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Prospects to watch: NC State LB Payton Wilson

A look at the NC State LB Payton Wilson.

North Carolina v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

With the NFL season more than halfway over, it’s time to get more serious about the NFL draft. Today, we’ll examine the 2023 Chuck Bednarik Award winner, Payton Wilson. This award is given to the best defensive player in the country.

Bio

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 239

Position: LB

Year: Redshirt Senior

Strengths

They say “speed kills’ in football, and Payton Wilson is a prime example of that. Wilson moves like a rocket when attacking the football. Wilson is one of the fastest LBs in the draft and uses his speed to make plays. He’s able to attack QBs and HBs with this speed, making him a lethal defender. His pursuit skills are insane. He’s able to fly across the field.

Wilson is also an extremely good cover LB. On film, Wilson often demonstrates the ability to cover both WRs, HBs, and TEs. Wilson has a great sense of what the QB wants to do with the football. Pump fakes or option plays rarely trick him. His instincts and IQ are some of the bests in this class.

What I really like about Wilson is the versatility he provides. With his elite speed, he can be very useful as a pass rusher, but he can also cover almost anyone you ask.

Weaknesses

The biggest red flag with Wilson is an injury-riddled history. Some GMs may be scared off depending on how his medicals turn out. He’s also an older prospect. He’ll be 24 years old when drafted. Those two things could scare a ton of GMs off.

Wilson flashed the ability to be a good run defender. However, I want to see him become a bit more consistent. There were some plays where he would be a non-factor or destroyed by bigger TEs or linemen.

This is likely due to his slender frame, which he may need to fix before coming to the next level. At 239 pounds, he’s a bit smaller for someone who is 6’4”.

The Final Verdict

The bottom line is that Wilson is an extremely talented player who could scare some teams off due to age and injury history. There is no doubt that Wilson is exceptionally talented. His rare combination of speed and instincts make him an extremely exciting player.

Wilson has the talent of a late first-rounder or early second-rounder but the mileage and injury history of a late-round pick. Putting everything together, I think Wilson projects as a late second-rounder or early third rounder.

Some GMs will be scared off by Wilson, but others will be floored by the talent and take the gamble.


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