Why Tyler Wilson Could Be the NFL's Best Rookie QB in 2013

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJune 4, 2013

Last offseason, Matt Flynn joined a new team with expectations of being the starting quarterback. Instead, he finished second in a three-way quarterback competition to a rookie mid-round pick with the surname Wilson.

He is at risk of falling victim to the same scenario in 2013.

Flynn went into last offseason's competition against rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and incumbent quarterback Tarvaris Jackson as the favorite to start for the Seattle Seahawks. He proved to be no match for Russell Wilson, though, who made a case for being the NFL's top rookie quarterback last season, completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions.

Now with the Oakland Raiders, Flynn will once again enter training camp as the favorite in a three-way battle to be his team's starting quarterback. Flynn will once again battle a rookie quarterback (Tyler Wilson) and a returning quarterback (Terrelle Pryor).

Comparing Tyler Wilson to Russell Wilson would be ridiculous after Wilson's 2012 season. That said, Tyler Wilson has the skill set to follow in Russell Wilson's footsteps and be the spoiler to Flynn's shot at being the starting quarterback.

Tyler Wilson was just a fourth-round pick (No. 112 overall selection) in the 2013 NFL draft, and the sixth quarterback drafted, as Russell Wilson was in 2012.

A well-developed pocket passer with clean footwork and mechanics plus a good arm, Wilson would have been worthy of an earlier selection.

Wilson is as polished as any quarterback in the rookie class, and is in a quarterback situation that could quickly become wide open. If he can outperform his competition and win the Oakland Raiders' starting job, he could also end up being the best rookie quarterback of the 2013 season.


Why Wilson Could Win The Job

Wilson is not yet in line to start as a rookie. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times that Flynn is currently atop the team's quarterback depth chart.

"Matt's our starting quarterback as we go forward right now," Allen said, "and until the competition dictates otherwise, that's where we're going."

The competition very well could dictate otherwise.

Flynn has the most NFL experience of the trio. He has only two starts, but performed well in both games, completing a combined 55-of-79 passes for 731 yards and nine touchdowns with only two interceptions. Two starts, however, won't win Flynn the job.

Pryor has the most physical upside of the three quarterbacks but is the least polished pocket passer.

While Wilson has no NFL experience, he may already be the best all-around quarterback of the three, especially as a downfield pocket passer. He can zip the ball better downfield than Flynn and has better accuracy than Pryor.

Wilson's senior season completion percentage of 62.1 was simply average for a collegiate quarterback. That said, he worked in an offense where he consistently threw the ball downfield, limiting his opportunities to inflate his percentage with easy completions as many college signal-callers do.

While Wilson has his moments of inaccuracy, he has shown he can make almost any throw on the field. He puts enough velocity on the ball to thread passes between tight windows. He is also good at leading receivers effectively to make plays on the ball in stride.

The above video is a terrific example of that from Wilson's game last year versus Rutgers. He threaded a pass nearly 35 yards in the air up the left sideline to his wide receiver, hitting him in stride while fitting the ball into a converging window of two defensive backs.

Wilson won't wow anyone with his arm strength or athleticism, but he has enough of both to be a very good NFL pocket passer. As displayed above, he can connect with receivers accurately 30-40 air yards downfield.

He is not a dual-threat quarterback, but he uses his feet well when he needs to. He is smart and knows when to run the ball when the pocket collapses, and he has enough athleticism to convert a first down with his legs if he has room to run, such as he did by outrunning two defenders to a 2nd-and-5 conversion on the play below.

Wilson's composure under pressure is one of his biggest strengths. He is very good at using his feet to escape the pocket under pressure and is a capable thrower on the run.

His footwork does not get compromised under pressure, and he does a good job of keeping his eyes upfield even when a rusher is coming close. He is a smart quarterback who can complete throws accurately while being pressured, but also knows when his best move is to tuck and run or to throw the ball away.

Wilson is a tough quarterback who stands tall in the face of pressure and is unafraid to take a hit in the process of throwing a pass. A great example of that came last year against South Carolina, when Wilson completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Keon Hatcher while taking a shot from explosive Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Wilson's mechanics are also ready for the next level. He has a compact release with which he is able to fire passes off quickly under pressure. Throws come out of his hand with natural velocity.

He consistently stands with great posture while keeping his eyes downfield. He does a good job going through his progressions in the pocket and finding an open receiver. He has experience lining up both under center and in shotgun and has clean footwork in his drops.

The odds are typically against Day 3 picks becoming Week 1 starting quarterbacks as rookies—the last quarterback to do so was Kyle Orton for the Chicago Bears in 2005. Wilson, however, has an unusually high combination of quarterback polish and downfield throwing ability for a fourth-round pick.

Wilson is going to have to separate himself from the competition, and he has not done that yet in the Raiders' organized team activities.

Wilson may have an early edge competitively—Corkran tweeted last week that the buzz around OTAs has been that Wilson is performing better than Flynn.

A report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Monday (via Rotoworld), however, indicated Wilson may not have even separated himself from undrafted free agent rookie Matt McGloin yet.

"He's actually made a huge impression in the first two weeks of OTAs, to the point where he's pushing Tyler Wilson and Terrelle Pryor," said Mort. "So watch out for Matt McGloin to climb up the depth chart if he continues this."

Recent NFL trends have turned away from developing quarterbacks slowly, in part due to collective bargaining agreement rules that limit rookie contracts to just four seasons. Flynn and Pryor both have legitimate starting quarterback potential, but Wilson is capable of outperforming them in a preseason competition.

If Wilson does so, his potential future as Raiders starting quarterback should begin this season. As a fourth-round pick, the Raiders could be content with him being a backup, but they will have an immediate steal if he can prove himself to be the team's best starting quarterback option.


Does Wilson Have an Advantage over Fellow Rookie QBs?

There are no certain rookie starters among the 2013 rookie quarterback class. Buffalo Bills first-round pick EJ Manuel and New York Jets second-round selection Geno Smith, the top two quarterbacks selected, are the most likely rookie starters aside from Wilson.

Manuel and Smith have the most physical upside of any quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class. They have more athleticism and stronger arms than Wilson and are more likely to make big plays on a regular basis.

But both Manuel and Smith have to become more accustomed to throwing the ball downfield regularly, which Wilson already is. Manuel and Smith also both struggle with composure and decision-making under pressure, while Wilson has proven his toughness and ability to make plays against the rush.

Manuel must beat out Kevin Kolb for the starting job in Buffalo, while Smith must outperform Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy to take the Jets job. Both will go into training camp as favorites to start, but are more likely to struggle as rookie starters as both remain projects with major developmental needs.

One quarterback in the rookie class who may be more polished than Tyler Wilson is fellow fourth-round pick Matt Barkley.

Barkley, however, is more of a long shot to win his three-man quarterback competition with the Philadelphia Eagles than Wilson is with the Raiders. It will come as a surprise if Barkley wins the starting job outright as a rookie over Michael Vick and Nick Foles.

The other three quarterbacks selected in the first three rounds—Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ryan Nassib (New York Giants) and Landry Jones (Pittsburgh Steelers)—are all set to be backups to established starters in 2013.

Taking into account both skill set development and competitive scenarios, Wilson appears to be in the best position to be a successful starter in his rookie season.

Dan Hope is an NFL draft featured columnist for Bleacher Report.


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