Wilson selected No. 2 overall in NFL Draft by the New York Jets


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CLEVELAND – BYU’s Zach Wilson was selected by the New York Jets with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, making the All-American quarterback the highest Cougar taken in the annual draft in program history.

In a strong quarterback draft, Wilson followed the Jacksonville Jaguars’ selection of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick on Thursday.

Wilson is the first BYU player to be chosen in the first round since defensive end Ziggy Ansah was the No. 5 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2013. Wilson is the 10th Cougar in program history to be selected in the first round of the regular NFL Draft and the 12th overall including the NFL’s 1984 supplemental draft of USFL and CFL players.

From Draper, Utah, out of Corner Canyon High School, Wilson also becomes the highest drafted player who prepped at a Utah high school, topping Merlin Olsen (Logan HS) going No. 3 overall to the Los Angeles Rams in 1962.

Prior to Wilson, the last BYU quarterback to be drafted was John Beck in 2007, who was a second-round pick to the Miami Dolphins. Now working with Wilson as a quarterbacks instructor at 3DQB, Beck attended the draft with Wilson on Thursday along with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, offensive coordinator/QB coach Aaron Roderick and passing game coordinator/WR coach Fesi Sitake.  

Wilson is the third BYU quarterback to be taken in the first round of the regular draft—along with Jim McMahon (1982, No. 5, Bears) and Marc Wilson (1980, No. 15, Raiders)—and the fourth first-round Cougar quarterback selected when including Steve Young’s No. 1 overall selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL’s 1984 supplemental draft of USFL and CFL players.

Wilson is the fourth Cougar to be drafted by the Jets and first since New York selected two BYU players in 1998 with offensive lineman Eric Bateman going in the fifth round and running back Dustin Johnson in the sixth round. Previously, BYU players drafted by the Jets were wide receiver Lloyd Jones (1981, 8th round) and defensive back Chris Farasopoulos (1971, 3rd round).

Wilson Career at BYU

A three-year starter before declaring early for the NFL Draft, Wilson played in 30 career games for BYU with 28 starts. The youngest freshman quarterback to ever start for the Cougars, Wilson finished his career going 566-837 for 7,652 yards passing yards with 56 touchdowns at a 162.91 efficiency rating. The athletic quarterback added 212 rushing attempts to his career stat line for 642 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Wilson was one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks during the 2020 season. The veteran signal-caller finished the 2020 season ranked No. 2 nationally in points responsible for (264), passing efficiency (196.4) and completion percentage (73.5); No. 3 in passing yards (3,692), passing touchdowns (33), yards per pass attempt (10.99) and points responsible for per game (22.0); No. 4 in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (10); No. 5 in passing yards per completion (14.95); No. 8 in total offense (328.8); and No. 10 in passing yards per game (307.7).

In 2020 he earned Pro Football Focus All-America Second Team, Phil Steele All-America honorable mention, Co-Polynesian College Player of the Year and finished No. 8 in the Heisman Trophy voting. A team captain in 2020, Wilson was a Manning Award Finalist, Walter Camp Player of the Year Semifinalist, Maxwell Award Semifinalist and Davey O’Brien Semifinalist.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder achieved a 96.5 Clean Pocket Grade from PFF – ranking the highest in the nation and set a new PFF record with an overall passing grade of 95.5, topping Joe Burrow’s 94.9 in 2019. On his way to a hallmark season, Wilson broke the BYU record, previously held by Steve Young, for completion percentage, completing 73.5 percent of his passes in 2020 while also rushing for 255 yards and 10 touchdowns.

BYU First Round Draft Picks

With Wilson, BYU has had 10 players in the history of the program picked in the first round of the regular, annual NFL Draft and 12 when including the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of the USFL and CFL players.

