Name: DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Size: 6'4, 315 lbs
Expected Round: 1st
40 Time: 4.96s
Career Stats: Click Here.
Strengths: Elite and prototypical size for a 3-4 DE. Great strength to hold the point of attack against double teams. Experienced in the 3-4 defense that Temple ran. Great closing step on the quarterback. Able to split double teams and push back single teams. Cuts through slide blocks to get into the backfield. Great force against the run and can shed blockers to grab the ball carrier. Extremely aware of the play around him, including how the opposition is trying to block him. High energy player who is well conditioned and can play the whole game (3 or 4 downs).
Weaknesses: Does not have a great first step off the snap and can lose a battle as soon as the play starts. Sometimes loses gap contain in order to press the quarterback, so needs to learn how to stay in his role in the NFL. Very limited pass rushing repertoire (bull rush, swim move) and won't be an elite pass rusher from the defensive end spot. May be better fit for the left defensive end spot that Ty Warren/Ron Brace already play.
Why and Why Not the Patriots after the jump, and my final verdict!
Why the Patriots?: If the Patriots are willing to have a line of three space eaters (Warren, Vince Wilfork, Wilkerson) who won't really pressure the quarterback, but will be able to watch all the gaps, then Wilkerson is a really good fit. I feel like taking Wilkerson would allow the Patriots to draft a speed rusher as opposed to a heavy run stopper because Wilkerson can step on the field and watch two gaps. Taking a smaller defensive end prospect would require a heavier outside linebacker to complement their play on the field and stop the run. Wilkerson automatically makes the outside linebackers better. The WWW defensive line would create lanes for all the linebackers to make plays.
Why Not the Patriots?: Wilkerson doesn't seem like he has the skill set to be a pass rusher in the NFL. He may notch 4-5 sacks a season (which I think is fine), but I doubt he'll be a constant threat against the quarterback in the Patriots' system. He'll be utilized to stop the run and he may not be able to pressure the pocket, while still having gap control. Wilkerson is also rising up the draft boards, which means that the Junior may be costly.
Verdict: I'm really high on Wilkerson as a prospect for the Patriots. I think he's exactly what they need at defensive end as a space eating run stopper who can maintain the point of attack and let the linebackers make the plays. He present solid value at the end of the first and he could be a Ty Warren-ish player on the defensive line- an under-appreciated talent who does everything well and increases the level of play of those around him.