Almost as soon as the 2021 NFL Draft had concluded, it was announced that the Cleveland Browns had outbid other teams to sign defensive tackle Marvin Wilson out of Florida State. Effectively an extra draft pick, making the same amount as a sixth round pick, Wilson was a highly regarded prospect heading into this year and this draft, but injury questions dogged him throughout the process.
Some of the injury information is murky, which the team knows, but the public does not. That includes a hand injury that ended his junior year that required surgery and a leg injury that required surgery that ended his senior year. It's not even clear which hand or leg those injuries were sustained, let alone details on the nature or extent of the inury.
Age: 22 (Born September 5, 1998)
Height: 6'3 7/8"
Weight: 303 lbs
Arm Length: 33 3/8"
40-yard dash: 5.09
Broad Jump: 107"
Vertical Jump: 25.5"
Bench Press: 23 reps
Wilson has reasonably solid speed, but everything else was pretty mediocre. The question with Wilson isn't so much whether he was injured, but if he was 100 percent when he tested. Not only did Wilson have surgery on his leg after he shut it down in Tallahassee, but he also left the Senior Bowl early.
The other reason that it would make sense is his weight. It seems like he plays heavier than 303. He certainly could have trimmed down to test, but given the results, that seems unlikely.
The athleticism he put up does not stop Wilson from being an effective nose tackle. It's entirely a question of whether there's more in there athletically, the same hope the Browns have with a few of their draft picks. Therein lies the problem with Wilson as he's had a number of injuries over the past four seasons, some of which are clouded in mystery.
Best Season (2019)
Solo Tackles: 19 (3.4%)
Tackles for Loss: 8.5 (11.4%)
Sacks: 5 (15.6%)
Last Season (2020)
Solo Tackles: 11 (3%)
Tackles for Loss: 2 (4%)
Sacks: 1 (10%)
Wilson was remarkably productive when healthy. What makes this so remarkable is the production he had in 2019 was only in 9 of the team's 13 games. He missed the rest due to injury. Wilson was incredibly disruptive, but only played one season (2018) where he did not miss a game out of four.
2020 was down in part because he once again missed games, but they also changed his position. He played the 5-tech much of the time. There's also a belief that he was playing with a nagging knee injury in 2020 which reduced his effectiveness.
Wilson is a bulldozing defensive tackle that utilized up and down the line for the Seminoles. Sometimes at the nose, often at the three and then in 2020, utilized mostly as a 5-tech, he is the same player regardless of where he's lined up defensively.
Wilson is going to take the shortest distance between himself and the ball and attempt to displace anyone between them. Extremely heavy hands and powerful arms, he's often able to throw people out of his way, particularly with a head of steam. Wilson can also use a push-pull move, which given his upper body strength can occasionally ragdoll opponents.
He uses power to set up a swim move while trying to get skinny to get instant penetration. Occasionally, he flashes a spin, but he's pretty smart in using it sparingly in only a few situations. Wilson has a good understanding of what he does well, so he stays with what works.
Wilson can be extremely explosive and has more speed to close than opponents anticipate and can catch some blockers and ball carriers by surprise as a result. It also enables him to work down the line and have decent range when it comes to making tackles.
He's got the ability to collapse the pocket and drive opposing blockers into the quarterback's lap. When Wilson feels like he can make a play, he will chase it down with relentless effort, occasionally getting the sack on a second or even third attempt. This is when he looks particularly spry and shows impressive athleticism.
When he's able to get to the quarterback, he is a load and they feel the full force of him, which can occasionally draw a penalty flag. There are times when it seems like it's simply called because he's big and he can deliver a powerful blow.
As a run defender, Wilson can two-gap and can move the line of scrimmage into the backfield. He was impactful enough that teams rarely ever dared to single block him, because he was simply too powerful and could wreck a play by himself. Plenty of teams tried to run away from him.
Wilson is good working down while resisting the urge to over pursue, filling cut back lanes as he is still impacting the line of scrimmage. He also does a nice job of getting back in pursuit when he sees plays too far away from him.
In terms of motor, Wilson can run hot and cold a bit and he will have stretches where he can disappear a bit. Wilson is still going to hold up at the point, but he doesn't quite bring that bull in a china shop he can display when he takes over a game. In some ways, When Wilson smells blood in the water, he can really pile up the production whereas in some games, he's pretty quiet.
Fit, Usage and Projection
For the Browns, Wilson is a nose. He's ideally suited to play the one-tech in the Brown scheme and demand opponents block him with two guys. What sets Wilson apart is how powerful he can be at the point of attack in terms of clogging the run, but he has the ability to impact the passing game.
So the Browns can utilize him on those down and distance situations where it could be run or pass, being able to contribute in both circumstances.
The big issue for Wilson is health. If he can stay healthy, he has legitimate talent to excel in the NFL and the Browns may be forced to find a spot for him behind Andrew Billings as a fifth defensive tackle. He looks like the perfect running mate for Billings, allowing the Browns to play big consistently throughout the game if they choose.
That would give the Browns a really nice two-platoon there with Tommy Togiai, picked in the fourth round, the ability to flip between the one and the three as he's able.
Wilson, operating as a role player, will have far less snaps, can hopefully bring that full effort, game wrecking ability far more often and become a really nice addition to the Browns.
Last but certainly not least is Wilson's ability to impact special teams. He blocked three kicks in the 2020 season.
Based just on his collegiate production, Wilson projects as a long term starter. If there's more upside within his athleticism that's not reflected in testing, all the better. Given his injury history, if they can an impactful season or few out of Wilson, it's a really big pickup for them.