The third in a series looking at the Patriots' 2012 NFL Draft picks, and the roles they might play for the Patriots next year.
Name: Tavon Wilson
Drafted: 2nd round, 48th overall
Overview: Projected by most to be a late round - undrafted prospect, Wilson flew largely under the radar until selected by the Patriots in the second round of April's draft. At a shade under six-feet and 205 lbs, Wilson has ideal size-weight-speed for the safety position. From the limited tape I've seen, Wilson is a very athletic, yet disciplined defender who won't wow you with his playmaking ability, but won't give up a ton of big plays. During his career with Illinois, Wilson recorded 12.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, and 22 pass break-ups. Overall, Wilson is an athletic defender with a lot of college experience who should be solid in a multitude of areas for the Patriots on defense and special teams.
Projected Role: One of the nicest things about Wilson is his versatility. During his career at Illinois, Wilson frequently played the traditional "free" safety position, defended in the box, played cornerback on the boundary or in the slot, and covered the tight end. For the Patriots, I wouldn't expect Wilson to have a defined role as a rookie. I think he can come in and compete for playing time in the safety rotation immediately, and could also be a factor in sub-packages, where he could line-up in a bunch of different spots in the defensive backfield. As a rookie, Wilson should also factor into special teams. Overall, while I don't expect Wilson to play a huge role for the Patriots, I do expect him to see a fair amount of playing time as a rookie, especially when considering how thin the Patriots are in the defensive backfield. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took Wilson in the second round for a reason - I expect him to be a solid player. While I don't ever think he will be a Pro Bowl caliber player, having him be a reliable starter by year two or three really isn't out of the question.
Projected Stats: 16 games played; 3 games started; 41 total tackles; 1 int; 4 PD; 1.0 sacks
Bottom Line: Rotational safety who will also see time in sub-packages and on special teams as a rookie, could develop into a starter by year two or three.