Marquess Wilson Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Washington State WR
Seventh Round: 236th Pick
There were very few wide receivers around the country that made the kind of headlines that Washington State's Marquess Wilson made last season. That wasn't necessarily a good thing for Wilson, who left his Washington State team in the middle of the season, citing problems with the coaching staff.
It caught wind on the national level because Wilson is the school's all-time leading receiver, but also because Mike Leach is the head coach and fans know what he brings to the table with his past experiences at Texas Tech.
The situation will obviously follow Wilson as he prepares to enter the NFL draft. He'll have to answer questions about what happened, and NFL teams will have to decide if they feel comfortable bringing him to their team. As far as Wilson's relationship with Washington State, they banned him from their pro day and they've both seemed to cut ties completely.
Wilson came into last season as a possible first-round talent at wide receiver—there's no denying that this wasn't an awfully disappointing year for him.
As much as teams want to know about his off-the-field situation, what made Wilson a first-round possibility heading into the season? Let's take a look.
+ Great size and length
+ Strong hands, large catching radius
+ Glider in open-field
- Character concerns from leaving his team
- Thin frame and lack of strength
- Doesn't possess elite burst, could cause problems getting separation
Wilson has all the athletic ability needed to be a big-time, play-making wide receiver in the NFL. He's a smooth runner with long strides and is very hard to catch in the open field.
He displays great hands in jump-ball situations and is able to get to the ball at its highest point and come down with it. He shows excellent leaping ability across the middle and up the sideline.
Wilson possesses adequate lateral agility in getting off press coverage, but struggles with more physical defensive backs in getting off the line of scrimmage. It's something he's going to have to develop once he gets to the NFL. He got away with it by using his quickness, but if a cornerback got his hands on Wilson, he struggled to quickly get separation.
Wilson's draft stock is entirely dependent on how teams feel about his off-the-field situation at Washington State. Teams will have to do their due diligence on him and compare his on-field ability, which speaks for itself, to other players in this draft that come with much less baggage.
Here's a bit from the letter that Wilson wrote following his decision to leave the team.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
This was going to be our year. My teammates and I were aspiring to be the winning team you deserve. Unfortunately for all, the new coaching staff has destroyed that endeavor. I believe coaches have a chance to mold players, to shape men, to create greatness. However, the new regime of coaches has preferred to belittle, intimidate and humiliate us. This approach has obviously not been successful and has put a dark shadow on this program.
NFL coaches will have to take that letter, which Wilson put out there for everyone to see, and determine whether or not this is a player that will throw in the towel when things get difficult, or if he was legitimately standing up against 'abuse'.
Washington State did a review of the situation and didn't find anything worth punishing any of the staff over. Leach did have this to say about the situation.
"People don't join football or coach football to see people go out and be lazy. If they wanted it to be comfortable, they wouldn't call it football. They'd call it cuddling."
The Washington State offense was very dependent on Wilson's ability to make plays with the ball in his hands on quick, bubble screens, but also on big plays down the field in which he had to go up and get it in traffic.
Wilson played on the outside for Washington State's spread system and showed a good ability to make defenses account for him all across the field.
Wilson has a slender frame and doesn't have a lot of upper-body strength. This hurt him against more physical defensive backs when they were able to get in on his body in press coverage. He did have the ability to separate off the line of scrimmage with his footwork and change-of-direction agility. It's not elite by any means, but it's enough to get him going and his long strides would create separation once he had a clear lane to his route.
Wilson will need to show NFL teams that he'll be able to get off press coverage consistently against bigger, stronger defensive backs.
Wilson displays strong hands and a fantastic ability to make plays all over the field. He had concentration lapses at times when catching the ball, but it had nothing to do with physical ability.
His catching radius is among the best in all of the wide receiver prospects in this draft. He had no problems extending his arms to catch passes across the middle.
Wilson won a lot of 50/50 situations when his quarterback would just throw it up and give him a chance. He showed good awareness of his body and to maintain his position between the quarterback and the defender.
Wilson is a glider in the open field. He excels in routes that keep his body moving north and south like posts, slants, sluggo and square-ins. He doesn't have elite 'burst' when breaking on his routes. It takes him a few steps before he gets to full-speed, and this could hurt him at the NFL level creating separation from more athletic defenders. His ability to catch balls in tight coverage with a large radius will be his saving grace when NFL teams project his overall skill set to that level.
Wilson is average in his breaks and will round-off out routes at times. He does show good awareness to find a lane for the quarterback to throw through when a play is breaking down.
He will struggle down the field with physical defenders bumping him off his route. His slender frame doesn't allow him to maintain proper body control with more physical defensive backs. It's another reason he'll need to get stronger as he prepares to play against the bigger, stronger cornerbacks and safeties in the NFL.
Wilson displays strong hands with the ability to catch passes in tight coverage. He'll have lapses on some very catchable balls, but then he'll make a play that very few players in the country could make.
His ability to catch the football is a selling point in Wilson's draft stock. He's a playmaker that could be a difference-maker if put in the right situation.
Run after catch
Wilson is tough to bring down in the open field because of his long strides and glide-like ability down the field. He has outstanding vision with the ball in his hands, and despite his slender frame he's pretty good at breaking tackles and picking up additional yardage after contact.
His vision was on full display on the wide receiver screens that Washington State would often run. He had a knack for knowing when to come across the field and when to cut back.
Wilson showed a willingness to be involved in the run game but doesn't possess the strength to maintain his blocks for very long. He'll get a little lazy with his lower-half and hips when engaged with defenders and lose balance by falling forward.
It's definitely an area that Wilson will need to develop if he wants to become more than a situational option for a team moving to spread offensive personnel.
Wilson will be an interesting player to look for on draft day. His ability on the field has been largely overshadowed by his decision to leave his team in the middle of the season.
Would you want your team investing a draft pick in Marquess Wilson, even with his baggage?
He has the physical abilities to be a contributor early on in his NFL career. He showed that during his time at Washington State and left that program after picking up 3,207 yards on 189 catches and 23 touchdowns in just three seasons. That's a shade under 17 yards per reception on average—the very definition of a playmaker.
This is a draft full of wide receivers that project to the middle rounds, and a team will have had to do some extra background work on Wilson compared to these other prospects. Will his abilities shown on the field warrant the extra work a team would have to do to feel good about taking him?
Maybe he'll drop to the end of the draft and a team will take a chance on him. Either way, he should get a chance somewhere and he'll get the opportunity to show that he's willing to work hard and endure when things aren't ideal. Because compared to how he was seen a year ago, things aren't ideal for Wilson right now.
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