The Cleveland Browns may have gotten a steal with Mack Wilson in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and he is reportedly developing well.
Mack Wilson’s surprising fall in the 2019 NFL Draft paid off for the Cleveland Browns as they were able to draft a player widely seen as one of the better linebackers in the class in the fifth round.
Wilson came from the defensive powerhouse of Alabama, a school who has traditionally become a breeding ground for productive NFL defensive players. But entering the draft, there was some disappointment about Wilson’s play for the Crimson Tide, hurting his draft stock.
2018 was supposed to be the season Wilson shined for the Alabama defense as he would receive increased playing time. However, the increased playing time did not result in more production from Wilson, leading some to wonder if he had already shown the most of his development.
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Since being drafted by the Browns, Wilson has been working as an off-ball linebacker. During rookie mini-camp, he played next to third-round selection Sione Takitaki, who primarily played at inside linebacker.
One of the biggest strengths of Wilson’s game is his ability in coverage. His athleticism helps him drop into space and run with receivers. In his final two seasons with Alabama, Wilson made six interceptions and 13 passes defensed.
The hope for Wilson is he will develop at a faster rate with the Browns than he did at Alabama. According to Terry Pluto of cleveland.com, Wilson is already showing signs of progress in his game since joining the Browns.
"“I’m told linebacker Mack Wilson has taken some major steps forward, that he has a better feel for the game when you watch him in person. The fifth-rounder from Alabama is athletic and was rated the No. 34 prospect in the country in the 2016 recruiting class by ESPN.” – Pluto, Cleveland.com"
If Wilson can continue to show signs of progress, he has an opportunity to see significant playing time as an off-ball linebacker. Currently expected to play behind Genard Avery, Wilson’s ability in coverage should allow him to see the field on obvious passing downs.
And if the Browns prefer Avery rushing the passer as a defensive end, Wilson could have even more opportunities on the field. He may not be a stout hitter against the run, but his ability to man the middle of the field in coverage will help his cause for playing time.
The true test for Wilson will be when the entire team puts the pads on. But from what Pluto’s heard, it seems like Wilson is already adjusting well to the mental aspects of playing linebacker in the NFL, which is a great sign.