While the Falcons appear set at running back with Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in the fold, the name of David Wilson, a running back from Virginia Tech, keeps coming up in mock drafts for the Falcons. While he only shows up once in this week's Mock Monitor he's repeatedly made an appearance so it's time to put the spotlight on him.
We welcome back Craig Vanderkam of Sideline Scouting for a look at the junior from Virginia Tech. Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com offered up a brief look at Wilson in the Mock Monitor 2.0 version, which includes his interesting Virginia Tech profile video.
At the NFL Combine one of the first things that impressed teams meeting with Wilson, before any of Combine drill performances, was that the running back showed up in front of teams in a suit and tie.
After a 2011 season that saw him perform as the full-time starter, Wilson amassed 1,709 yards rushing with nine touchdowns and added 21 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown. His junior season earned him First-Team All-ACC, Second-Team All-American, and conference Player of the Year honors.
A former track star as well, Wilson comes from a long line of very good running backs to come from the Virginia Tech system. Vanderkam sees an excellent overall athlete in Wilson, a player with excellent speed and open-field playmaking ability. At last month's Combine, Wilson made his case to be the second running back drafted overall, behind Alabama's Trent Richardson, widely believed to be a top-10 pick. His 41-inch vertical jump and 11-foot broad jump were tops among running backs and he ran 4.40 40.
"He's capable of breaking the big play any time he touches the ball and has great potential as a receiver out of the backfield," Vanderkam said. "He has the speed to break away from defenders in the open field, so get him the ball in space and he'll make a lot of things happen for an offense."
Scouts were impressed with Wilson's performance as a pass catcher in receiving drills at the Combine and that ability makes him a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Some teams may be concerned by his number of fumbles as a junior and his pass blocking is suspect, but both traits can be corrected. He is obviously a talented back.
The recent rise of the argument that running backs aren't as valuable as they once were with the rise in the passing game becomes more interesting every year. There are always one or two backs widely believed to be deserving of first-round picks, but after that most believe running backs can be found all over the draft and in free agency.
When considering a player like Wilson in the second round, Vanderkam says he doesn't buy the idea that teams can wait to find a talented back. Yes, there are diamonds in the rough in later rounds, but if a talented player is there at a position of need like running back, it's always wise to take him.
"Late round or undrafted running backs have had success in the NFL but the odds are still against your team finding one," he said. "I would much rather go with the player that the scouts have rated highly than roll the dice and hope to get lucky with a guy that could make an impact later in the draft."
When considering a player currently playing in the league who perhaps resembles what Wilson can do or appear to do, Vanderkam says he projects as a hybrid of Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw's body type and Dallas Cowboys emerging sensation Demarco Murray and his athleticism.
The solidly built 5-foot-10, 206-pound Wilson is a tough runner, capable of running between the tackles and churning yards. Scouts like his ability to use his athleticism in tight spaces, but note that he still prefers to bounce outside and use his explosive speed in the open field. Like Murray, Wilson can be a dangerous and dynamic player one-on-one in the open field.
There are those that have doubts the Falcons will use their second round pick to grab a running back, when they appear set at the position and Vanderkam is among them. However, he feels Wilson would be would of the top players available at No. 55 for Atlanta and while it's not ideal, the Virginia Tech product is a complete back that can contribute from Day 1 and be the bell cow later down the line.
While Wilson is considered the second-best back available after Richardson, there is some debate on that. Grouped with Wilson in the 1A category is Miami's Lamar Miller and Boise State's Doug Martin. Vanderkam believes all three have the ability to be three-down backs in the NFL. He notes that Wilson is the lightest of the three, but his compact build combined with his athletic ability make him a sound choice for a team's leading running back chores.
"He has good vision to see running lanes, has a good leg drive and fights through tackles in the hole," he said.
Additionally, Wilson offers values as a return man. While assuming that role during his career at Virginia Tech, he returned two kicks for touchdowns.
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