Pros: Good read ability and range in pass coverage in frequent two-linebacker sets — his range set the tone for what his defense was able to do from a formation perspective. Uses his size and backpedal to scout short passes and bring receivers down in a hurry. When crashing through on inside blitzes, Wilson possesses the quickness and hand-fighting chops to slice through guards and sack quarterbacks or stop running plays.
Has enough burst and lateral agility to be a real problem for opposing offensive linemen when working in blitzes that allow him to loop around different protections. Covers slot receivers well to nickel depth. Very strong for a tall player — he bounces off blocks and doesn't appear to be impacted by the attempts of fullbacks to erase him from plays. Uses his hands well to get through blockers from side to side. Good stopper in goal-line situations. Wilson is a student of the game who upped his devotion to the game after his injury.
Cons: Herniated disc may still be a concern — he's required to wear a neck protector when he plays. Wilson is quick to get up to speed, but he's a step slow in run diagnosis at times, and this impacts his ability to get to with running backs who hit outside quickly and peel off coverage to effectively tackle. Really doesn't seem to have that extra gear to catch up to plays, which is the one thing that may keep him out of the first round; even when he sifts though trash in short areas, quicker ballcarriers can slip by him.
Conclusion: The good news about Wilson is that he is that Swiss Army Knife-type player; the bad news is that without elite middle-distance speed on the field, he's going to struggle in certain situations. At times, this was exacerbated by Illinois' desire to use him as a range linebacker; he seems better-suited to a situation where he's starting in a smaller box and then gets out to make plays.
As a pure inside linebacker in a 3-4 or 3-3-5 scheme — or moving around in a defense with a hybrid set of fronts — Wilson will be a real asset with his overall skill set. He could also be used as an edge rusher; in the right kind of defense, that might be his best position. With that extra gear, he might be Jerod Mayo … but there's certainly nothing wrong with the potential to match Dansby's importance and production.
NFL Comparison: Karlos Dansby, Miami Dolphins
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
- Karlos Dansby