Displays good short-area quickness in tight areas, has the ability to use his length to slip blocks and keep himself clean when trying to beat slide down blocks toward the edge. Showcases a solid work rate from the backside and closes well in pursuit. However, struggles to consistently stack and shed inside. Is easily washed out of plays when you can get into him and struggles to fight off blocks and disengage vs. the downhill run game.
Exhibits some unique talents when asked to blitz from the inside and has some natural pass-rush ability. Looks comfortable using his length in order to keep himself clean, is shifty when asked to work the inside move and has a real savvy as a pass rusher. Was used toward the end of the year as a rush linebacker off the edge and was extremely productive closing on the football from the backside, threatening the edge and forcing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket. Looks more comfortable rushing the passer from the inside where he can use his quickness to side step blocks, is a bit stiff and high off the edge when trying to turn the corner.
Displays above-average fluidity for a guy with his build, has the ability to open up his hips and generate a burst out of his breaks when asked to close in coverage. Isn't real comfortable with his footwork, seems to just bounce upright off the ball and doesn't get much depth in his drop. However, displays a solid feel in zone coverage reading his pass keys underneath and has the ability to hold up in man as well, closing quickly on the football and driving on the throw.
Missed the 2009 season after suffering a herniated disc in his neck and will need to check out medically.
Impression: A long, V-cut linebacker who doesn't seem to have the lower body girth to hold up inside. However, he has some range in pursuit, reads his run keys well and exhibits some pass-rush ability. Could get some long looks as a potential 3-4 rush guy as well as strong side back in a 4-3."
He played in all 13 games as a reserve for the Illini as a true freshman in 2007, being credited with 29 tackles, three for loss and two sacks. Wilson pushed up his game a notch as a sophomore, making 73 stops, 5.5 for loss, three sacks and three pass breakups. Wilson admitted when he entered school he wanted to be three-and-done, but a herniated disk in his neck cost him all but the first game of the 2009 season.
Wilson's straight-line speed and length could allow him to play an inside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense as his build and game are very similar to Miami Dolphins starter Karlos Dansby. He might move outside in the right system. If teams are not overly concerned about his neck injury, Wilson's versatility and athleticism make him a likely top 50 selection.
Read & React: Not the most instinctual player. A step or two late to recognize run or pass, and will be fooled by misdirection. Excellent reaction speed once he sees it develop. Finds a crease to attack the backfield or slice through a stretch play.
Run Defense: Gap-attacking defender who uses his length to bring down most backs in the hole. Lanky-framed linebacker with fair upper-body development. Extends his long arms to keep offensive linemen at an arm's length as they try to reach him. Works his way through traffic near the line. Better when he sling-shots around blockers than trying to stack-and-shed. Good speed to get the angle down the sideline to minimize big plays. Willing to hit backs head-on in the hole and stand them up. Needs to get stronger in pro strength and conditioning and be more violent with his hands to shed blocks. Overpursues and is too aggressive reading angles.
Pass Defense: Gets a hand on receivers crossing over the middle to knock them off their routes. Good speed to get deep in his drop. Runs the seam with receivers, sometimes 40-50 yards downfield. Great length and speed to affect passing lanes when focusing on the quarterback. Good hustle to the ball in zone coverage. Should handle man coverage against tight ends. Only adequate anticipating routes into the flat, too often gets caught in no-man's land between pass rush and defense. Must improve his ability to read routes. Susceptible to cut blocks in run and pass defense.
Tackling: One of the leading tacklers in the country, relying on his length and speed. Not usually explosive upon contact but slows down backs and makes a lot of ankle tackles when other linebackers would not even get a hand on the ballcarrier. Shows good hustle, comes off blitz to pursue 15-20 yards downfield. His height hinders his ability to drop his hips and get low, rolling off ballcarriers instead of sticking them. Only average flexibility, which could limit his 3-4 role to the inside rather than a pass-rushing outside 'backer. Nice range allows him to help teammates bring down receivers and can beat the ball to the sideline.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Uses his slim frame to get skinny through holes inside to regularly bring down running backs in the backfield. Also uses length and speed to beat tackles outside with swim or rip moves. Very good closing speed to the quarterback. Lines up with his hand on the ground occasionally, flashing get-off but lacking great flexibility to turn the corner.
Intangibles: Relied purely on athleticism early in his career. Began watching film before 2010 season. Had surgery on a herniated disk in his neck after the first game of the 2009 season, redshirted. Still wears neck protector. Suffered knife wound coming to the aid of teammate De'Angelo McCray, who was being beaten outside a Champaign bar in December 2008. Focused more on academics and football after the incident."
