The Cleveland Browns may not have a star-studded 2019 rookie class, but they have several players who could be surprises, including linebacker Mack Wilson.
Value was a common talking point about the Cleveland Browns 2019 NFL Draft class. There were some players that were perceived as reaches, but there were also some players who seemed like steals where the Browns drafted them, including Mack Wilson.
Wilson is one of the potential steals because of his surprising drop in the draft, as the Browns selected him in the fifth-round. There were a lot of questions surrounding Wilson, but it was widely believed he would be a second- or third-round selection.
Instead, the concerns about Wilson’s lack of development in 2018 and his long-term potential caused him to slide into Day 3 of the draft and ultimately landing with the Browns.
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However, since joining the Browns and being a part of the team’s offseason program, he has reportedly impressed the Browns coaching staff. And if he continues to play like he did in the offseason during training camp, he could be the most surprising rookie during Browns training camp, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
"I think the player to keep an eye on is fifth-round linebacker Mack Wilson out of Alabama. Wilson has a chip on his shoulder from tumbling to the fifth round, and stood out in offseason practices. I think he’ll get on the field this year on defense as well as special teams. He’s got excellent coverage skills, above-average speed, and good tackling ability. Wilson will have a chance to make his mark when the pads come on, and if he does, he will press some of the veterans for playing time. – Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland.com"
The biggest strength to Wilson’s game after playing for the University of Alabama was his ability to play in space and make plays in coverage. He is an extremely athletic linebacker, helping him move to make plays on the ball. His coverage abilities should be something the Browns utilize in his rookie season.
But if Wilson wants to seriously threaten the veteran linebackers for playing time, he is going to need to prove himself against the run. A point of emphasis for the Browns defense this year is to improve their run defense, which finished fifth-worst in the league last season. Despite impressing the coaches so far, Wilson has done so without pads and not tackling, so it’ll be hard to get a feel for how he does against the run.
Wilson was the second linebacker the Browns drafted in the class, but it was a position that needed depth. And it is also a position with long-term questions because of the future of their veteran linebackers.
Joe Schobert is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is in position to become one of the highest paid linebackers in the league, but with Cleveland’s limited cap space, it’s uncertain if they will be the team to give Schobert that type of contract.
Cleveland’s other starting linebacker, Christian Kirksey, is one of the longest-tenured Browns. But despite being a leader for the defense, and the team as a whole, Cleveland may not want to keep paying him as the seventh-highest paid inside linebacker in the league. Following the 2019 season, Kirksey’s guaranteed money owed takes a big drop, making it easier for the Browns to move on from the soon-to-be 27-year-old if they choose to do so.
The Browns are expected to play primarily with only two linebackers on the field, so it will be hard to say how they will handle the rotation at the position. But with a strong training camp, Wilson may make it hard for the Browns defensive coaching staff to not put him on the field during the season.