Reaction To The New England Patriots Selecting Illinois Safety Tavon Wilson With the 48th Overall Pick In the 2012 NFL Draft

In the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft the New England Patriots selected Illinois safety Tavon Wilson with the 48th overall pick.  To say this pick was a reach initially sounds like a huge understatement.  The earliest Wilson was projected to go was 180th overall.  I took Wilson off my final draft board after having him listed as a late round pick during the 2011 regular season because Wilson struggled against quality tight ends in the Big 10 like Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner, Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, and Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum in zone coverage at times when watching his tape.

It’s pretty obvious that I am on the fence with the Patriots’ second round pick.  Patriots fans can decide this pick for themselves as I point out a few things you probably did not know about Wilson.

Wilson has been starting at safety for Illinois since his sophomore season in 2009.  Practicing against former teammate Michael Hoomanawanui, a 2010 4th round pick at tight end for the St. Louis Rams helped Wilson assert his safety role in 2010 and 2011 following Hoomanawanui’s departure.  Hoomanawanui could end up facing Wilson again on a play or two when the Patriots meet the Rams in London this season.

In 2009, Wilson managed to record 74 total tackles which was a 3rd best on the team in 2009.  Wilson led Illinois with 7 pass breakups in 2009.  Another noticeable achievement for Wilson was his 10 solo tackles against Northwestern.

Wilson’s tackling regressed in 2010.  Wilson only had 48 total tackles that year.  Wilson did have 2 tackles for a loss and 8 pass breakups for Illinois.  Wilson showed some flash while displaying ability to create turnovers.  Wilson also recorded an interception and two fumble recoveries.  Wilson had 7 tackles and a pass breakup when Robert Griffin III threw a pass Wilson’s way in a 2010 Texas Bowl win over Baylor.

Wilson was suspect in zone coverage at times in 2011, but he did finish with 81 total team tackles while being voted team captain for Illinois.

Some mocked Wilson’s pass rushing teammate Whitney Mercilus to New England in round 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft.  Only four pass defenses in college football held opponents to under 160 passing yards in 2011.  Alabama, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Illinois were those four pass defenses.  Wilson was the best player on Illinois’ secondary.

Belichick may have been intrigued by Wilson’s active leadership role and versatility as a safety to play either free safety or strong safety.  New England probably went to Illinois’ pro day just to gather final impressions on Mercilus.  The Patriots probably took a huge liking to Wilson as well during Illinois’ pro day.  That probably influenced New England to take Wilson this early.

I am going to give the Patriots a B- grade.  I initially doubted the pick.  After doing more extensive research on Wilson, it’s easy to see why the Patriots organization has taken such a huge liking to Wilson.  You cannot completely fault the Patriots front office for this pick since safety was one of the Patriots more pressing needs.

 


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  • Dave Hunter

    Ever read this analysis of the Pats 2012 draft from ex-pro player Corey Chavous(played 11 years,made a pro bowl as a db), who now scouts and has his own scouting site? He offers up in my opinion more actual eyes on evaluation of some our draftees than anywhere else I’ve read.
    “On Tavon Wilson. ”He was a pretty good leader for the team when they had injury problems. He moved to safety seemlessly. I think he’s going to be good for the secondary out there, I really do. I think he has a lot of potential. His best football is ahead of him. I always thought his best work would be at corner, but then when I saw him at safety, he takes really good angles. He breaks up a lot of passes, I’d just like to see him finish on the ball a little better. The one thing I really like about him, he’s got really good movement skills. He bends well, he can play a lot of different positions. He’s a very mature kid who could start year one.”

    More on the other draftees in the link below.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet

    And from Russ Lande of the Sporting News: “The Patriots make the first surprising move of Day 2 by selecting the versatile Wilson, who many teams viewed as a late-round consideration. He is a very quick and athletic defender who played both cornerback and safety during his college career. His versatility, athleticism and willingness to hit are the reasons that the Patriots gamble that he can become a productive player.” — Russ Lande