Instincts: Wilson has a good nose for the football. He shows the ability to quickly decipher his keys react to the play. Wilson's good awareness allows him to quickly identify the ball carrier and work his way to the football. He shows good patience on misdirection and counter running plays.
Pass Rush: Timing and quick twitch athleticism are major factors in Wilson's ability to create pressure. He does a nice job timing his rush off the edge and shows an explosive 2nd gear that allows him to close on the quarterback. Wilson's quickness means that there is potential for him to develop as a natural pass rusher. However, he wasn't asked to put his hand in the dirt while at Illinois. Overall, his explosiveness and savvy give Wilson a lot of potential as a rushing linebacker.
Pursuit: Wilson is able to remain clean while he pursues the ball carrier. His suddenness and balance allow him to avoid potential blockers. He routinely takes proper angles and has speed to keep from being out paced to the edge.
Quickness: Being able to get up to full speed in a hurry is one of Wilson's major assets. That quick twitch ability comes in handy in all aspects of the game. Wilson possesses a good 2nd gear which allows him to chase down the ball carrier. His explosion off the football gives him the ability to effectively rush the passer.
Run Defense: When attacking the line, Wilson plays with good leverage and technique. He keeps his pad level low and anchors on contact while using his hands to lock out and shed. Wilson's strong base helps him hold strong at the point of attack. His strong anchor coupled with his awareness permits him to make plays on the football.
Strength: Wilson plays with good balance which enhances his strength. His low pad level allows him to properly explode in to the offensive line and deliver a jolt. That jolt is apparent when he meets linemen or full backs in the hole. Wilson's heavy hands allow him to control and shed blocks quickly.
Tackling: Solid technique and explosiveness is what makes Wilson a thunderous tackler. He keeps his pad level low and rolls his hips in to the ball carrier. Wilson does a good job keeping himself under control giving him the ability to react to cuts and shifty runners.
Games Viewed: Penn State, Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan '08
Final Word: Wilson's combine performance put him on the map for some evaluators. However, his play on the field is what speaks volumes about this playmaking ability. He shows good explosiveness and instincts that have him as a fringe 1st round prospect. Wilson has the versatility to play any linebacker position and the potential to develop into a rush 3-4 linebacker. His versatility and athleticism will make him an attractive prospect come April. The one criticism I have with Wilson's game is that he gives inconsistent effort. At times, he appeared hesitant and unwilling to chase down the play."
He ended up moving to strong side linebacker with Illinois before missing all but one game in 2009 due to a neck injury. He made his comeback in 2010 as the defensive leader for Illinois, and switching to linebacker, before foregoing his senior season to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.
Wilson is a high motor, highly athletic player. He has excellent speed and quickness, and does a slightly above average job in space. He’s a hard hitter and has good pass rush skills. He’s improved in coverage, although he needs to continue working on his zone assignments and not being caught out of position. He has a good football IQ and has good intangibles, taking over as a defensive leader for Illinois. He does a nice job of breaking down and making tackles, especially at the line of scrimmage. Wilson excels at keeping an arm free when engaged in blocks to allow himself to still make a play.
Wilson relies a lot on athleticism to make plays and still has room to bulk up. His inability to shed blocks and play in traffic may force him to play 3-4 outside linebacker or stick with the outside in a 4-3 defense. At times he plays a bit stiff in coverage and needs to break down better in the open field. Some character concerns could be present. He was suspended for the last game of the 2008 season after breaking team rules, and was also involved in a bar fight, in which he was stabbed for coming to the aid of a friend who was in trouble.
Wilson’s draft range is hard to predict. He has unlimited potential and could sneak into the first round. But I think he’s too raw and too much of a wild card to select that highly. I think the third round suits him best, but his versatility will help him as he can be a project 3-4 outside linebacker, putting him back as a pass rusher, which he was recruited as originally by Ron Zook. Look for Arizona, New England, Buffalo, and Green Bay to take a look at him in the third round, as well as a few 4-3 defenses like Cleveland, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
NFL Comparison: Bryan Thomas "
Positive: Tall, athletic defender with potential at a variety of linebacker positions. Fluid, smooth moving about the field, and easily makes plays in space. Forceful on the blitz, quickly fills gaps in run defense, and wraps up tackling. Breaks down well, rarely off his feet, and easily plays off blocks. Effectively uses his hands, shows a burst of speed, and can pursue the action sideline to sideline. Plays with terrific balance and body control.
