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2019 NFL Draft Prospect Mack Wilson LB Alabama

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Smart, fast and a playmaker for a defense that needs one

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Mack Wilson 6’1” 235 lbs Alabama #30

I think with all the very impressive defensive players in this draft Mack Wilson is going a little unnoticed. Nick Saban shares many of the same coaching principals as Bill Belichick. They are close friends, and one of their football tenets is “Do your job.” In the Saban system, it requires discipline and the absolute necessity to make the play when you are supposed to. The Saban system doesn’t allow for players to ring up tremendous stats but does allow them to make highlight reel plays when they get the opportunity.

Wilson is another very impressive Alabama linebacker who has the speed, power and playmaking ability you want from a LB. He reminds me a lot of Reuben Foster with better coverage skills and a lack of off field idiocy. As with most Alabama players, you have to wait behind a great player (Reuben Foster 1st rd pick) before you get your shot.

He has played in 33 college games, including 8 as a freshman in garbage time. He suffered a foot injury in November 2017 and didn’t return until the College Football Playoff. Still he showed a great skill set with speed and tackling ability that will be on display in 2019 in the NFL.

I mentioned coverage skills, and here he is playing zone coverage against FSU in the first game of the year in 2017. He easily reads the QB’s eyes and makes a simple INT. In fact, he almost overran the play and left his feet. He could have had a nice return if he was to curb his excitement. If you look from the QB’s view, Wilson actually breaks on the ball before the QB throws it.

This is a pass that never should have been thrown. Wilson read this play, waited for the throw, and stepped in front of the receiver for an interception. This was Wilson’s first college INT and he had played sparingly in eight previous games before this.

This is from the College Footballl Playoff in 2017. Wilson is playing directly over the center as a MLB. He played the inside out technique, making sure of his responsibilities inside while showing his speed to get outside to stop the play for no gain. He read the play well and went from one hash to the numbers on the other side of the field to make a sure tackle at the LOS. That was nicely done.

This was only his second game back after foot surgery. He showed no ill effects. and his speed was not affected. You will notice that when possible Wilson is a wrap tackler. He has strong hands. He usually will grab the ballcarrier and go to the ground as he twists his body. This stops the momentum of the offensive player who has no chance to break the tackle with Wilson using his weight to end the play at that point.

From the same game, again he is in zone coverage and reads the QB’s eyes which take him to the throw. He will either assist on the tackle or cause a hit for an incompletion. Since he is in perfect position, he does one better and intercepts the deflection.

Wilson was Johnny on the Spot for this INT because he was where he was supposed to be. The QB comes over to try and make a tackle, but Wilson shows his football acuity and natural instincts to runs the ball back for a TD. He is such a savvy player that he innately feigns a move to the right, which stops the QB’s feet. This allows him to accelerate by the QB and into the end zone. Wilson has done this a few times (6 career INT’s in 25 games the last two years) see next clip.

Wilson makes plays like this because he has a high football IQ and is aware of what is going on around him. He is constantly scanning the field and putting himself in position to make a play. In this instance he not only sees the play.He also finds the ball, secures the catch, and instinctively braces himself. He then rolls to the ground as not to jar the ball loose from his arms. Wilson is a football player first and a LB second. He just loves to play the game.

Again Wilson is in zone coverage and the Alabama pressure causes a bad decision and an interception. Wilson is in perfect position and again he shows excellent athletic ability and gets his team away from its own end zone.

The NFL had the most passing TD’s ever (847) this year, and total passing yardage has surpassed 120,000 yards 5 out of the last 6 years. 120,000 yards had never been accomplished until 2013. Yards per attempt were also the highest ever (7.4) in 2018.

The NFL is a pass first league now. Stopping the run is secondary, and pass defense should be the priority on defense. You need LB’s who can cover in space and take away TE’s and RB with tight coverage. I know Avery Williamson is a fan favorite but he is woeful in coverage and the reason we had one of the worst defenses in Jets history in 2018.

Wilson played great zone defense and has the talent and football acumen to cover TE’s and RB’s; which is what you need in the NFL today.

Mike Maccagnan signed Williamson to a 3 year $22.5 million contract last year that the Jets can’t get out from until after 2019. It was another horrible signing by Macc. I know, I know Williamson had 120 tackles and is a Pro Bowl alternate (which means next to nothing). He played every snap but 6, but he killed the Jets all year in pass coverage. All you need to know that Williamson was drafted by Tennessee. When he was in his prime (25 years old) they let him walk away and drafted Rashaan Evans in the first round (#22 overall) to replace him.

Evans is one of the new breeds of LB’s who can run, tackle and cover. If Williamson was even barely sufficient Tennessee would have never let him go or used such high draft capital to replace him. Plus Tennessee had only 4 draft picks last year (no 4th, 5th, or 7th) so to bite the bullet on that move hurt a lot. I think Tennessee GM Jon Robinson is one of the top talent evaluators in the NFL, and if he let Williamson walk he must have been sure of his reasons.

Wilson’s value goes beyond what he brings to the table on defense, though. On Alabama, the best players play on special teams. This one is simple. Wilson races downfield and crushes the return man.

Wilson’s speed is evident as he makes the crushing blow at the 13 yard line, before the returner gets up to full speed. If the Jetswant to replace Williamson in 2020 at least we know Wilson he can be a positive sub package player (3rd down coverage LB) and a monster on special teams.

This is the next kickoff in the same game. You will notice the returner is different (I don’t know what happened to the last guy) but pretty much the same result.

I love players who excel at special teams as well as on the defense. People don’t realize that special teams cost 2 games a year to teams who are poor at them and win 2 games to teams that are great at them (on average). When two teams are evenly matched the winner of the game is usually the team with the least turnovers and the best special team play.

I was saying how good Wilson is in pass coverage, and he did have 4 interceptions despite only playing 11 games in 2017. Nick Saban thought so highly of Wilson’s ability to catch the ball that he used him on offense.

This pass is either thrown to OJ Howard or a poor throw to Wilson. Either way Wilson shows good body control to stop and get himself square to the throw and make a nice awkward catch for a TD. I said Wilson is a football player, and he shows great concentration on this play to corral a ball that is dancing in his hands as he falls backward in the end zone.

Again he is used on offense this time as a lead blocker and just crushes him man to help open a gaping hole so the RB can scamper into the end zone nearly untouched. I show you these clip to impress on you his overall athletic ability and versatility. He shows great adaptive skills and a total package as a football player.

If you use Wilson as an occasional “H” back, you know you are getting a strong, athletic player who has great mobility, the skills to make the block and the hands to be a receiver on a goal line fake.

Wilson is comparable to Devin White in that these are both great athletes who look like great prospects at their position. I think White is the better MLB prospect (not by much) and Wilson is a better SLB with his cover skills. Wilson also needs better technique at getting off blocks, but that should come with NFL coaching. Both are great prospects, but I think Wilson could be a draft steal if he falls to the late 1st round or early 2nd round. Wilson is a great 3-down LB who could conceivably play any LB position.

I know the Jets desperately need offensive help, but with the plethora of defensive players you may get a higher level prospect on defense because of the glut of great players in the Draft. You could see possibly the first 7 or 8 picks of the draft be defensive players. If that is the case I hope the Jets have traded down and pick up some much needed Draft capital.

Let me know what you think...