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2024 NFL Draft prospect profile: Mekhi Wingo, iDL, LSU

Can Wingo add some explosiveness to the Giants’ defensive front?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 ReliaQuest Bowl - Wisconsin vs LSU Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If there’s one thing that every defense could use, it’s another disruptive defensive lineman. To quote former New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, “You can never have enough pass rushers”.

LSU defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo is going to make his hay as a pass rusher in the pros. He’s undersized for an NFL defensive tackle, but he’ll be drafted for his ability to penetrate gaps, not occupy blockers.

The Giants’ defense fell in a frustrating paradox where they had one of the NFL’s highest pass rush win rates, but lowest sack totals. In short, the Giants were winning their rushes, but failing to finish their rushes. Much of their pass rush was attributed to their blitz packages, while their defensive line struggled to generate consistent pressure. Could Wingo help provide another source of interior pressure next to Dexter Lawrence?

Prospect: Mekhi Wingo (18)
Games Watched: vs. Florida State (2023), vs. Mississippi State (2023), vs. Arkansas (2023), vs. Missouri (2023)
Red Flags: Unspecified lower body injury (required surgery)

Measurables

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 295 pounds

Strengths

  • Initial burst
  • Quickness
  • Hot motor
  • 1-gap disruption

Mekhi Wingo is a compact and explosive defensive lineman.

Wingo aligned all over the LSU defensive front, playing everything from 5-technique to 1-technique. He has an explosive burst and flashes a very disruptive first step. He’s able to drive individual blockers back into the backfield when playing with leverage – which is relatively easy given his stature and build. Wingo is also capable of shooting gaps and disrupting the play in the backfield with his initial burst.

He has heavy and active hands with a good understanding of how to rush with a plan. Wingo is primarily a power rusher, relying on a bull rush or long-arm to jolt blockers and drive them into the backfield. His primary counter is a club move that he pairs with a swim move when shooting gaps, though he can also use a two-hand swipe. Wingo flashes an understanding of using half-man leverage to overpower larger blockers when he’s also playing with good pad level. Likewise, he’s shown upside on both ends of DL stunts – he has enough agility to be an effective looper while also being able to occupy double-teams while a teammate loops to another gap.

Wingo has great competitive toughness as a rusher. He’s willing to fight through the whistle to beat blockers and also has a very hot motor in pursuit. He’s generally quick to identify the ball carrier, disengage, and redirect in pursuit.

Weaknesses

  • Length
  • Snap timing
  • Hand usage

Wingo is obviously on the short side or an NFL lineman, and appears to have short arms as well. He’s primarily a power rusher, and his rushes can be blunted if linemen have a length advantage and are able to get their hands on him first.

His initial burst but that can be hindered by poor snap timing which further compounds his lack of length. Wingo doesn’t seem to time or anticipate the snap so much as guess at when it’s coming, and is often wrong. There are instances where he is among the last players moving at the start of the play, which often allows linemen to lock in their blocks and derail his entire rush.

Wingo can stand improvement on the technical aspect of his game. He has active hands, but his usage can leave something to be desired. His frequent reliance on a swim move as a counter can leave his chestplate vulnerable to savvy offensive linemen. Likewise, he can struggle to disengage from linemen once their blocks are locked in. And while Wingo can hold double team blocks, he generally isn’t able to overcome them.

Finally, he can bite overly hard on misdirection, such as play-action or zone reads. He is generally quick to identify the ball carrier and redirect in pursuit. However, he has limited long speed which can make pursuit difficult if he’s taken far out of position.

Game Tape

(Wingo is LSU DL number 18)

Projection

Mekhi Wingo projects as a rotational defensive lineman in a 1-gap defense. He should be a useful, productive player as a 3-technique, 4i, or 5-technique and can play in even or odd fronts. Wingo is capable of being disruptive and will be at his best in an attacking defense that allows him to shoot gaps.

That said, he will need to improve the technical aspect of his game to reach his ceiling at the NFL level. Wingo needs to improve his snap anticipation, as well as improve his hand usage. His hands are active, but not particularly focused and he needs to get better at defeating blockers hands. Wingo flashes the kind of disruptiveness that is sought after by NFL teams, but he’ll benefit from landing in a situation that can foster his upside.

Does he fit the Giants?
Yes. He should fit as a rotational defensive lineman in even or odd fronts.

Final Word: A later Day 2 or very early Day 3 pick