One quarterback that deserves a nice long look in this down year for the position is Tyler Wilson of Arkansas. Wilson made what appeared to be a wise decision when he decided to come back for his senior season to improve his draft stock, but he suffered a concussion early in the season and his team really struggled, even when he returned from the injury, and it did not become the dream senior season that Wilson was envisioning. Now, after that extra year in college, is Wilson going to be a pretender or a contender as a starting quarterback in the NFL?
Wilson burst onto the scene in 2010 when he had a big game against eventual national championship Auburn in relief of an injured Ryan Mallett, who is now Tom Brady’s backup in New England. Wilson became the starter at Arkansas the following year and was named the first team All-SEC quarterback after throwing for over 3,600 yards with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions, as he led Arkansas to a BCS bowl game. As mentioned, Wilson took a slight step backwards in 2012, but through little fault of his own.
Wilson isn’t the most physically imposing quarterback out there, as he is no bigger than 6’2’’, if that, but he makes up for it in other areas. When given time to throw, Wilson is deadly accurate. His arm strength may not stand out compared to some of the other quarterbacks in this year’s class, but he has enough of it, and can make just about all the necessary throws. He is deceptively athletic, willing to leave the pocket if he has to, and quick enough to pick up the yards he needs before getting down or getting out of bounds. Where Wilson stands out the most is with his intangibles. He’s smart and spends a lot of time studying film, so he has a high understanding of the game and can make good reads both before and after the snap. He’s a great leader, rallying his team after the embarrassing incident with former head coach Bobby Petrino, instead of dwelling on the unfortunate circumstances.
After Arkansas got thumped by Alabama, in a game he didn’t play in, Wilson showed great leadership by immediately speaking to the press, calling out his teammates for a lack of effort and doing what he could to hold his team together under difficult conditions. Wilson is also one of the toughest quarterbacks to come out of college in quite a few years, willing to stay in the pocket and step into his throws even if it means taking a big hit; there are few quarterbacks anywhere that exhibit the kind of toughness in the pocket that Wilson does.
Wilson is so tough that it may actually be a concern. At times, Wilson is too willing to stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball, even if it means getting hit, which is a good way of getting injured. He can be too competitive, and as previously mentioned, he’s not the biggest quarterback, so he’s probably going to be at risk for injury at the next level. Also, his lack of arm strength could be a problem for some people, along with some issues with his mechanics that can cause him to miss throws that he should make. Of course, he’s a high-character player with a strong work ethic, so should put in the work needed to make the necessary changes.
So, when you put it all together is Wilson a pretender or a contender? It’s a close call, because he does profile more like a backup, but there’s so much to love about his intangibles, so he’s a contender. That doesn’t mean he should come in and start right away, but with a year or two in a backup role he can straighten out his mechanics and learn how to compensate for the things he doesn’t have like prototypical size and arm strength. But he has the talent to make accurate throws, as well as great toughness, intelligence, and moxie; those are qualities that are rare and that can’t be taught. If you’re going to take a risk on someone, take a risk on someone who loves the game, and that’s Wilson. If he can stay healthy and get in the right situation, then in two years he’s a guy that step into a starting job somewhere and be a quality NFL quarterback.