Sky’s the limit projections vs feet-on-the-ground realities for Raiders EDGE Tyree Wilson
We are a week removed from when Raiders top pick Tyree Wilson walked into the facility which figures to be his workplace for at least the next four years.
The 6-6, 271-pound physical specimen which Dane Brugler referred to as a “yoked up Captain America” was here. He of his 84-inch wingspan that dominated college football pass protectors at Texas Tech.
At that moment, hopes are never higher for their newest top pick. Those hopes for Wilson’s potential are shared by many in the industry, most of whom had Wilson as a lock as one of the draft’s top players.
Does that make him a lock to be an NFL star? Certainly not. So, let’s look at the optimistic projections, versus the current reality. As it happens, The Athletic touched on both today.
Sky’s the limit
In a piece today in The Athletic, several evaluators put Wilson at or near the top of the draft at any position.
Based on game tape, The Athletic’s Randy Mueller rated Tyree Wilson as his No. 2 player in the draft. Another longtime evaluator ranked Wilson at the top, calling him more impressive than Cleveland’s Myles Garrett.
“Nobody blocked his ass — nobody,” this evaluator said.
“We really liked Wilson and thought he was better than Jalen Carter, better than Will Anderson,” an exec said.
The piece suggests that the only real concern with Wilson is whether his foot injury will be an issue.
In another piece — which appropriately has the words “sky high” in the headline — Ted Nguyen notes that
Tyree Wilson was one of the most disruptive edge rushers in college football, finishing with 14 sacks and 27.5 tackles for losses in his last two seasons at Texas Tech. His pass rush win rate last season ranked in the top 10 in the FBS. He achieved those numbers with raw talent and sheer strength, which is why his ceiling is believed to be so high.
Nguyen goes on to not that Wilson was able to do much of this despite being consistently late off the snap and dominating with almost entirely raw ability.
The ‘sky’s the limit’ view of this is to say that he just needs to learn a quicker get-off and some technique, and he will be a star.
Along with that, he will team up with the likes of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones — two of the best in the league — and there are no two better mentors to help Wilson along.
Which is where we should try and keep our…
To the credit of Dave Ziegler and Co. they realize Tyree Wilson has a long way to go to make it in the NFL. He admitted as much on draft night when I asked him about whether Wilson was more of a high-ceiling guy or more of a safe (high floor, if you will) pick.
The days of getting by on raw ability are over for Tyree. That works again college talent. It doesn’t work against NFL talent.
While talent evaluators see his foot as the biggest concern, I would put the uncertainty of his ability to improve on his technique and instincts.
Ziegler said that he likes Wilson’s “growth mindset“. That is important to be sure. And, as mentioned earlier, he has two great mentors in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones to help him along.
That begs a bit of a two-part question.
First off, does he have the instincts required? Wilson is said to have the practice habits of Maxx Crosby, which is a good start, but Crosby also has the superb instincts to go with it. Exemplified perfectly with this wicked spin move and sack.
This inside spin from Crosby is filthy pic.twitter.com/MfC3N7KJsE
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) May 4, 2023
Second, how open is Wilson to taking that instruction? I asked him which NFL players he watches whose game he’d like to pull from, and he said he wants them to take from him.
That’s a good goal to have, and we’ll see if that approach proves to be the right one. The hope, however, is that his goal of being a trendsetter doesn’t mean when Crosby or Jones try to impart their wisdom in terms of pass rush moves and technique, he thinks he knows better. That would only end with a harsh reality.
In Ted Nguyen’s opinion the areas in which Wilson needs to improve are teachable. Apparently, his get-off is one of them. Basically his reaction time at the snap.
He spoke with former Ravens defensive assistant Ryan Osborne, who said the primary areas where Wilson needs to improve are hand quickness and block recognition. The latter of which, Crosby is especially good at.
The former, deals with fighting through blocks to makes plays in the run game. Mastering that skill would make him an every-down player, as opposed to a situation pass rusher.
Nguyen notes that those skills aren’t absent from Wilson’s tape, they’re just not consistent enough. And he adds, that it shows up in both his run defense tape, as well as his pass rush tape.
To Wilson’s credit, he does recognize many of his shortcomings in that area.
“There’s other things that I need work on like locking out all the time and playing with pad leverage and just being more technically sound,” Wilson said over conference call immediately after being selected by the Raiders.
Ultimately, Wilson’s projections are long term. He may be nothing more than a situational pass rusher early on, while he attempts to improve his technique, hand placement and his get off.
Maxx Crosby began showing blossoming midway through his rookie season. But Crosby wasn’t dealing with a foot injury as Wilson is which could mean his first time he really gets going in training camp.
Basically, it means don’t get too high on Wilson’s potential now or too low on him should you not see that potential right away. If all goes well, he’ll be stepping in to replace Chandler Jones in 2024.