Fiammetta: Sizing up Wilson’s draft prospects

first_imgLess than a week before the NFL Draft, we already know how the top two picks will shake out.League sources have confirmed two of the worst kept secrets in recent memory, that Andrew Luck will be heading to Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III will be Washington-bound at No. 2. Smart money also has Matt Kalil going to Minnesota at No. 3., and depending who you talk to, there’s a fair amount of predictability to the next three or four picks.Well, what’s the fun in that?Here in Wisconsin, draft week holds an extra twist of intrigue given the number of former Badgers eligible to be drafted. Eight former UW players attended the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, and one more, safety Aaron Henry, also could hear his name called next weekend.The biggest name of the bunch is Russell Wilson, the record-setting quarterback who transferred to Wisconsin from N.C. State and led the Badgers to their second consecutive Rose Bowl berth. In his one year as a Badger, Wilson brought a largely unprecedented level of explosiveness to Wisconsin’s offense with his mobility and heady decision-making. Wilson also set school records for career completion percentage (72.8) and pass efficiency (191.8).While Montee Ball’s stunning emergence as a touchdown-scoring dynamo catapulted him into national prominence as an eventual Heisman Trophy finalist (Wilson did finish ninth overall in the race), it might have been Wilson who was ultimately the most valuable Badger, coming to Madison in the middle of the summer to solidify a previously muddy quarterback picture.Months later, it should all be culminating in Wilson being mentioned as one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft. This year’s class of signal callers has the potential to be one of the greatest, alongside the 1983 trio of John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, or more recently the 2004 class of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Luck and Griffin are the undisputed top dogs this year, but behind them are remarkably talented products in Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins.Consensus among scouts and draft aficionados seems to place Wilson next on that list, though many – not the least of which are Badger fans – might place him ahead of Cousins. Either way, Wilson’s not ranked as highly as his production and skill would suggest, and there’s a clear-cut reason for it.At just 5-foot-11, Wilson finds himself on the shorter end of quarterbacks. Even though he played behind the mammoth Wisconsin offensive line – one larger than many NFL lines – Wilson has battled questions about his height ever since he emerged as a viable pro prospect. The archetype of the tall (between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-5) NFL quarterback with a rocket arm and enough mobility to, at the very least, keep plays alive in the face of a persistent pass rush is well established, and while Wilson has the arm and undoubtedly the mobility, that dogged height question won’t fade until he finds sustained success in the NFL.How much success he finds, as it does with essentially all quarterback prospects, depends on where he ends up. Wilson is widely perceived as a third through fifth-round prospect, a range predominately designated for developmental quarterback prospects. An ideal situation for a mid-round quarterback is to be drafted by a relatively stable franchise and coaching staff that can keep him on the sidelines, where he’ll be groomed as the eventual successor while being allowed ample time to learn the offensive schemes.Of course, the ideal situation is far from likely or even feasible, but remember this – Wilson came from an entirely different system at N.C. State, learned Paul Chryst’s notoriously complex pro-style offense here at Wisconsin over the course of an abbreviated summer and dominated from Week 1 against UNLV. Wilson was essentially a complete stranger to his new Badger teammates when he came to Madison, yet they were the ones who voted him a captain at the end of fall camp.So where will he end up? Any draftnik from Mel Kiper Jr. to a range of football bloggers will tell you first round picks alone are hard enough to predict. For the middle rounds? Who knows where teams want to go and whom they’re targeting.But taking a rough look at the league, roughly 10 of 32 teams are in need of a quarterback. Some of these needs are more for a backup or quarterback-of-the-future type, such as the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. These three teams are all contenders and likely won’t be targeting a quarterback in the top rounds. Denver believes it has a few great years left in Peyton Manning, while Philadelphia and Dallas are set with Michael Vick and Tony Romo – two quarterbacks who are always in need of a solid backup given their injury histories.Other teams are stuck in more precarious positions, having recently drafted young quarterback prospects that have yet to prove successful. The Minnesota Vikings had mixed results with rookie Christian Ponder last season, while the Jacksonville Jaguars fared even worse with Blaine Gabbert. The Cleveland Browns can also be thrown into the mix here with the inconsistent Colt McCoy, who they have yet to reward with a sign of real commitment.The four remaining quarterback-needy teams find themselves in similar situations – they have veteran quarterbacks either on the tail end of their careers or on the brink of losing their starting jobs. The Arizona Cardinals have yet to see enough from Kevin Kolb to warrant full-fledged support, while Carson Palmer seems to be on borrowed time as an Oakland Raider.The same can be said for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Matt Cassell, while the Miami Dolphins somehow continue to search for a post-Dan Marino quarterback with Matt Moore as the latest underwhelming option. The Dolphins do, however, have the No. 8 overall pick, situating them nicely to select Tannehill.Whether any of these teams pick Wilson remains to be seen. But should he end up on a team willing and able to give him a shot at eventually seizing the starting job, Wilson will be a fascinating prospect to watch.Mike is a senior majoring in journalism. Where do you think Wilson will end up? Let him know on Twitter @mikefiammetta.last_img


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