Ed Note: We’re aware of an issue with pop up ads and working as quickly as possible to resolve the problem. Thank you for your patience.
It’s not uncommon to watch the names on the top of draft boards come and go the deeper you get into the offseason. Some names that are at or near the top of the list as being in consideration for the first round end up plummeting as the influential evaluators get deeper into their tape and lower their perception of a player.
That is what happened with linebacker Mack Wilson out of Alabama. He started the draft process being talked about as among the top inside linebackers in the class, perhaps just a notch or two below Devin White and Devin Bush, but that reputation got chipped away at over the course of months.
Wilson ultimately had to wait until the fifth round to hear his name called, and it came from the Cleveland Browns. But so far, they’re feeling as though they got a steal. Questions about his athleticism and ability to play in coverage have been met with a flurry of interceptions.
Leading into the team’s first preseason game, it had been noted that Wilson was picking off passes left and right during training camp. It got to the point where Browns beat writers were entering the preseason pretty much expecting him to get his hands on some passes.
And then he did. He recorded two interceptions as Washington visited Cleveland last week. The first came off the arm of first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, the linebacker showing good zone awareness and adjustment to the ball in the air. He even got a chance to stiff-arm the quarterback en route to the end zone for a 40-yard score.
That came early in the second quarter, but he would get former AAF quarterback Josh Woodrum early in the fourth quarter for his second pick of the game. This one saw him drift back into coverage over the middle, ultimately picking off the pass 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Granted, all that we are talking about here is a nice start to a preseason career in one game. The fact that he has been showing off the ability to read and nab passes through training camp and one preseason game is not necessarily a harbinger of things to come.
He did have six interceptions in college, though. And in fact, it was never his athleticism or coverage ability that was in question. The primary concern about Wilson coming out of college was whether or not he had the wherewithal to read and react situationally. Could he diagnose plays fast enough to be an impact player? Could he read the traffic to keep himself clean of blockers rather than getting caught in the wash?
Wilson finished his college career looking as though he had already plateaued. Can he take his game to the next level in the NFL and show that he was sorely underdrafted? That is what the Browns’ linebacker pick from a year ago, Genard Avery, began to do during his own rookie year.