If you’re paying attention to the mock drafts, Temple Defensive Tackle Muhammad Wilkerson seems to be a name that keeps coming up as a likely pick for the Saints at #24. As the mocks get more and more refined (don’t worry, my mock is coming), his name is popping up more.
Here’s his write up on NFL.com:
Overview: Wilkerson is an elite 3-4 defensive end prospect with ideal size, excellent shedding ability and the athleticism to pursue from the backside and rush the passer. Jolts offensive lineman at the point of attack, can beat the double team, finds the football and makes plays against the run. Does not have rare first-step quickness but can take a direct line through blockers to pressure the quarterback and has range against the run. Despite size, is a three-down guy who plays with a high effort level for four quarters. Wilkerson’s stock has risen quickly and he could come off the board in the middle of round one.
Strengths: Wilkerson’s a prototypical blend of height, bulk and speed for a defensive tackle or five-technique. Dominant against the run. Has great get off, holds up at the point of attack, shows outstanding ability to shed, and very good closing burst to the ball. Very effective power bull rusher. Has good hands. Good stamina.
Weaknesses: Hard to point out weaknesses in his game. Does not possess elite initial quickness off the ball as a pass rusher or penetrating against the run but still good in this area. Shows some nastiness on occasion but would like to see him play with a more consistent mean streak.
That all sounds good to me, but the question remains whether a DT at #24 makes sense. Right now we have Sedrick Ellis and Shaun Rogers penciled in as the starters, and the word around is the Saints will do whatever they can to keep incumbent starter Remi Ayodele as well. Still, the depth at DT was a real question mark last season. Hargrove struggled, and the Saints really had no one else behind him. The Saints, in my opinion, will draft a DT at some point… the only question is if they value Wilkerson high enough to take him at 24 in the first round. I know the Saints put more of a premium at DT than they do at LB, which at this point to me is more of a “need”. That said, the Saints don’t draft based on need. For that reason, I could see them taking a guy like Wilkerson over a guy like LB Akeem Ayers of UCLA. At the end of the day, though, my position has been and always remains that a premiere speed pass rushing difference maker is the item most high on my wish list, and you can’t go get that in the 2nd round.