BYU first round NFL picks historically include Wilson (2021, 2nd overall), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (2013, 5th overall), quarterback Jim McMahon (1982, 5th overall), defensive tackle Shawn Knight (1987, 11th overall), offensive lineman John Tait (1999, 14th overall), Marc Wilson (1980, 15th overall), defensive end Jason Buck (1987, 17th overall), linebacker Todd Shell (1984, 24th overall), offensive lineman Trevor Matich (1985, 28th overall) and linebacker Rob Morris (2000, 28th overall). Quarterback Steve Young was the top pick while tight end Gordon Hudson joined Young as a first-round selection going No. 22 overall in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players.

BYU Quarterback Draft Picks

Wilson is the 12th BYU quarterback to be drafted overall in the history of the draft. Others include John Beck (2007, 2nd Round, Dolphins), Brandon Doman (2002, 5th Round, 49ers), John Walsh (1994, 7th Round, Bengals), Ty Detmer (1992, 9th Round, Packers), Robbie Bosco (1986, 3rd Round, Packers), Steve Young (1984, 1st Round NFL Supplement of USFL/CFL players), Jim McMahon (1982, 1st Round, Bears), Marc Wilson (1980, 1st Round, Raiders), Gifford Nielsen (1978, 3rd Round, Oilers), Gary Sheide (1975, 3rd Round, Bengals), Virgil Carter (1968, 6th Round, Bears), Dee Chipman (1942, 16th Round, Washington).


Zach Wilson
I am so excited for the opportunity. I know we are going to have something special and I can’t wait to get to work. The whole situation is still so surreal for me. I am soaking in every moment, looking around. This is a blast and a dream come true for me. 

I know the Jets need a good quarterback and a good leader. I have those qualities and I am so excited to go there. I love the coaching staff and everything they have to offer. I can't wait to get to New York City. 

BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake
On the experience watching Zach get drafted
It's been amazing. Coming off of covid the NFL took the right precautions for the draft and getting everything set up. But, when all things are said and done the draft has been really nice and seeing him get the phone call was amazing. I know he had a really emotional time with his family. It is great to get to see these young men live their dreams and I feel really honored to be a small part of it. 

On seeing Zach grow at BYU  
He is amazing. It is not just one thing, he is the total package. He has the right thing as far as skills with the ball, athleticism, his mind, mentality about the game, the way he learns and studies and his work ethic. All of that is going to generate a really good quarterback. He has been doing it these last three years at BYU – he's been doing it since he was a little kid. The guy just loves football and I just can’t wait to see what he does for the New York Jets. I can't wait to watch him go live out his dreams and accomplish whatever he wants. He has the right setup for everything it takes to be successful. 

BYU Offensive Coordinator Aaron Roderick
On Zach's development from a sophomore to a junior
I think that it was a lot of things but the first thing is that his sophomore year he wasn't healthy. He played injured, he had an injured shoulder. He came back from surgery and it wasn't completely ready to go and then he broke his hand in the middle of the season. He had pins placed in his hand and only missed three games. He came back put he probably should have sat out that whole season but he is such a competitor that he wanted to play.

He was a little up and down his sophomore year and he was still developing. We have to allow for quarterbacks to grown and make some mistakes. Zach was always the guy who wasn't afraid to try anything but he was also really good at learning from his mistakes. I think what you saw this year was a healthy guy who had also learned a lot of football in his first two years in college and then the game just came together. The other part of it was he had a lot of good players around him this year. We were executing a lot better as a team than we were his first two years and so that is a factor as well. We were throwing it and throwing it a bit more down the field. 

On Watching Zach get drafted
It was joy, pure joy. I was really happy for him. A year ago, he was fighting to prove that he was our starting quarterback. There is a high level of expectation at the position of quarterback everywhere but I think at BYU the expectations are pretty tough. He showed a lot of grit and toughness to battle through it. It shows his character too. He never flinched or felt entitled about it, he just said okay let's compete. I am happy for him because of the way he handled it, the adversity of being injured last year and losing a couple of games that people thought we shouldn't have lost. I am happy to see him have success.