From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#3 Marco Wilson/CB/Florida – 5115, 191 lbs.
– Has a great athletic profile for the position, boasting the speed (4.35 40) and explosiveness (43.5” vert, 136” broad) you want to see in a defensive back
– Pretty fast laterally in terms of change of direction (4.09 Shuttle, 6.80 three-cone)
– Possesses the upper body strength (26 reps) to get up and be physical with receivers at the catch point and can bring it as a tackler on short/screen passes
– Has experience playing both on the boundary and in the slot
– Able to break on the ball quickly when the pass is thrown and has good recovery speed when running with receivers vertically
– Has the athleticism to run with receivers in man coverage
– Plays well in space when making zone drops, allowing his instincts to take him to the ball to disrupt the pass or get the pick
– Does a good job contesting the catch on jump ball situations with size and leaping ability
– Great when set on the blitz from the outside, having the speed to get there quickly and strength to effectively bring the ball carrier/QB down
– Only one of four true freshman corners to start for the Gators in program history
– Tape hasn’t improved much since his first season in Gainesville
– Lost position in coverage several times in man situations, needing better spatial awareness
– Is inconsistent at jamming receivers at the line in press coverage, resulting in him playing more off-man coverage
– Will get lazy in coverage at times, standing up and letting receivers get past him, stacking him deep
– Eyes can deceive him at times looking into the backfield rather than staying on his receiver
– Gives up a ton of separation on in-breaking routes, often times playing with his feet stuck in the ground rather than having quick transitions to click-and-close
– Doesn’t have a natural backpedal, uses more of a side shuffle
– Doesn’t play with the demeanor or effort you need to see as a run defender
– Throws more body shots or arm tackles rather than wrapping up runners
– Made headlines with an unsportsmanlike conduct call against LSU that cost Florida the game
– Durability is a concern with two ACL tears on his ledger
– Redshirt Junior prospect from Fort Lauderdale, FL
– Brother of former New York Giants CB Quincy Wilson and the son of former Miami defensive back Chad Wilson
– Was coached in H.S. by legendary DB Pat Surtain at American Heritage
– Lost junior season in HS to a torn ACL
– Ran track at American Heritage, winning a 2A state championship in his junior season
– Became an immediate starter for the Gators his true freshman season, starting 11 games and recording 34 tackles and 10 pass breakups
– Started two games as a sophomore, but lost the rest of his season due to a torn left ACL
– Returned from injury to start all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore, recording 36 tackles (23 solo), 2.5 for loss, three interceptions and five pass breakups
– Started nine of 10 games played his junior season, posting 33 tackles and four pass breakups
– Freshman All-SEC Team in 2017, SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2018 and 2019
Marco Wilson from Florida was slated to be the next in a line of great CB prospects to go from college to the pros when he stepped on campus. Being only the fourth true freshman to ever start the season at corner in Gainesville, the expectations were high for Wilson to deliver given his family linage and high recruit status. He delivered, earning freshman All-SEC honors in his first season for his play in the secondary.
Now, having spent a summer with Wilson back in 2018, I could understand why there was so much hype around him. He and C.J. Henderson were entering their sophomore seasons and presented a dynamic duo at CB, with both possessing great athletic traits and the skills to excel at defensive back. Wilson showcased this athleticism nearly every day in front of my eyes, displaying speed and burst in speed training to impressive feats of strength in the weight room for a player of his size.
When diving into Wilson’s film, it’s easy to understand why teams can be enamored with him as a prospect. He has the HWS combo you love to see in an NFL-caliber defensive back and has shown flashes of it both in pass coverage and against the run. He is a physical player, possessing the strength and power to be a viable tackler when his head is on straight. As you can see here in his freshman campaign, Wilson recognizes the pass in the flat to #81 Hayden Hurst, thus leaving his man to commit to the pursuit and drive on the ball, planting Hurst into the ground with a strong form tackle.
Wilson’s speed and burst in the open field also make him a viable blitzer off of the edge in Todd Grantham’s defensive system for the Gators. He was routinely sent from the outside, having the acceleration and pursuit to get home on multiple occasions, as you can see here on this play against Tennessee where Wilson gets the tackle in the backfield.
Despite having the athletic traits to be a viable man coverage defender, Wilson does a good job in zone coverage drops, allowing his instincts and short area quickness to take him to the ball. He often likes to read the QB’s eyes in the backfield and either sit on the ball to impact the pass or leave his man to make a play on the ball on the air. The former happens here where Wilson recognizes the ball is coming out quick and discontinues carrying his man up the sideline, capitalizing on the poor pass by the QB for the easy INT. Granted, the passer should’ve never thrown this ball, but Wilson makes the play nonetheless.
