may be higher, and a lot of it will depend on who Atlanta hires as head coach. I think, athletically, Fields has a narrow edge. Wilson is a more refined passer with a lot of polish. I think he’s certainly more ready with *slightly* less potential. While I think Wilson is the better prospect, for NOW, Fields could be better down the road in the right system. Honestly, I think they are both going to be fantastic quarterbacks, and if Atlanta does go that route — I wouldn’t be upset drafting either.

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