You would not ordinarily think of Temple University as a football hotbed. That said, when 25 NFL teams show up for the school's Pro Day it makes you sit up and pay attention. That is what happened March 18, though, and it is a pretty safe bet that almost all of those in attendance were primarily interested in defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.
An intriguing 6-foot-5, 305-pound player, Wilkerson is the subject of today's 2011 NFL Draft prospect profile. Wilkerson is a player who should appeal to most every NFL team as he offers the versatility to play inside in the 4-3 and outside in the 3-4. That sounds much like a current member of the New York Giants, Chris Canty.
"He could be a defensive tackle or a defensive end," [NFL Network's Mike] Mayock said. "The kid is a heck of a football player. I think he would fit into the first round a year ago easily, and he might get pushed into the second round with the quality and depth of this defensive line group. Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple. He might be there in the second round, but to me he's a first-round player. This is one of the better years I've seen."
SB Nation's Mocking The Draft gushed recently that Wilkerson could wind up as a top 10 pick. That seems overly optimistic, but I truthfully would not expect this player to be a Giant. Best guess is he comes off the board late first or early second round, before the Giants pick at No. 52 in Round 2. We will take a look at him, anyway. You never know what might happen.
The video below shows a few Wilkerson highlights. I have two comments: 1) I hate it when linemen wear single-digit numbers 2) The guy moves like a linebacker.
Scouting reports after the jump.
6-foot-5, 305 pounds
Projection: Round 1 or 2
From Sideline Scouting:
Positives: Versatile, plays everywhere on the defensive line... Good athlete... Reasonably agile... Good length and long arms... Good pass rusher... Good quickness... Good burst off the ball... Disruptive... Active hands... Can push and pressure the pocket... Plays with good leverage... Can penetrate... Good bulk... Good power... Good strength at the point of attack... Can get off blocks well... Good technique... Fights through double teams... Bats down a lot of passes... Holds his ground versus the run... Anchors well... Makes plays in the backfield... Stacks and sheds well... Good tackler... Hard hitter... Good awareness... Has a nose for the football... Selected All-MAC first team for the 2009 and 2010 seasons... Schematic versatility, fits as a 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE... Has had a good offseason, was a second round lock who is now getting mid- to late-first round consideration.
Negatives: Not much of an arsenal, with the exception of bull rush... Will raise up as he penetrates and lose leverage... Gets a little too upright moving down the line of scrimmage... Mean streak is still developing... Lack of competition playing in the MAC.
From CBS Sports:
Pass rush: Overwhelms college tackles with size and strength, then chases down quarterbacks with his length and nimble feet. Lacks a quick first step, but flashes a swim move and closing speed to the passer.
Run defense: Agile five-technique who lines up on either side of the formation. Patient and keeps his eyes in the backfield to contain; very solid in his outside assignment. ... NFL blockers will win the leverage battle until he gets stronger and more physical inside.
Overview: Wilkerson's surprising agility intrigues scouts. He'll need to learn to use his hands to be effective at the next level and must build strength in his first couple of NFL seasons, but has the potential to grow into a prototypical 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 tackle. Teams will find it difficult to wait until the third round to select him.
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.
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.
Wilkerson is an elite 3-4 defensive end prospect with idea 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.