Wilson’s speed and movement skills make him a guy you want to deploy in man coverage. He has the traits to run with nearly any receiver, and can stay in their back pocket to close up passing lanes and contest passes that come their way.
Alas, Wilson has his struggles upstairs that have prevented him from taking the step forward needed to be considered one of the better CB prospects in this draft class. All of the physical tools are there but the football smarts and consistency scare you, especially when you recognize that his tape hasn’t really improved (and has possibly regressed) since his freshman season. While Wilson has the capabilities to be a good tackler, he is far too inconsistent in his effort, going for the diving arm tackle often and not squaring up a defender to bring him down with form. Take, for example, this play vs Alabama where Wilson has the angle on #6 DeVonta Smith, but Wilson takes a bad closing angle on him, reaching out and diving at his ankles rather than continuing his pursuit and driving through him for little to no gain on the play. Instead, Wilson whiffs on the tackle and Smith stretches out for the first down.
Here’s another example in the same game where Wilson flat out overruns the play, running himself into the block of #22 Najee Harris rather than closing inside and sacrificing his body to try and make a play on the ball carrier. It appears Wilson made a business decision on this rep, as he tends to do too often on his tape, which teams are not going to like to see.
Wilson also struggles playing up on the line and jamming receivers effectively with his hands, causing him to play more off-man coverage. This tends to be an issue, though, as he can be quick to trigger inside breaking routes, playing with his eyes in the backfield too much rather than on the receiver he is in charge of guarding. He can be slow to process, giving receivers way too much separation before he considers breaking on the ball. Like here against the Crimson Tide, Wilson has Smith in coverage, but plays to the sideline, giving Smith an easy break inside with tons of open room for an easy completion. Wilson breaks on the ball once Smith has a couple steps on him, almost getting there with his athleticism, but isn’t able to get there to force the incompletion.
Again, against Smith on this play we see Wilson matched up one-on-one with Smith, which already is a bad idea in itself. However, Wilson fails to get hands-on with Smith on the snap of the ball, taking too many timid steps and giving Smith easy inside leverage as Wilson is slow to open up and trigger on the ball, giving Smith one of the easier touchdowns he had during his Heisman campaign.
Wilson also has troubles with his spatial awareness when playing in close quarters with receivers in man coverage. His size, strength, and leaping ability mean he should excel in contested situations, but often times he fails to be in the right spot to play the ball effectively. Here against LSU, Wilson is right on his man up the sideline on the fade route, but runs himself away from the play on the comeback, actually losing balance and falling over on the sideline, giving the QB an easy pitch-and-catch to the wideout and allowing the receiver to pick up another near-20 yards before coming in to try and bring him down.
As a Florida fan the last few years after my experience with the team, no moment hurt more than to watch Wilson’s poor judgement to take the shoe of the receiver that he tackled short of the line to gain to get the stop and give his offense the ball back to try and score to win the game, and chuck it across for field for the dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost them the game. Players need to keep their composure in important games, and Wilson’s decision likely cost the team a chance at a CFP Playoff bid.
Overall, Wilson is a great athlete that has displayed splashes of a prototypical CB that teams are looking for in the league that can play in man coverage as well as execute zone drops and be effective against the run. However, factoring in the lack of development from Wilson over the past few seasons, inconsistencies as a tackler and in man coverage, and the fact that he has an injury history with two torn ACLs under his belt, suggest he is more of a gamble at this stage and should be treated as a project rather than a contributor early on. The highs are enticing with Wilson’s athletic profile, but the lows are equally, if not more so, concerning.
When watching Wilson, I couldn’t help but get Artie Burns vibes as a player with a similar skillset, similar athletic traits, and the upside to be a quality corner, but also the concerns of processing from a mental aspect. Burns never put it together in Pittsburgh, but if Wilson were to hit, another player that is similar to Wilson in terms of measurables and play style is Troy Hill, who excelled with the Rams and inked a nice deal with the Browns this offseason. As of now, Wilson is best suited for a developmental, backup role where he can learn and develop while contributing on special teams. He has the chops to play inside and outside in coverage and can be viable as a zone coverage defender from the get-go, but his inconsistencies in press and off-man coverage leave me concerned he could get baptized by fire should he be thrust into a starting role too early. Pittsburgh needs a CB with versatility and love players of Wilson’s pedigree, athletic bloodline, and measurables. This could lead to him being considered sooner rather than what I would suggest, as I hope he has a productive NFL career, but he does have a ways to go to be a consistent piece for a pro secondary.
Projection: Mid-Day 3
Games Watched: vs Alabama (2020), vs LSU (2020), vs Tennessee (2019), at South Carolina (2017)