Damien Wilson ended his two years at Minnesota as one of the best tacklers the Gophers have had at middle linebacker in quite some time. He left an impact in the Big Ten, and will hopefully be able to show that he can make an impact in the NFL as well. However, he will definitely have some obstacles to overcome to be able to make an impact at linebacker, much less on special teams.
Wilson transferred in from Jones Community College after finishing 4th in the nation in tackles in his sophomore season. He had an advantage in knowing the coaching staff due to his cousin, David Cobb already being on the roster. Originally from Mississippi, Wilson chose the Gophers over offers from Kansas, Memphis and several other FBS schools.
Wilson has the tackling skills to make an impact in the NFL, and is fairly good at playiing in the passing lanes, at least at the college level. However it will be a big jump to try and stop Tom Brady and Andrew Luck from passing through him rather than Joel Stave and Jake Ruddock. Wilson will need to get stronger avoiding the cut block, and will have to live up to expectations as his play did tail off against tougher opponents last fall. He had less success against running quarterbacks, so maybe not a great fit for the NFC West. This NFL.com scouting report does a nice job of breaking down his strengths and weaknesses:
Fills the stat sheet, but is missing traits associated with becoming a starting linebacker in the NFL. He is an average athlete with average speed and loses leverage in his run responsibilities. He's a willing chaser and he's around the action, so a move to the WILL outside 'backer spot might make the most sense in order to limit his liability against downhill rushing attacks.
SI.com also sees potential in Wilson, but sees him as a undrafted free agent:
Solid closing speed helps him track plays to the outside and allowed Minnesota to move him all over the box. Takes good angles in pursuit and doesn’t give up on plays run away from him. Shoots gaps well on blitzes. Sound tackler in the box, willing to take on interior linemen to close running lanes. Fast enough to stay with running backs in pass coverage.
So what does this all mean? Do we think Damien will hear his name called in Saturday? MHere is a quick overview of just a few of the umpteen thousand mock drafts out on the interwebs.
@MoveTheSticks Damien Wilson, LB Minnesota - You're welcome https://t.co/tsh6X8uKVS— Charles Davis (@CFD22) April 25, 2015
DAL 7 Round Mock: 1. B Jones 2. T Yeldon 3. T Flowers 4.Chaz Green 5.Damien Wilson 7.Xavier Williams 7. George Farmer— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) April 29, 2015
@NFLUKMock with pick 233, Kansas City Chiefs select Damien Wilson, LB (Minnesota). @mattmorris1987 is OTC— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) April 29, 2015
Interesting to see that Wilson is going in the fifth round in a couple of mock drafts. I think he will end up further down the list towards the 7th round myself. As for a team? I think it could be anyone honestly. But I'll go out on an edge and say Wilson goes in the 7th round to the San Diego Chargers.