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2011 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois

New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese hinted the other day that he agrees with the common opinion here at Big Blue View that the team's linebacker play was not good enough in 2010. So, let's use today's 2011 NFL Draft prospect profile to focus on one of the better linebackers available in the 2011 NFL Draft whom we have not yet discussed.

Martez Wilson of Illinois is 6-foot-4, 250-pounder who offers speed, athleticism and positional flexibility. Some think he is an inside linebacker in a 3-4. Others think he is best-suited to be a strong-side guy in a 4-3, which is really the biggest need for the Giants at linebacker. Can he play the middle in a 4-3? I don't know, but he has drawn some comparisons to Karlos Dansby, and the Giants thought Dansby could play the middle in their 4-3.

Wilson ran an attention-getting 4.49 40-yard dash on Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine, exceptional speed for a linebacker. One writer who is familiar with Wilson's career, though, warns not to fall in love with the guy simply because of his tools.

The linebackers have run their 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Martez Wilson of Illinois is the fastest of the bunch, running in a blazing 4.49 seconds.

I’m an Illinois graduate and I watched almost every game of Wilson’s college career, and I’ll just say this: Wilson’s production on the field doesn’t come close to matching his athletic gifts.

Wilson also comes with an injury risk, as he did have surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck in 2009. That might make the Giants a little leery of him after dealing with neck injuries to Antonio Pierce and Mathias Kiwanuka the past two seasons.

Scouting reports after the jump.

Martez Wilson
MLB, Illinois
6-foot-4, 250 pounds
Projection: Round 1 or 2

Scouting Reports

From CBS Sports:

Read & React: Not the most instinctual player. A step or two late to recognize run or pass, and will be fooled by misdirection. Excellent reaction speed once he sees it develop.

Run defense: Gap-attacking defender who uses his length to bring down most backs in the hole. Lanky-framed linebacker with fair upper-body development. Extends his long arms to keep offensive linemen at an arm's length as they try to reach him. Works his way through traffic near the line. Better when he sling-shots around blockers than trying to stack-and-shed. Good speed to get the angle down the sideline to minimize big plays.

Pass defense: Gets a hand on receivers crossing over the middle to knock them off their routes. Good speed to get deep in his drop. Runs the seam with receivers, sometimes 40-50 yards downfield. Great length and speed to affect passing lanes when focusing on the quarterback.

Tackling: One of the leading tacklers in the country, relying on his length and speed. Not usually explosive upon contact but slows down backs and makes a lot of ankle tackles when other linebackers would not even get a hand on the ballcarrier.

Pass Rush/Blitz: Uses his slim frame to get skinny through holes inside to regularly bring down running backs in the backfield. Also uses length and speed to beat tackles outside with swim or rip moves. Very good closing speed to the quarterback.

Intangibles: Had surgery on a herniated disk in his neck after the first game of the 2009 season, redshirted. Still wears neck protector. Suffered knife wound coming to the aid of teammate De'Angelo McCray, who was being beaten outside a Champaign bar in December 2008.

Overview: Wilson's straight-line speed and length could allow him to play an inside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense as his build and game are very similar to Miami Dolphins starter Karlos Dansby. He might move outside in the right system. If teams are not overly concerned about his neck injury, Wilson's versatility and athleticism make him a likely top 50 selection.

From National Football Post:

Possesses a solid feel inside keying off blocks, reading his run keys and finding the football inside. Isn't a real physical tackler, doesn't display a real snap through the hips on contact, but breaks down well and knows how to wrap on the play. Displays good short-area quickness in tight areas, has the ability to use his length to slip blocks and keep himself clean when trying to beat slide down blocks toward the edge.

Exhibits some unique talents when asked to blitz from the inside and has some natural pass-rush ability. Looks comfortable using his length in order to keep himself clean, is shifty when asked to work the inside move and has a real savvy as a pass rusher.

Displays above-average fluidity for a guy with his build, has the ability to open up his hips and generate a burst out of his breaks when asked to close in coverage. Isn't real comfortable with his footwork, seems to just bounce upright off the ball and doesn't get much depth in his drop. However, displays a solid feel in zone coverage reading his pass keys underneath and has the ability to hold up in man as well, closing quickly on the football and driving on the throw

Impression: A long, V-cut linebacker who doesn't seem to have the lower body girth to hold up inside. However, he has some range in pursuit, reads his run keys well and exhibits some pass-rush ability. Could get some long looks as a potential 3-4 rush guy as well as strong side back in a 4-3.