Each and every year Ohio State is one of the leaders in total players drafted to the NFL. In this series, I am going to be profiling the former Ohio State Buckeyes who have declared for the NFL Draft.
Today, we are going to take a look at All-American wide receiver Garrett Wilson. Wilson was extremely productive in his three-year career at Ohio State, totaling 143 receptions, 2,213 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns. Wilson brought positional versatility playing in both the slot and as an outside receiver in Ryan Day’s offense. For two quarterbacks Wilson provided a security blanket, a multi-level threat downfield threat, and a timely playmaker.
As the NFL Draft nears, we’re going to get some more details including the NFL combine results, but to me the draft evaluation should focus on what he was able to accomplish on the field. Wilson was one of the best receivers in Ohio State history, and to me won’t make it past the first day. There are quite a few teams who will be searching for a dynamic playmaker at the position, and he has the highest floor of all the receivers in the draft .
Garrett Wilson Draft Round Projection: 1st Round Pick
Garrett Wilson is a projected first round pick for a lot of reasons, but a lot of what makes Wilson great might not show up at the NFL combine. Arguably the most well-rounded receiver in the draft, Wilson does all the little aspects of playing receiver well. Even without a dominant single physical trait, the Buckeye wideout might be the most skillful of the draft eligible players, making him a plug-and-play weapon.
The first thing Wilson brings to the table is technique, and the easiest place to see that is looking at how a receiver gets off press man coverage. In the clip below, we see Garrett Wilson show incredible patience. He uses a hard step inside, getting the defender to bite on his initial move and scores an easy touchdown. Under the tutelage of Brian Hartline, Wilson has developed his techniques at the line of scrimmage and in his route running. This is the most important aspect of playing receiver.
Building on the technique conversation is how Wilson creates separation at the top of his route. Against Minnesota, Wilson put this on full display when he scored his 56-yard touchdown catch. At the top of the route Wilson stems — the way the receiver attacks a defender to gain positional advantage — setting up the safety by taking away his leverage. By doing this he opens up the middle of the field, and out of the break he separates from the safety, which creates an easy throwing lane for Stroud. Two things that are more important than top-end speed are technique and the ability to create separation.
Despite many NFL Draft “experts” discounting his athleticism because his speed isn’t “apparent” on tape, Wilson brings high-level body control. Against Clemson as a true freshman, Wilson made an incredible catch in the CFP. Wilson shows an incredible vertical, but the most insane part of this play is he jumps this high, gets his legs clipped, makes the catch, and still ends up getting a foot down in bounds. Despite not having top-end speed, Wilson brings incredible traits that should hold a lot of weight for draft evaluators.
Scheme and Team Fits
Garrett Wilson is extremely well rounded, so scheme fit is not going to be a challenge for him. The best fit though will be a team that likes to attack the field in levels or utilizes a lot of play-action concepts. Wilson’s skillset will translate regardless of where he ends up, but a few teams who need receivers run a lot of what Ohio State does.
Cleveland Browns (Pick 13): Under Kevin Stefanski, the Browns have utilized Jarvis Landry in a way that can be translated to Wilson seamlessly. Stefanski loves to utilize play-action passes and attacks the field with a reliance on attacking multiple levels in the passing game. Cleveland has a heavy need at the receiver position. With two raw athletes on the roster in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz, drafting a fundamentally sound player should be the plan.
Minnesota Vikings (Pick 12): The Vikings have the pick right in front of the Browns, but this is a much less significant need for them. After hiring new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the analytical pick might be moving on from a player like Adam Thielen, whose cap hit lowers significantly over the next two years. Without a head coach in place, scheme fit is not easy to find here, but Kirk Cousins is not a quarterback known for pushing the ball downfield.
New Orleans Saints (Pick 18): Will the New Orleans Buckeyes take another one with their first pick? A perfect compliment to fellow Ohio Stater in Michael Thomas, the Saints can move into next year with multiple weapons for whoever ends up at quarterback. Given their cap situation, their draft is extremely important, and with the position being inconsistent outside of Thomas, the Saints have a major need here.
New England Patriots (Pick 21): After missing on an early draft pick here with N’Keal Harry a few years back, the Patriots have built a solid group of receivers for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Garrett Wilson would add a dynamic playmaker to a unit that needs it, and will give Mac Jones another reliable target in his second year.
As a player, Wilson does not have a truly ideal fit due to his all-around nature, but any team can find a use for him. Any team in the first round with a need at receiver can be seen as an option for Wilson. That being said, I do think if he doesn’t go to one of these four teams, I’d be surprised.
Stefon Diggs (Buffalo Bills): Diggs is a well-rounded playmaker with none of those “wow” physical traits. Coming out of Maryland he was also seen as a little undersized. When you turn on the tape, they play extremely similar styles. The former 5th-round pick turned into an All-Pro level player and has had a ton of success in his two stops.
D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers): Moore is a little bigger than Wilson, but the two play similarly. In his first two seasons, he established himself as a great downfield weapon, but has become a well-rounded wideout. Wilson will come in with higher level fundamentals, but they are similar players.
In the name of fairness, here are some other evaluations from “NFL Draft Experts”:
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN): In his most recent mock draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has Garrett Wilson going No. 13 overall to the Browns, and this is what he had to say: “He’s a great route runner who can also run away from defensive backs after the catch. And the Buckeyes star doesn’t have to go too far if Cleveland takes him.”
Matt Miller (ESPN):
One more note i'll throw in here.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 14, 2022
I really like Wilson. Rd1 grade. But he's average height (6'), average weight (190 lbs), and expected to run a 4.5.
That pretty quickly gets you typecast in the NFL as not a WR1. His hands and toughness could make up for it but not elite traits
Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network): In his mock draft, Crabbs has Wilson going No. 21 overall to the New England Patriots. In the mock draft he notes, “I do think Wilson would be best served in an environment like New England, where the threat of the run game will be persistent and create a lot of second-level space over the middle of the field—so Wilson’s RAC will be at its best in play-action.”
Trevor Sikkema (PFF): Trevor Sikemma has Garrett Wilson to the Browns in his mock draft as well, saying, “Garrett Wilson has some route-running clips from this past season that could be considered teaching tape. He’s not the fastest player, but he is explosive in and out of his cuts and should be a strong separation player to give Mayfield those easy throwing windows.”
Garrett Wilson will be off the board on night one of the NFL draft, the only remaining question is how long he stays available. In his time at Ohio State, he showed that he is a dynamic playmaker at every level, has experience in the return game, and can provide whatever a team needs from a wide receiver.
For me he is a can’t-miss prospect who has the highest floor of all of the draft eligible receivers. Whoever takes Wilson will see immediate production, and the most underrated ability he possesses is his ability to make defenders miss. Any receiver-needy team should have him at the top of their board, but at worst he’s a guaranteed first round pick.
As we know draft evaluators overthink decisions, so I’ll leave with this — Don’t be stupid NFL talent evaluators: draft Garrett Wilson.