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James Wilson's career could not be more disappointing. A five-star recruit from Tim Tebow's high school, Allen D. Nease High School in Jacksonville, Wilson was the highest-rated guard by both ESPN and Rivals.com.
Unfortunately, Wilson couldn't see the field. Before his first year, he tore the meniscus in his left knee and missed the season, with doctors operating on his knee twice to repair it. He started 10 games for Florida the next year, but fractured both his feet in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama and had to miss the rest of the year.
In 2009, he was able to return to the team with soreness in his feet and even started four of the 14 games Florida played that year.
Soon after, he missed nearly all of 2010 after re-injuring his knee and undergoing season-ending surgery. After that, he required another surgery in the 2011 preseason, bringing his total knee surgeries to four.
His recovery didn't see him regain his roster spot, however, and he was relegated to the scout team upon his return. Over the course of the preseason and regular season, Wilson worked his way up the Florida depth chart, culminating in a start against Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
When his request to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship was granted, he played in nearly every game for Florida. He did, however, miss a game due to an orbital fracture—a break in the bones surrounding the eye.
Wilson thinks his relative health in the latter two years of his college career is a result of changing his workout practices and slimming down to a svelte 323 pounds. If his injuries can be managed with healthy training practices, the Vikings are one of the better fits in the NFL, as their player maintenance is among the best in the country.
A healthy James Wilson brings quite a bit to the guard position. He's more of a run blocker than a pass blocker, but his pass blocking skills aren't too bad. His weight loss has contributed to surprisingly light feet and he can move quickly on screen blocks. In some cases, Wilson can be seen 20 yards downfield springing a block in the secondary.
He drives well with his legs and leaves defensive tackles on the ground, both in the passing game and running game. While generally he seems inconsistent on the snap, he's more often than not the first lineman firing off the ball in order to make his block.
Wilson plays noticeably high, and needs to work on leverage much more. His lateral flexibility and movement aren't elite, so his inside play needs to have much more consistency from a pad level perspective—his ability to lock onto a defender isn't elite, but it's more fixable than some of the other issues with his play.
Nevertheless, he has had good games against the likes of Bennie Logan and Everett Dawkins, although he was noticeably better against their lesser-known counterparts, the nose tackles. He can often be seen driving linemen 15 yards downfield and plays at a high level for the entire game.
He generally seals well on the pull, and his light feet are useful, but he needs to be quicker and more precise when moving around; he'll occasionally bump around in traffic or whiff on his block. When he's finished with a defender, he'll look for more blocks to make and will play until the end of the whistle much more than other players.
Wilson can sustain himself on long drives well, playing nearly as well at the end of a long possession as he did at the beginning. He doesn't really tire out over the course of the game either, and can be seen driving forward with as much vigor as before.
He still needs better awareness as a pass rusher, so he can identify and block delayed blitzer or stunting linemen. The beleaguered Gator flashes a lot of ability and occasionally shows quite a bit of savvy, but he still needs to learn more to be effective. That said, his strength and play on the field makes him quite a bit better than most Day 3 prospects, and one would suspect that Wilson would go in the third round if he wasn't victim to such severe injury problems.
A healthy James Wilson could start for a number of teams in the NFL, but that's a big qualifier given his history.