One of the most successful eras of 49ers franchise history came with a former BYU cougar at quarterback. And with the team's current QB position potentially in flux, might San Francisco try that very same recipe again?
From the sounds of it, Steve Young would suggest the 49ers do exactly that. The former BYU standout has been thoroughly impressed with the current quarterback at his alma mater, who is shooting up draft boards and reportedly has caught San Francisco's eye.
Zach Wilson has been the talk of the college football season thus far, having led BYU to an 8-0 record while completing 74.7 percent of his passes for 2,511 yards with 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also has added another 158 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. The 49ers reportedly recently sent vice president of player personnel Adam Peters to see Wilson play, and if he came away with the same impression that Young has of the true junior, they might believe they've found their quarterback of the future.
"The kid is a really good player," Young said Wednesday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. "I mean, I'm not going to say he's Patrick Mahomes, but I'm saying he plays like Patrick Mahomes. There's no throw he can't make, and he's just intuitive and really present when he's playing. Man, every week, you're like, 'Wow. This is something good.'"
Jimmy Garoppolo might be out for the remainder of the current season, and there's a legitimate chance he has thrown his last pass with the 49ers. His contract for next season essentially is a team option, and given his inconsistency and injury proneness, San Francisco might decide it's time to go in a different direction.
Wilson, along with a handful of other quarterback prospects expected to go in or near the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, presents one road the 49ers could go down. He has all the physical tools you look for in a modern QB, but that alone does not guarantee he'll have success at the NFL level. If he ends up on the 49ers, he'll be joining a very talented team, but will also be tasked with learning an offense that is known to be quite complex.
Nonetheless, Young believes Wilson could thrive in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
"There's no question that he's capable. The more they ask of him, the better he gets."
"I think he's going to go in the first round," Young added. "And I don't know, he's the kind of kid when you watch him, the more you watch him you go, 'Wait a second. Why is he not maybe the first guy [drafted]?' Like, I get that Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are phenomenal football players but the more I watch this kid, I don't see flaws. I don't see problems."
NBC Sports' Chris Simms has been similarly wowed by Wilson, and thinks he could make a lot of sense for the 49ers, given the way the league has been trending.
"He deserves to be in the first-round conversation from what I've seen over the last few weeks," Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area. "His throwing is elite. It's special -- I mean, really special.
"As we've seen ... all the great athletes want to play quarterback in football. We see four or five great quarterbacks come into the league every year. ... I think you're going to continue to see teams take this, 'Whoa, let's turn over the quarterback position, get on the rookie contract, these guys are ready to play anyways.' ... Because we've seen too many teams be successful with these quarterbacks on the rookie pay scale, and I think it might be a new thing here in the NFL as we go forward."
The 49ers have a major decision to make this offseason about who will be under center next season. It is by no means a guarantee that Garoppolo doesn't return, but in Wilson, there's certainly a lot for San Francisco to like.