Negative: Does not show a killer instinct and is more of a finesse defender. Does not always play with a physical nature. Has average instincts and does not consistently take proper angles to the action. Lacks a smooth and quick backpedal in coverage.
Analysis: Wilson passes the eyeball test and often plays to it on the field. He offers impressive measurables and a lot of upside but must become more physical and play to his level of ability on a consistent basis if he's to be a productive starter in the NFL."
Negatives: Can over-pursue and has some trouble changing directions when facing a shifty runner or quarterback with quick feet, needs to do a better job of breaking down against targets in the open field... Was suspended in for the last game of 2008 for violation of team rules... Suffered from a herniated disk in 2009 and missed most of the season after recovering from a stab wound a year earlier, health and durability may be a substantial question mark heading into the draft... Played a lot of ILB, but appears to play too much like a 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB to be considered a viable candidate on the inside in the NFL, in which case, there will likely be a bit of a learning curve for him to adjust to the change... Will miss a lot of tackles when going full speed, does not break down well and relies too much on momentum and upper-body strength to bring down ball carriers... Does not have an overwhelming motor, and often looks timid when scraping and taking pursuit angles across the field."
Strengths: Wilson has all of the physical attributes one could want in a football player. He's big, strong, fast, and athletic. At nearly 6'4" and 250 pounds, he looks to be an ideal middle linebacker, or even a guy who could add some bulk and be an undersized 4-3 pass-rushing DE. He also has the versatility to play any of the LB positions in a 3-4 scheme. He has the size and upper body strength to get off blocks and make plays. Is excellent making plays downhill. Will attack the gap and is an effective pass rusher. Has the athleticism to stick with backs and tight ends in coverage.
Weaknesses: Tez made his bones purely on his athletic prowess in his first couple years, never showing any real understanding of his role within a defensive gameplan. Finally made some strides in 2010 and was much more productive. Really doesn't project well as a 4-3 mike backer despite his size. Plays too tall and has trouble changing directions. Doesn't break down well in coverage or when trying to make tackles in the open field. Probably projects best as a 3-4 edge rusher or maybe a 4-3 DE if he can bulk up (particularly in the lower body). Has some character concerns (suspension for violation of team rules) and a stab wound earned while defending a friend during a bar-room fight. Injury concerns (neck injury in 2009) will have to be checked out thoroughly as well. Hasn't always had a reputation as a guy willing to put in the work off the field.
Projection: Wilson is surely going to knock some socks off at the Combine and will climb some draft boards as a result, but the big question remains: where do you play this kid? And if you move him to a new position, how quickly will be pick it up? Again, the potential reward is going to outweigh the risk with Tez and he'll be a second-day selection in the 2011 NFL Draft."
In his first two seasons, Wilson played on instincts alone. He was inconsistent and didn't always play his assignment. All the smaller details of the game eluded him. But in his junior year, Wilson suffered a herniated disc in his neck, forcing him to miss the entire season. The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt waiver so he is still a junior for the 2010 season.
The redshirt year spent on the sidelines seems to have had a positive effect on his game as Wilson has played his position far better this season.
Wilson plays downhill with tremendous size and speed. He has a knack for being able to tackle in crowded spaces and also quickly get off a block and make a play. Wilson can sometimes overplay by getting pulled into the trenches and left with a poor route to the ball-carrier. But with his speed and quickness, he can usually run his way out of trouble.
Martez Wilson's draft stock continues to slowly rise as his play has been elevated. His physical tools are very rare for his position, which makes him a very interesting prospect. Wilson projects as a third round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft."
We've got a problem, here.
Martez Wilson is a phenomenal athlete, there's no argument, there.
And he's a cerebral player, which goes a long way in my book: His Diagnostic Skills are excellent, both in the Run and in the Pass Game. And he boasts some Pass Rushing skills: Fluidity, Agility, good Instincts, and SPEED.
But his Anchoring is very weak, and that makes him a poor Run Defender, which is terrifying if you're thinking of drafting him as a Mid Fielder.
And it also casts huge doubts ~ in my mind, anyway ~ upon his ability to work his way through blocks towards the Quarter Back on the Pro level.
He IS getting a lot of looks at Flanker ~ OutSide LineBacker, to you Earthlings ~ and that would seem to be his best bet: His pass rushing talents are pretty good.
But my gut is telling me that this guy, while he should make an exceptional Sub Rusher, and could quite conceivably play a number of positions, is going to have a very hard time earning a starting position in the NFL. And I believe his stock has gotten way ahead of itself.
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