Underclassmen who declare early despite a lack of playing time present a challenge, although scouts and GMs are a bit more forgiving if a player displays elite traits and plays at a premium position.
It worked out well for former Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, as the No. 11 pick in 2017 has already made a Pro Bowl despite playing in just 16 college games.
But the jury is still out on former North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the same draft despite just one season as the full-time starter in college.
This year’s mystery evaluation with an impressive, but short, resume is massive Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson.
At 6-foot-6, 350 pounds, Wilson is generally seen as a fringe first-rounder, but he’s only played in 25 games, with 24 starts. Wilson redshirted his freshman season, started all 14 games his freshman year, then was limited to 11 games and 10 starts as a redshirt sophomore due to an ankle injury.
“Some NFL scouts secretly wished Wilson would have stayed in school for his final season, believing he had first-round potential in 2021 with another year of improvement. They’re still very much interested, even if the first round feels like a reach this year.”
That interest largely stems from Wilson’s rare size and measurements.
Besides his height (78th percentile, per Mockdraftable) and weight (97th), Wilson also received high marks for his arm length (35-1/2 inches, 93rd), hand size (10-1/4 inches, 70th), and broad jump (110 inches, 88th).
To underscore just how unique of a player Wilson is, Mockdraftable’s closest comparison to Wilson is former Penn State tackle Donovan Smith, a 2015 second-round pick by Tampa Bay (34th overall) who is a 74.9 percent match. Despite the similarities, Wilson is heavier and has longer arms.
However, there are reasons why Wilson is seen as a fringe first-rounder, as analysts say he’s still very raw with several holes in his game. Edholm, who ranks Wilson as his No. 73 overall prospect, provides a detailed scouting report on him. From Edholm:
“Wilson would be best-served to take a ‘redshirt’ year in the NFL, much like he did his first season on campus in Athens. If he’s pressed into immediate duty and asked to single-block top-tier pass rushers, it could be a trial by fire. With as much help as the Bulldogs gave him last season, it’s clear he has yet to reach his ceiling.”
However, don’t be surprised if someone takes a chance on Wilson in the first round due to his elite size.
I talked to 2 GMs in last 24 hours and both believe UGA OT Isaiah Wilson will go in the 1st round. That’s too rich for me but it looks like it’s going to happen. Betting on the upside.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 6, 2020
Jake Rigdon (email@example.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.