For the second-straight year, Matt Flynn is the offseason starter for an unfamiliar team and has a rookie named Wilson vying for his starting gig. In exchange for a fifth-round draft pick, the Oakland Raiders acquired Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks while jettisoning Carson Palmer to Arizona.
The sequence of moves signifies, in addition to the release of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Huff and Richard Seymour, the Reggie McKenzie led-regime's plan to rebuild the Raiders organization. But do the Raiders foresee Matt Flynn as a long-term answer at the quarterback position? Or was their fourth-round selection of Tyler Wilson a prognostication of their feelings of Flynn?
Wilson endured a roller-coaster ride during his collegiate career at the University of Arkansas.
After redshirting his first season, Wilson was the backup quarterback to current Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. After two highly productive seasons, Wilson entered 2011 burdened with the high-pressure task of following in Mallett’s large footsteps.
The pressure didn’t faze Wilson, as the junior signal-caller would throw for an impressive 3,638 yards with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions and lead the Razorbacks to a Cotton Bowl victory. Along the way, Wilson had drawn accolades and some buzz as an NFL talent. When he decided to return for his senior season, the Razorbacks were widely considered to be national contenders.
Then Wilson’s luck took a turn for the worse, as his head coach was fired in the spring of 2012. With a new coach at the helm, what ensued in 2012 was a tumultuous season of struggles and a disappointing 4-8 record. As the team struggled, Wilson’s draft stock summarily dropped as the quarterback’s numbers and performance suffered.
Wilson exemplifies toughness. Throughout his career at Arkansas, particularly his senior season, Wilson faced a barrage of pressure and displayed an impressive resilience to stay in the pocket and make his throw. When the impending defenders hit Wilson, the quarterback's ability to absorb the punishment bodes well for his NFL career.
Physically, Wilson’s relies on above-average pocket awareness and exceptional intermediary passing ability. On routes that extend up to 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, Wilson displays strong velocity and crisp accuracy on his throws. He has improvements to make on his vertical passing game and isn’t an athletic wonder, but overall his physical tools and collegiate production evoked enough confidence in the Oakland Raiders to select him with the 112thpick of the 2013 NFL draft.
Why Wilson Will Start This Season for the Raiders
General manager Reggie McKenzie has indicated that the Raiders will begin the season with Matt Flynn as their starting quarterback, with third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the rookie Wilson competing for the backup role.
One way Tyler Wilson could find himself as the Raiders starter would be to channel Russell Wilson and simply beat out Matt Flynn in training camp and in preseason games. This scenario is not very likely, but certainly not impossible.
Wilson's game is very complimentary for a run-based offensive scheme. Under coach Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Wilson thrived under such a system, displaying exceptional ability to deceive defenses with play action. With Darren McFadden and Marcel Reese returning to the Raiders in 2013, Wilson could be a strong option for the Raiders.
However, the most likely way Tyler Wilson starts for the Oakland Raiders this season will come as a late-season starter after the team is eliminated from playoff contention.
What’s most compelling about the Oakland Raiders quarterback competition is that of the three contenders there are only two collective NFL starts. Flynn of course got his start in a record-setting obliteration of the Detroit Lions in Week 17 during the 2011 season for the Green Bay Packers and Pryor’s only career start came in a meaningless Week 17 game last season.
For Wilson to be a late-season starter for the Raiders under these circumstances, he will first have to beat out Pryor and become the team’s backup quarterback. The competition between the two will be intriguing, as the two young quarterbacks have starkly different styles.
Pryor possesses the advantage of size, arm strength and athleticism but Wilson has more pro-style experience and significantly more accuracy. If the Raiders coaching staff prefer the game Wilson possesses, his chances to get a late-season start or a injury-related start will be favorable.
Why Wilson Won’t Start
If Terrelle Pryor beats out Tyler Wilson as the team’s backup quarterback, it is very unlikely the rookie will get a start in 2013.
Most NFL teams don’t carry three quarterbacks on the active roster, so if Wilson is the third quarterback on the Raiders depth chart, he will spend much of his season on clipboard duty. If Wilson’s questionable vertical passing ability doesn’t develop during training camp, he could find himself spending the year on Oakland’s practice squad while the team carries Flynn and Pryor on the active roster.
The Raiders may be inclined to go with Pryor whose athleticism allows for the team to expand the playbook. Last year the NFL saw an evolution at the quarterback position with the read option, an offensive scheme Pryor could fit.
It also is quite possible that Matt Flynn has a strong season and neither Pryor nor Wilson will get a start. This would be the ideal scenario for the Raiders organization as the team signed Flynn to a two-year $11.5 million dollar contract.
Wilson’s 2013 status will come down to his battle with Terrelle Pryor. If Wilson beats out the Ohio State product, Oakland will likely trade or release Pryor. If he loses competition to Pryor, Wilson will spend the season laboring with a clipboard in his hand, pretending to be Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Phillip Rivers in practice against Oakland’s starting defense.
With Pryor entering his third season, the Raiders will want to take inventory of his game whereas with Wilson there is no rush to thrust him into a starting role.
It is important to note that even if Wilson finds himself on the practice squad, that his selection and future should not be condemned a failure. He was a fourth-round pick and ultimately will be stacked up against fellow late-round quarterbacks Landry Jones and Matt Barkley, not EJ Manuel and Geno Smith.
Wilson could really benefit from a season spent refining his arm strength and studying NFL defenses. If Flynn doesn’t live up to Oakland’s expectations this season, Wilson will have a very viable opportunity to be the team’s starter in 2014.
Tyler Wilson certainly has a shot at starting in 2013, but it is unlikely the Raiders will turn to the rookie this season.