By Bob Evans
The 2013 NFL Draft, like any draft, features a number of players who have seen their draft stock fall considerably since the beginning of the 2012 college football season. Whether it is from a lack of production from the previous season or red flags, scouts have deemed certain players as major risks from the draft grade they received heading into last year.
No player—even USC quarterback Matt Barkley—in the 2013 NFL Draft class has seen their stock fall like Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson. Once widely considered to be one of the top wide receivers potentially available in the draft, Wilson has seen his stock slide to the late rounds thanks to his suspension by head coach Mike Leach followed by him quitting the team during the season. Wilson cited “abuse” from the coaching staff as his reason for leaving the Cougars.
Prior to the events of the 2012 season, Wilson was easily one of the most dominant wideouts in all of college football—despite playing on a team that was not in the national spotlight.
As a freshman, Wilson utilized his then lanky 6’3” and 185-pound frame to victimize defensive backs in 2010. He hauled in 55 receptions for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns—averaging an amazing 18.3 yards per catch in his first season. The highlight game of his two-win season came in a loss to Stanford, as he racked up six receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Proving himself to be a reliable option as a freshman, Wilson became an even bigger part of the Cougs offense in 2011. He hauled in 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 16.9 yards per catch in the process. Wilson put up some gaudy games in his sophomore season, but none more impressive than his eight catch, 223 yard and three touchdown performance in the team’s win over Arizona State late in the season.
After racking up 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first two seasons, it was no surprise the junior-to-be was making his way into the first round of every 2013 NFL Mock Draft heading into the 2012 season. As a sophomore he displayed a different level, utilizing his knack for making big plays and ability to outrun defenders to separate himself from the wide receiving competition. However, problems at quarterback coupled with the brewing problems with the coaching staff would derail his junior campaign.
In nine games, Wilson would rack up 52 receptions for 813 yards and five touchdowns—including a 12 catch, 182 yard and one touchdown performance in the team’s blowout loss to Oregon. Marred in a frustrating six-game losing streak, Wilson would then be suspended by Leach and quit the team prior to their final three games.
His production despite whatever distractions were going on behind closed doors is impressive, but the way he handled the situation so late in the season is why scouts are struggling to give him any type of a mid-round grade. Even with those red flags, the Cleveland Browns need to think long and hard about this kid in the 2013 NFL Draft for a number of reasons.
First off, the team took a flier on Josh Gordon last year in the Supplemental Draft despite leaving Baylor due to drug issues and never seeing a snap at Utah. They saw raw talent and ability behind the red flags, and were rewarded in Gordon’s rookie season.
Wilson possesses the saw raw talent and ability that Gordon flashed, but actually proved it on the collegiate stage. He utilized his unbelievable concentration while the ball was in the air to haul in passes over defenders, and would provide an excellent target for Brandon Weeden next season.
Measuring in at 6’3” and 194 pounds at the combine, Wilson showed he can add bulk to his small frame (some scouts said he looked 175 pounds soaking wet during his playing days) and impressed as a top performer in the three-cone drill (6.65 seconds), broad jump (122 inches) and vertical jump (34.5 inches). While those numbers do not translate to the NFL game, he looked fluid during drills and ran in the 4.4s unofficially, registering a 4.51 official 40-yard dash time.
The major knocks, outside of the red flags, on Wilson come in regard to his frame—which he has already worked on—and his lack of initial burst off the line of scrimmage by most major outlets. However, after going back and reviewing his game film there are a couple of things these scouts left out about what he does after the snap.
Wilson utilized his upper body strength to create his own separation, and has a second and third gear on the field that was very difficult on opposing cornerbacks. In his highlight reels on YouTube, you will constantly see him display these gears by getting 10 yards behind defenders despite looking like he was going to be jammed at the line of scrimmage—and that is something that will definitely translate to the NFL level.
With the Browns in need of another wide receiver to add to the mix with Gordon and Greg Little, Wilson could be a steal if his current sixth to seventh round projection holds up. This time last year he was considered a first-round prospect, and those natural tools didn’t just go away because of some issues with the coaching staff.
If Wilson has a successful interview with the Browns and can answer questions regarding the situation at Washington State well, the team should not take the chance of landing him in the sixth round. Utilizing a fourth or fifth round pick on a guy who was a first-round talent just 12 months ago would be a gamble this writer is willing to take on his upside.
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