The New England Patriots’ linebacker corps suffered some major losses during free agency last month: Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts signed with the Miami Dolphins, while Jamie Collins opted to leave for the Detroit Lions. Even though the Patriots did add Brandon Copeland to fill the hybrid/move role previously held by Collins, it is obvious that the team would benefit from adding more bodies to the equation through the draft.
The position is well stocked this year, though, which bodes well for New England in case it does want to add more youth to its current group. One of the better fits from the team’s perspective would be Logan Wilson out of Wyoming: a three-time captain, who has had tremendous production in his four years with the Cowboys, Wilson does have the upside to develop into a three-down linebacker at the next level.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and rather take a closer look at him:
Name: Logan Wilson
School: Wyoming (redshirt senior)
Opening day age: 24
2019 stats: 13 games; 923 snaps; 105 tackles (8.5 tackles for loss; 12 missed tackles); 1 forced fumble; 13.0 quarterback pressures (1.0 sack, 3 hits, 9 hurries); 56 passing targets, 37 catches given up, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions (1 touchdown), 7 pass breakups
Size: 6021, 241 lbs, 9.5 hand size, 32.38 arm length
Workout numbers: 4.63 40-yard dash, 7.07 three-cone drill, 4.27 short shuttle, 1001 broad jump, 32.0 vertical jump; 21 bench press reps
Expected round: 3rd-4th
Patriots pre-draft meeting: Pro day
Strengths: Wilson is able to quickly process what is happening in front of him and react accordingly, bringing a high football IQ as well as considerable experience to the table: he started all 52 games he appeared in during his four non-redshirt seasons at Wyoming. He has a natural feel for moving in space and knows how to read his keys to take advantage of leverage. He also takes sound angles when playing downhill or attacking the ball carrier, which in turn makes him a sure and productive tackler.
His fine technique, of course, helps as well: he keeps his feet active upon initiating contact, and is an able finisher while not sacrificing his wrap-up ability in order to lay the wood. He also showcases a good technical foundation and core strength when it comes to taking on blockers and has the balance and explosiveness out of his stance or from the second level to move offensive linemen off their spot. This should also bode well when used as a blitzer or on stunts. Wilson also has the necessary high motor, both when playing downhill and in pursuit.
He furthermore offers good size at 6-foot-2, 241 pounds, and possesses the sideline-to-sideline speed to succeed in a true multi-purpose role: he can play downhill but has also shown at Wyoming that he can drop back into coverage and be successful — his 10 career interceptions from the middle linebacker spot speak for themselves. On top of it all, he also is a noted leader and one of just two players in school history to be voted team captain three years in a row.
Weaknesses: Wilson’s athletic skillset is generally a good one, but it is not without its weak-points. He is, for example, not the most agile player in space — something that may hurt his ability to adapt to the speed of NFL-level competition, especially when it comes to his zone- or man-drops into coverage. His rather average mobility could become an issue in these situations and in turn impact his ceiling: a comparatively old player, who already turns 24 in July, Wilson might become little more than a two-down defender.
He also needs to get more consistent when it comes to attacking gaps. While he identifies blocking schemes well, Wilson tends to attack too aggressively downhill at times which in turn leads to him getting stuck in his gaps and losing track of where the ball is headed. Furthermore, he oftentimes wins against offensive linemen more with his high-motor than his hand-technique — this could hurt his ability to get off blocks at the next level and when playing against athletes better than those he faced in the Mountain West.
What would be his role? Wilson played primarily as an off-the-ball linebacker during in Wyoming’s 4-2-5 scheme, and based on his skillset the expectation is that he will play the same role at the next level as well. While it remains to be seen how he fares in coverage against NFL-caliber running backs and tight ends — which may hurt his ability to regularly contribute on all three defensive downs — the Patriots would get a player who could become an early contributor as a Mike/inside linebacker in base sets and against the run, and who could turn into a core special teamer as well.
How many downs can he play? He may not start his career as a three-down linebacker, as noted above, but he certainly has the potential to turn into one further down the line — either later during his rookie campaign or in 2021. After all, his football IQ and functional athleticism should translate well to the NFL game and give him a good basis to work on. Furthermore, Wilson projects to be a Day One special teams presence.
What is his special teams value? As noted above, Wilson is well-suited to leave his mark on special teams right away due to his quick processing skills and sure tackling. Adding to that is the fact that New England generally does not shy away from using its off-the-ball/move linebackers — even those that play prominent snaps on defense — in the kicking game. Jamie Collins registered 209 snaps in the game’s third phase over the course of the 2019 season, for example, which ranked him ninth most of the team. Accordingly, Wilson would likely be in a position to carve out a regular role on punt and kick coverage units.
Does he have positional versatility? According to Pro Football Focus 2020 NFL Draft Guide, Wilson spent most of his 2019 season playing as a box linebacker at Wyoming: 749 of his 923 defensive snaps (81.1%) came with him aligned off-the-ball and inside the formation. That said, his skillset should allow him to play on the line of scrimmage as well. It would therefore not be a surprise to see him get regular snaps as an edge linebacker — possibly on the strong side of the formation — as well.
Will his role change from Year One to Year Two? As noted above, Wilson should be able to become a contributor early on in his career. There should still be room for growth between 2020 and 2021, however, especially when it comes to his coverage and overall adjustment to the speed of the NFL game. If he is able to get a bit more fluid in his movements and successfully adapt to playing against pro athletes, he should become a three-down defender sooner rather than later.
Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? Wilson would join the Patriots as a lock to make the 55-man roster based on his projected status as a Day Two selection, but his ability to adapt to life at the next level will dictate just how his role will eventually look like. In case the Patriots plan to use Wilson like he was used at Wyoming, his primary competition for playing time currently projects to be off-the-ball linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Terez Hall.
Why the Patriots? New England has an obvious need at linebacker following the free agency departures of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts. While Wilson may not yet be able to successfully fill the hybrid/move roles previously held by Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, he would give the Patriots a solid developmental option as an off-the-ball defender. His high football IQ in combination with appropriate size and a solid technical foundation certainly would fit in well with how the team uses its players at the position — and make Wilson a potential impact player early on.
Why not the Patriots? Compared to other off-the-ball linebackers who might be in the Patriots’ range — Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray and LSU’s Patrick Queen, for example — Wilson’s ceiling might be more limited. As a result, the team could decide to rather spend a first- or second-round selection at the position to bolster the position than spend in a player who may have a high floor but may never become a true difference-maker. On the other hand, the Patriots could decide that the depth at the position is sufficient alongside Dont’a Hightower: Bentley and Copeland can both play a starting-caliber role in the middle of the defense as well.
Verdict: Logan Wilson might be one of the best fits from the Patriots’ perspective in this year’s draft. He has the size and athletic foundation to adapt to the NFL game, and also has the quick processor and technique to quickly carve out a role. Given that New England currently has four picks between the 87th and the 125th overall selection — the range where the Wyoming product is expected to come off the board — it would not be a surprise if one of them is invested in him.