NAME: Christian Wilkins
POSITION: Interior Defensive Lineman
JERSEY: No. 42
RECRUITMENT RATING: 5-star
WT: 300 lbs
Competitive Toughness –Flies around like a bat out of hell. Relentless in his efforts: will chase from the backside, string out lateral runs into the boundary, bear crawl in the pocket after losing his footing in an effort to get a piece of the passer. Occasional lapses vs. double teams to give ground and lose leverage.
Two Gap Ability –Squatty build provides natural leverage and will help aid against longer armed blockers who win extension after contact. Feel for the play and ability to mirror backs at the LOS and disengage late is very strong, as is hand placement to out-leverage a blocker in tight spaces to shed.
Gap Penetration Skills –Plays with good balance through the gap to push through down blocks and attempts at washing him out of the play. Shows good acceleration after identifying the gap to gain ground and work into a space after stacking a blocker and reading the play.
Tackling –Hasn’t got the length and tackle radius to ensure he finishes plays when he’s stuck up on blockers at the point of attack but his disengagement skills often prevent need to do so. Rapid closing speed and does well to ensure he gets a firm wrap on a limb when working at the fringe of his tackling capability.
Flexibility –Has a good deal of lean and lateral mobility in his lower half. Isn’t a tight athlete and offers the ability to turn the corner in a phone booth to quickly close on his target. Capable of working his hips over top of blockers with good hip hinge and displace himself into adjacent gap.
Pass Rush Counters –Slippery after establishing his fit with his hands. Understands how to manipulate his body and sustain control of his blocker with hands while working lower half into space. Wins with first step quickness, speed to power conversion, rip move from wider angles and second effort.
First Step Quickness –Does not have an elite first step but is quick on the draw nonetheless and fully capable of timing up a snap and exploding into the gap. Wins with quickness on the inside and plays with good acceleration as he gains depth in the pocket to keep momentum and defeat lateral contact.
Feet/Change Of Direction –More nimble than first look would suggest. Momentum can be used against him in some instances but redirection skills and short area agility to cross the face of a blocker are both very strong. Has light feet when working laterally and engaged with blockers.
Versatility –Has been used off the edge in passing situations. Love his ability to anchor against power concepts in the middle and subsequently shuck the block. Penetration player with high production in the backfield as well. Mobile, quick and stout enough to provide effective play in a number of game situations.
BEST TRAIT – Versatility
WORST TRAIT – Length
BEST FILM – Boston College (2018)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2017)
RED FLAGS – None
Christian Wilkins projects favorably into an even front as a true 3T defensive tackle. Wilkins’ versatility would allow him to play at a high level in odd fronts as well, provided he’s tasked with B-gap assignments and allowed to penetrate the pocket. Wilkins has a great nose for the football and is technically advanced, he should be capable of making a positive impact for a defense very early on in his NFL career. Starter with Pro Bowl ceiling.
Get-off/Burst – 2nd/3rd/4th steps are better than his first. Good reaction timing off the snap when he lines up over the ball, but the further away he gets the less explosive his initial jump is. Not a gap-shooter by nature, but quick enough after the snap to slip through and play behind the line of scrimmage. Quick-footed without being overly twitched-up.
Leverage – Plays with excellent leverage and rarely suffers from high pad level. Squatty frame, would not guess 6-foot-4 from watching him on tape. Good knee bend exposes minimal surface area to blockers. Struggles to anchor against down blocks and can get bodied off the ball by double teams despite low pad level.
Hand Usage – Flashes of powerful hand usage to hump move defenders and shed blocks at the line of scrimmage, but still inconsistent. Does not have great length nor does he utilize full arm extension to keep blockers off his frame. Ends up body-to-body too much in the run game, leaning on blocks to create a little push, but often struggling to disengage cleanly. Does typically get his hands well-placed inside, but establishing clean control doesn’t happen consistently. Keeps his hands active to work through trash against pulling action to re-route backs behind the line of scrimmage.
Rush Plan/Counters – Has moves and power, just has to string it all together much quicker. Too many slow-burn pass rush wins, often got in clean just after the ball was released. Generates some power in his bull rush, but preference to go speed to power to secondary move is a long combination that wins slowly. Clearly possesses the quickness and hand usage to get opponent off-balance and work to his edge. Flashes of it against Texas A&M and other games revealed a strong cross-chop and swim move to go with his power moves. Ascending player in this area.
Mental Processing/Block Recognition – Most inconsistent thing about his tape is recognition and success against zone schemes. Struggled against N.C. State but was way better against Boston College. Can get too deep and leave rush lanes in behind him. Smart football player who just has to keep his wits about him a bit more on the field. Reads base blocks and down blocks pretty well, had better success vs doubles this past season than in 2017.
