Who Is New England Patriots Safety Tavon Wilson?

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Who Is New England Patriots Safety Tavon Wilson?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Wilson knew how to find the football at Illinois; that's a skill that will likely carry over to the NFL.

"Who?"

—All of New England at approximately 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday night.

Like many, this was my sequence of events when Patriots legend Troy Brown announced that the team had selected Illinois safety Tavon Wilson:

  1. Repeat the name "Tavon Wilson" as a question.
  2. Type "Tavon Wilson" into a Google search.
  3. Read the results.

Some random scouting notes from around the Web:

  • Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe asked a few scouts what they thought of Tavon Wilson. The most interesting response (besides "good question") came from a text message that said simply, "Tough, physical run support safety. Liability in coverage."
  • NEPatriotsDraft.com, which tracks every Patriots draft contact—not just visits and workouts—didn't find any pre-draft connection between Wilson and the Patriots. In an interview with the media after being selected, Wilson revealed he worked out for the Patriots once in Illinois.
  • Turning to Wes Bunting of National Football Post, we learn that Wilson is "A thick framed kid with some natural power, but his lacking closing gear shows up in both the run and pass game."

Other than that, a lot of empty or thin scouting reports, listing his name, position, school and dimensions. But as always, I was looking for what the Patriots might have seen in him. In doing so, I gathered a few interesting notes about him:

  • 38 consecutive starts for Illinois
  • two-time All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
  • finished third on the team in tackles in '09 (74) and 2011 (81)
  • team captain in his senior year
  • clean bill of health
  • experience playing cornerback and safety, also contributing on special teams

Those are just a few things on the field that could have sparked the Patriots' interest, but in his press conference (via WEEI.com), we learned that it may have even more to do with his selfless demeanor off the field; his team-first mentality is evident in both locales. When asked whether he played more cornerback or safety, Wilson said:

My junior year I started at safety. I came in as a corner, but my junior year, someone was hurt, so I had to move to safety. Last year, my coaches asked me what position I wanted to play for my senior season and I told them I wanted to play corner. I kind of played everywhere. I played some safety some games, some corner, some nickel.

When asked why he wanted to play corner, Wilson said:

I just thought that was where I was most needed on my football team. We had a safety coming back off of injury and I felt like he was a pretty good player. We had some young guys that could play safety, but we didn’t have the other corner, so I said I’d play corner because I thought that was the best fit for the team.

In one game vs. Michigan in 2011, Wilson lined up at LCB, RCB, slot CB and safety

Wilson's willing to do what's best for the team? No wonder Bill Belichick was willing to run through a wall for him.

He doesn't rank high as a safety because it's not his natural position; that being said, while CBS Sports' scouting report asks, "Where is his natural position?", Belichick asks, "How many positions can I use this player?"

Position flexibility is key to the Patriots' draft—that was blatantly evident when they selected Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the first round. That Wilson can play both cornerback and safety means he has that much better of a chance to make the roster. The more ways a player can contribute, the more valuable he is to the Patriots.

We may never know why Tavon Wilson went in the second round, but now, at least we know why he's a New England Patriot.

 

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