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2024 IDP Rookie Profile – Payton Wilson, LB

One of the top linebackers in the draft, what impact will Payton Wilson have in the NFL and for IDP?

As one of the older prospects in the 2024 Draft, NC State’s Payton Wilson will have questions and concerns. Plus, he has an injury history, which is slightly concerning. But when Wilson is on the field, he’s one of the top defensive players in the Draft. He makes plays all over the field and causes massive amounts of disruption. 

Where will this exceptionally talented linebacker be drafted, and how will he potentially elevate our IDP squads? Let’s delve deeper into the production profile of the former Wolfpack linebacker, filled with promise and potential. 

The Profile

  • Payton Wilson
  • College: North Carolina State
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 233
  • Age: 23 (April 21, 2000)
  • Hand: 9”
  • Arm: 30.5”
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.43
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.54
  • Broad Jump: 9’11”
  • Vertical Jump: 34.5”

Recruiting and College Career

Wilson’s journey began at Orange High School in Hillsborough, NC, a stone’s throw away from NC State up Interstate 40. His undeniable talent earned him a four-star recruit status and attracted offers from football powerhouses like Notre Dame and Alabama. The intrigue around Wilson’s decision to stay close to home and commit to the Wolfpack in the Class of 2018 only adds to his mystique. 

Defense & Fumbles Table
TackTackTackTackTack Def Def Def Def Def FumbFumbFumbFumb
Year School Class G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
2019North Carolina StateFR113633695.00.011616.00300
*2020North Carolina StateSO11575110811.53.5231.50100
2021North Carolina StateSO22351.51.0000000
*2022North Carolina StateJR1138448212.54.5100.0030000
*2023North Carolina StateSR12696913817.56.03196.31621001
CareerNorth Carolina State20220040248.015.07385.411321001

Wilson made an impact in Raleigh as a freshman, playing in 11 games and tallying 69 tackles and an interception. He followed that season up by raking in 108 tackles as a sophomore before seeing his 2021 season derailed by injury. 

Wilson returned in 2022, playing in 11 contests and contributing 82 tackles and 4.5 sacks. I thought he might enter the draft, but Wilson opted to return for a fifth season and lead the tough NC State defense. It was a great decision, as he looked like an even more improved linebacker. 

With 138 tackles, six sacks, and three interceptions, Wilson earned the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Chuck Bednarik, and Dick Butkus Awards. He was a Consensus All-American and finished his career in the top ten of most career tackle marks for the ACC. 

Strengths

Athleticism

After a strong combine, which verifies what we saw on tape, Wilson is one of the most impressive athletes in the draft at the linebacker position.

Wilson has good size for the linebacker spot, and his speed was particularly impressive. It showed on tape, as he made plays all over the field and often covered massive amounts of ground in pursuit. 

Intelligence

All the athleticism in the world means nothing without intelligence and instincts, which Wilson has repeatedly shown in film. He’s often precisely where he should be and rarely caught off guard by misdirection. Wilson reacts quickly and gets in a position to be as disruptive as he can be. 

It shows in how he sifts through traffic, patiently allows plays to develop, and quickly reacts when a play breaks down. Wilson transitions from reading to reacting and pounces on the opportunity. The above showcases several instances and how dangerous he can be as a pass rusher when the play breaks down. 

Versatility

Above all, Wilson is a modern three-down linebacker. He can spearhead the defense, leading the way in run support, and is athletic enough to help in coverage or as a pass-rusher. He should be on the field all the time, early, and make an impact on all three downs. Wilson will likely lead the team that drafts him in tackles and not be a liability in other areas. 

Areas Of Concern

Wilson turns 24 this week, so he’s a bit older, but it’s not as critical for linebackers as it is for running backs. It also shows in his instincts, though. He’s smart and has nearly four full seasons as a starting linebacker. 

The injury history is also a bit of a concern; Wilson has a long list of injuries. He missed basically the entire 2021 season due to a shoulder injury. He has also had two torn ACLs. 

As a player, Wilson plays upright, and physical play can cause him to get knocked off his route. And if he’s caught in traffic, Wilson can struggle to sift through and disengage blockers. He’s not particularly strong and can get locked up if someone engages him. 

Landing Spot/Draft Outlook

Wilson is most likely a second-day pick, which opens up his possibility of teams to go to. The Steelers, Commanders, Giants, Raiders, and Falcons have the highest linebacker need in my rankings. The Cardinals, Chargers, and Cowboys also strongly need the position. 

All those teams could be in the market for Wilson, but all have other needs that could also demand more draft capital. I love the Steelers and Raiders for draft spots, and the Cowboys would also be fun for his fantasy value. 

Wilson will be one of the top linebackers to target in rookie drafts. In our recent rookie mock drafts, Wilson went 1.04 in the IDP-only draft and 2.09 in our mixed draft. He was the third or fourth defensive rookie targeted. 

Which is right in line with what I project for Wilson. He will be an LB1/LB2 early and has overall LB1 potential if everything falls right and he can stay healthy. Wilson has stud linebacker potential and will be a locked and loaded starter from his first game. 

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