Range – Has the range to play in space, showing solid change-of-direction and light feet. Has made plays away from his gap when he gets through the LOS clean. Should test well and has tape to back up being a strong athlete in space, even dropping into coverage on occasion. Boston College tape showcased just how rangy he can be as a 3-technique.
Bend/Flexibility – Really bendy interior defensive lineman with the ability to turn some tight angles through contact and flatten to the quarterback around the outside edge of the blocker. Dips his shoulder and rips up through contact well when working at half-man.
Tackling – Has had some missed tackles when attempting to go outside his frame, but is generally strong in this area while not being a big hitter. Wraps up with good form when he can square up the ball carrier.
Competitive Toughness – Toughness, leadership and effort can’t be questioned. Hard-working on and off the field and described as a rare personality and leader at the college level. Heart-and-soul type of guy. Did see some plays in certain games where he appeared to run out of steam late, but I chalk those more up to situational fatigue than an actual concern.
Athleticism/Size – Lacks ideal length for the position and does carry some weight in his gut. Neither seem to impact him much as a player, but NFL may want to clean up his body some. Might be maxed out at 300 pounds, if that ends up being where he weighs in. Should test well and appears to be at least a solid athlete on tape.
BEST TRAIT – Leverage/Pad Level
WORST TRAIT – Pass Rush Consistency
RED FLAGS – None
Wilkins might be a tad small and short-armed for the average defensive tackle, but what he lacks in impressive physical physique he makes up for with elite leverage to maximize his power on every snap. Wilkins improved significantly as a pass rusher and point-of-attack run defender this past season, showing the ability to hold the line of scrimmage more consistently while also threatening blockers on their edge more often.
Of course, he still comes with a few concerns that keep him from a Round 1 grade on my board, including consistency with his rush plan and his lack of dominant hand usage as a run defender to control space. Wilkins is a good player who should start early in the NFL, but have we seen the peak of his abilities already? I do think as a 3-technique he will have more production in the NFL, rather than playing all over the front like Clemson asked him to. His character and leadership will be a welcome addition to any locker room as a top 50 pick.
Run Defense – Works into the neutral zone with leverage, quick hands and a fairly stout anchor to control at the point of attack. Does not play with great extension which may factor into his inconsistencies processing blocks. Hands are active to disengage and he finds the football very well.
Pass Rush – Quickness off the ball combined with good play strength, flexibility and a variety of moves makes him an effective interior rusher. Can be slow to deploy counters and wish his overall attack was executed with more urgency when his initial plan stalls. Gets his hands in throwing lanes and attacks with relentless effort.
Effort – Plays with non-stop energy and enthusiasm. Competes hard on every snap and pursues the football with urgency. Battles to get off contact and is never content being blocked. Plays special teams and does so with passion. Renown for football character and intangibles to affect culture.
Hand Technique – Has an array of moves to disengage and clear blocks. Hands are heavy, violent and capable of disrupting an offensive lineman’s balance. Doesn’t play with ideal extension so winning with first contact and fitting his hands are critical.
Flexibility – Has good cornering skills for his size. Changes directions fluidly and rapidly with no segmentation. Explosively springs off contact to engage with ball carriers attempting to run by him. Able to reduce his surface area to dip and rip through gaps.
Play Strength – Plays with consistent leverage with helps maximize his play strength. Features a stout anchor but isn’t immune to getting worked out of his gap. Can convert speed to power and execute a bull rush to collapse the pocket. Contact balance is generally sound.
Play Speed – Has some juice in his get off and will challenge offensive lineman to take good sets, slide and stay square. Has good closing speed once the path has been cleared. Covers distances in pursuit with outstanding urgency. Features excellent range for an interior defensive lineman.
Lateral Movement – Operates effectively as a backside defender working down the line of scrimmage. Can slant and attack gaps with good fluidity. Smooth and easy change of direction ability and transitions. Able to work his hips around to defeat reach blocks.
Versatility – Ideally suited to function as a three-technique in a 4-3 alignment with playmaking upside against the run and pass. Regular contributor on special teams in college. Has lined up over the center in college and situationally rushed from the edge.
BEST TRAIT – Effort
WORST TRAIT – Playing with extension
RED FLAGS –
Wilkins projects favorably to a three-technique role in a 4-3 defense where his leverage, burst, hand technique and flexibility can be used in a penetration-style role. With that said, he isn’t limited to that role and can function in a variety of techniques while offering playmaking upside against the run and pass. Wilkins does have some limitations because he doesn’t play with great extension and his processing skills can stand to improve. Wilkins has played in nearly 60 college games and should be able to step in right away as an impact starter. His football character and intangibles make him a culture-changing addition to an NFL locker room.