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The throw: Zach Wilson’s pro day performance continues to spark discussions

Quarterback Zach Wilson throws during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Quarterback Zach Wilson throws during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Remember that Zach Wilson across-the-body throw during his pro day at BYU? It continues receiving detailed breakdowns after three years.

Wilson, the refugee from the New York Jets, is now with the Denver Broncos, hoping to restart his NFL career after the New York experience made him both rich and battered.

The latest debate on Wilson’s talent takes place in a thread on Reddit, which breaks down that throw.

It was impressive. It was elite. It displayed a high level of body control and arm strength.

In the world of fan and media obsession over the off-platform antics of Patrick Mahomes, the Wilson throw went viral. Many say it helped him get drafted No. 2 in 2021.

I asked Dustin Smith, owner of QBElite, who helped train Wilson in high school, how important that throw was, and what it depicted about his talent.

“I think that helped add to what was already a year where he was able to receive extra attention and praise because of the lack of games due to COVID,” said Smith.

Did the throw lead to a No. 2 pick?

“Not that he didn’t deserve the praise, you know I’ve always been in Zach’s corner and continue to believe he will be a successful NFL quarterback; however, that was a year with extra attention, and a couple of throws at pro day grabbed more attention than I think it would have the year prior, or after,” said Smith.

Here’s a sampling of the debate on Wilson’s throw on that Reddit thread:

  • ”Regardless of the hate on Wilson — and it’s well deserved — he sure can throw it. It’s the decision making that gets him in trouble.”

  • ”Throwing accurately across your body is tough, especially down the field. It would be a stupid throw to try in a game, impressive that he was actually able to hit his target in stride.”

  • ”The truth is, no one would remember the pro day throw if Zach Wilson was good. It’s become lore because it was the only thing people had to say for the guy for years.”

  • ”All the cameras were on him and he dropped that effortless bomb with the whole sports world watching, which showed a skill set flair none of the other guys had.”

  • ”It’s an impressive throw that shows, 1) the raw ability/talent, 2) total body control/power. I think it was WAY too hyped overall, but it does show some good traits cannot be coached.”

  • ”Throwing a pass that deep across your body with that level of accuracy is special. But I also think people overrate how much that actually impacted draft boards.”

  • ”That throw is not what got him drafted.”

  • ”It showed his ability to throw a ball but nothing about his ability to play quarterback”

Many experts believe Wilson will challenge and win the starting quarterback job with Denver because of his experience and having already faced growing pains in the NFL that No. 12 pick Bo Nix has yet to endure.

As with so many college QBs, Nix is a product of offenses that do not prepare players for the NFL game, which does not deploy five wideouts and different hash marks to house formations. Reads, blocking schemes and defenses faced are far more sophisticated. There’s a learning curve for rookies.

Reddit poster, JakeDaniels586, had a detailed breakdown of Wilson’s throw:

“So the throw itself is impressive because that level of hip torque is a rare trait. Most people need to set their back foot at the back as the base, then plant the other feet and uncork the torque. Think a pitcher on the mound as the optimal setting.

“QBs don’t need quite that set-up space, but that base foot and landing foot torque is important for velocity.

“When a right-handed QB is running to his right and angling upfield, his right foot (the base foot) is already behind your plant foot and your shoulders are already turned. Therefore, it’s an easier movement to get into your natural throwing position.

“When same QB is running to the left and angling upfield, he’s in the sub optimal position. His base foot is ahead of his plant foot, his shoulders are the wrong way. In most cases, to make a good throw, you have to take extra time to set your feet (basically turn your whole body around) and get your shoulders corrected. This is why in the past, with a lot of QBs had trouble passing while running to the opposite side of their handedness. It took too much time to adjust your motion.

“With Wilson, he had incredible hip torque, which allowed him to generate torque when his feet weren’t even set. Usually this is more prevalent in baseball players that plat the infield where they can make throws without fully setting their feet. So making a throw moving to your left, that far down the field, on target, was impressive. Especially when he didn’t reset his feet.”

This poster did criticize Wilson for his lack of ability to read defenses and actually created an entire website to convince the Jets not to draft Wilson in 2022.

I believe Wilson is redeemable and while he must shoulder a lot of blame for his performance in a Jets uniform, there’s wisdom in looking at the playpen he operated in, mainly a lack of protection. Ask Aaron Rodgers how comfy he felt back there after four plays last season and an Achilles tear.

Denver coach Sean Payton needs to extract that pocket panic button from Wilson’s learned behavior as a Jets QB. I think Payton can and will do that, and that Wilson will get back to fundamental passing, taking what the defense yields, and while he can make unbelievable throws, it’s the easy ones, many times the short ones, he must make his living doing.

There are so many folks piling on Wilson after the Jets experience.

But he still has believers.

Among them is Payton.

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton takes part in a drill during an NFL rookie minicamp football practice Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Centennial, Colo. Payton will have to decide who will start at QB in Denver, embattled Zach Wilson or rookie Bo Nix. | David Zalubowski, Associated Press
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton takes part in a drill during an NFL rookie minicamp football practice Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Centennial, Colo. Payton will have to decide who will start at QB in Denver, embattled Zach Wilson or rookie Bo Nix. | David Zalubowski, Associated Press