Why Steve Young believes Zach Wilson could thrive in 49ers' system

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Josh Schrock
·5 min read
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Young loves Wilson, but knows moving on from Jimmy G is risky originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Until the 49ers rework Jimmy Garoppolo's contract and cement him as their starting quarterback for the 2021 season, the speculation about Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch making a change under center will persist.

Talk of trading for an unhappy Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford will be discussed ad nauseam, as will the possibility that the 49ers, who own the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will try to select their quarterback of the future in Round 1.

One of those top prospects, BYU's Zach Wilson, believes he'd be a great fit in Shanahan's system. 49ers legend and BYU alum Steve Young has watched Wilson and believes the young gunslinger could thrive early in the NFL, even comparing his calmness to that of Patrick Mahomes

"What you have with Zach is a young kind of figuring it out," Young told KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks."" It feels like he has that settledness on the field like Patrick Mahomes. I'm not saying they are the same. It feels like the more you put on him, the more you broaden the field, it feels like the more he thrives. And that's not usual. Usually, it's the opposite, and people have to grow into that space. You've seen Josh Allen have to grow into that space whereas Patrick Mahomes showed up ready for it. Usually there's some time but once they get going, you can see where Josh Allen, he's not topping out. You can see he's getting better and better and how good will he be? I feel like Zach's got that potential (to get better), that he won't top out real quickly.

"People have questioned his -- I don't know what they've questioned. I don't see anything to really question right now. Everything that they put on him, he seems to answer, and it just feels like, to me, there's no limit to what he can be right now."

As for Wilson's potential fit with the 49ers, Young thinks Wilson could be able to come in and have instant success running a system similar to the one he piloted at BYU.

"The truth of the matter is, and we've talked about this before, the college game and the pro game are very similar now," Young said. "And so the offense that Zach Wilson ran at BYU is the offense that he'll run in San Francisco. It will be very familiar to him. It's very familiar if he goes to a number of teams, and that's true for Trevor Lawrence. These guys should be able to enter and have success much faster than in the old days."

Wilson has skyrocketed up draft boards since the start of the college football season and now likely will be a top-five pick in April's draft. Trading up from No. 12 into the top five would cost the 49ers a hefty price, but Wilson might be worth the cost if Shanahan believes he's the guy who should be the trigger man in his offense.

Of course, all this comes back to Garoppolo. Garoppolo has shown that he's an above-average NFL starting quarterback when healthy. The 49ers know what he is and they know his limitations. He's a good leader and the locker room genuinely loves him. But he also has limitations in Shanahan's offense and, more importantly, hasn't been able to stay on the field for much of his time in San Francisco.

Young understands that Shanahan is frustrated by his quarterback situation, but would caution the 49ers on the risk of moving on from Garoppolo. Just because you believe things can be better doesn't mean that they will be.

"It's the foolishness of thinking that the grass is greener," Young said. "The classic, 'Well, we can fix that. We can do better.' My sense is that Kyle is frustrated and would like to upgrade at quarterback, but the fact is that Jimmy is a good player. We don't know that we've seen the most of Jimmy yet. If he stays healthy and can get better and better.

"So, Kyle's going to make a tough call, and my sense of it, when Jimmy got hurt a couple of months ago, was Kyle's going to work hard to upgrade the position. But you've got to be careful because then you end up where we were when we said Ricky [Watters] can go to Philadelphia. Well, that didn't work. That's a bad move."

RELATED: Watson is QB 49ers should trade everything for if available

The 49ers have a roster that's built to win now. They'll have to address their secondary in the offseason with Jason Verrett, Richard Sherman, K'Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon and Jaquiski Tartt all set to hit free agency. But they should enter the 2021 season as one of the NFC favorites as long as they are healthy and have the quarterback position sorted out.

Wilson is a terrific young signal-caller with the arm talent to make every throw and the athleticism to extend plays outside the pocket and move the sticks with his legs. He had an exceptional season at BYU. I believe he's worth the price of moving up if Shanahan decides it's time to move on from Garoppolo.

But all signs point to Garoppolo returning as the starter in 2021. Unless there's a clear way to upgrade (See: Watson, Deshaun or Stafford, Matthew), the safe call is for the healthy 2021 49ers to run it back with the guy who took them to the Super Bowl just 12 months ago.

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