How would Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson fit on the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Mack Wilson was a five-star recruit rated 16th in the nation in 2015. After playing special teams as a freshman Mack Wilson got his way onto the field as a starter for the College Football Playoff.
After two starts Wilson was thrust into a starting role as a junior and put up 71 tackles with five passes defended and two interceptions. How does Mack Wilson protect to the NFL and would he fit the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Mack Wilson plays with quality speed. He is able to run sideline to sideline to get to the edge. Wilson is also a strong run-and-chase player who can track running backs out of the back field.
Wilson also provides intrigue over the middle of the field in coverage. He is fluid in how he swivels his hips and changes directions and uses his recovery speed to make plays on the football.
Despite being a faster, more fluid athlete Wilson does play with an edge as a downhill player. He is physical against blocks and can get after the quarterback off of the edge and up the middle.
Wilson is also one of the younger players in the draft, entering at age 20.
Going from a rotational linebacker to the play caller in the middle of the defense appeared to be a big step up in responsibility for Wilson. Wilson struggled to get his defense set throughout the season and players were shuffling as the ball was being snapped. It did not cost them early into the year but was exposed later against quality competition.
As a run and chase player his processing questions also come to display as he can lack spacial awareness. With the questionable understanding and awareness Wilson was a victim to crossers and pick routes.
Wilson also lacks some of the ideal size to get off of blocks. Being young and having the effort and tenacity in the box is a good start, but he can also throw himself into the fire to see himself get swallowed up.
The first comparison that comes to mind is Darron Lee of the Jets. Lee plays with elite speed, but does not quite have the size to fight between the tackles.
Lee is a better processor and is better in pre-snap recognition, but Wilson is more inclined to stick his helmet into the box. Another comparison could be Myles Jack.
Jack has the propensity to play in the box similar to Wilson. He also has the run and chase ability to go sideline to sideline. Jack may be better because a player such as Telvin Smith is next to him to keep the defense in -line. However, when Jack is given the ability to run free and make plays his speed and intensity shows. This is where Wilson would be best in the NFL.
Fit for the Steelers
The Steelers are in offseason number two of replacing Ryan Shazier. The biggest issue for the Steelers replacing Shazier is that they not only do not have the speed on the roster, they did not have a play caller who could set the defense either.
One thing they found last season was that Vince Williams evolved in that role as the season went on. His best work came in a late season win against the Patriots where he was typically the only linebacker on the field.
So while Williams showed he may have been capable of taking a step mentally, a player such as Wilson could be a fit in adding the speed next to him.
Wilson is looked at as a late first or second round pick. Wilson is a good debate at pick 20, because it would be tough to use him as the only linebacker as a rookie. However, in a specific role he can make a year one impact and would be a slam dunk as a second round pick.
If the Steelers select him in round one, they are betting on his coverage abilities to keep two linebackers on the field early into his career, and betting on his upside to hold down a defense as he matures and plays more starter snaps.