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Know Your Draft Pick: Martez Wilson

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Martez Wilson of Illinois works out during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Martez Wilson of Illinois works out during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Whenever I watch Martez Wilson, I see a polar opposite of Barrett Ruud in terms of skillset. Ruud has trouble shedding blocks, isn't all that stout against the run, is not a good blitzer but has tremendous range and is a good pass defender. Wilson is nothing like that: he's very stout against the run, a great blitzer and can shed blocks with ease. At the same time he doesn't have that sideline-to-sideline range Ruud has, nor is he as good against the pass. He has the speed to do well as a pass defender, but he doesn't have the instincts and knowledge. For the Bucs this provides an interesting problem: do they want the run-stuffing but pass-deficient linebacker, or do they want range and pass-defense? Whichever they want, Raheem will adjust his defence to the personnel he has, as he always does. 

Some of you may scoff at the remark that Wilson lacks range, and point at his 4.49 second 40-yard dash. Well, I can't say it any differently: when I turn on the tape I don't see someone who can fly from one end of the field to the other. He seems a little sluggish and at his best close to the line of scrimmage. Perhaps this is a result of underdeveloped instincts, as he doesn't seem to react very quickly. Perhaps that's a result of not being a very willing tackler, and indeed Wilson doesn't seem like an overly physical player despite doing a good job shedding blocks. Still, Wilson looks like a very solid linebacker, and if he starts studying his film in-depth in the NFL he could easily develop the necessary instincts to increase the speed at which he plays. 

While Martez Wilson is being touted as a great player, he didn't become a great player until 2010. Notching 111 tackles, 4 sacks and an interception in his last year with the Illini, he didn't come close to that production in his 4 previous years. 2009 saw him miss most of the year with an injury, but this still means there's only one season of production from Wilson. Is he just a one-year wonder? Was this lack of production produced by a lack of commitment to the game in earlier years? Did he finally get it after 3 years? Any team that drafts him will have to figure out why he only has one year of production and be satisfied that it's not a long-term issue. 

All that said, there's one intriguing possibility for Martez Wilson: he could be moved outside as a pass-rusher. Numerous draft sites suggest this, and I can see why: he's a good blitzer, he's athletic, he's fast and using him as a pass rusher first would play to his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Martez Wilson was also used as an edge rusher at the end of 2010, and as a defensive end in high school. At the same time he has barely rushed against offensive tackles and I have doubts about his ability to consistently turn the corner. If a team plans to use him as an outside pass rusher, taking him in the first round is much too risky in my opinion.

Not everyone around the web agrees with my take on Wilson, though. Mocking the Draft doesn't just disagree with my assessment,  it offers a completely different evaluation. They see Wilson as a complete linebacker who could move to the outside, with outstanding instincts and a good ability to play in zone coverage and man coverage on tight ends. His only drawback is his lack of consistent effort, so says MtD. I shudder whenever I read the words "inconsistent effort" and wonder how a player like that will handle himself once he's earning millions to do what he apparently didn't love all that much. While Mocking the Draft offers a glowing review of Wilson's skills, it's that one sentence that gives me pause.

CBSSports.com offer a view of Wilson more in line with my own: a good pass rusher who works well against the run inside but whose instincts are a little lacking. In pass coverage they think he has the ability to run with a tight end in man coverage, but doesn't have the instincts to thrive in zone coverage. Finally they offer an explanation for his lack of production before 2010: he didn't start watching film until his last season. That brings up another question though: will he continue to watch film in the NFL? 

I'll highlight one last scouting report, this one from the National Football Post. They note that he's a good player inside but not a very physical tackler, and that he can get washed out of the play inside. But they do see his unique talents as a blitzer inside, but don't know if that can translate to the outside. Unlike the other sites they do like his ability to hold up in zone coverage, although they note his footwork isn't very comfortable. They don't mention any reason to be concerned about his work ethic or lack of production before 2010. 

In the end I like Martez Wilson as a player, I'm intrigued by his abilities as a pass-rusher inside, I like his abilities in the run game and I like the fact that he at least has the athleticism to work in pass coverage. While he's not a good pass-defender right now, he could become one if he puts in the effort. And that's the problem I have with Wilson: I don't like that he's a one-year wonder, that there aren't rave reviews to be found about his work ethic, and that he only started working until his last season. In my mind there are too many questions and not enough production for Wilson to be in consideration for the first pick the Bucs will make. But if the Bucs trade back or he drops some, he certainly would be a good pickup at any point in the second round.