By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) During Phil Emery’s 2013 New Year’s day press conference, he expounded on a variety of topics, including a rare, transparent look into his mindset in the draft war room.
Emery was braced for the barrage of questions about the decisions he made – or didn’t make – about the offensive line, distilling his philosophy down to this: “I still think it comes down to: how many playmakers do you have opposed to the team that you’re playing?”
Emery certainly practices what he preaches. In fact, since 1999, every draft class Emery’s been a part of has included a wide receiver. Emery came close to breaking that streak this past April, before using his last pick – acquired in a draft day trade with Atlanta – on Washington State’s Marquess Wilson.
Wilson is a very intriguing prospect, whom I was high on during the pre-draft process (some tweets here and here). The primary reason he slid down – and off – draft boards was due to character concerns stemming from a run-in with the mercurial Mike Leach. Given Leach’s past and personality, I didn’t view that as being prohibitive to drafting Wilson, neither did the Bears. Wilson was highly productive in college, setting school records for yardage (3,207), catches (189), and receiving touchdowns (23).
After reviewing several of Wilson’s game tapes, here’s my summary of what impressed me, what didn’t impress me, areas for improvement, and what his prospects are for the 2013 season.
Hand catcher. This may sound like an odd assessment or reason for praise, but it isn’t. Prospects often pin the ball against their pads, or wait for the ball to get to them, which is poor technique. Doing so in the NFL leads to the ball being jarred loose on impact, or gives the defender a better chance at breaking up the pass. By using his hands, Wilson makes routine catches in traffic and plucks the ball at it’s highest point in 50/50 situations.
Open-field vision. Wilson sees the field very well and is a dangerous open field runner, logging eight career touchdowns of 50+ yards. He was heavily utilized on “smoke” or “0” routes and bubble screens, high percentage throws that quickly get the ball into the hands of playmakers. Wilson’s vision combined with excellent body control is a natural fit for a West Coast scheme, which attacks the defense horizontally.
Trouble working through jams/press coverage. Wilson was taught in college to play in a crouched stance at the line, making him more susceptible to jams. Wilson has tendency to try to evade press coverage with his feet instead of working through it with his hands, this technique adds a few extra steps to his route and can disrupt timing. Wilson needs to be more upright in his stance and utilize his length with swim and rip moves. The Bears can work him out of the slot to lessen the amount of jams he sees, but eventually he must improve on his release off the line.
Inconsistent effort. On running plays or passing plays down the field where Wilson wasn’t the target, his effort waned. Instead of looking to pick up a block, or at least mirror a defender, Wilson would jog on the backside of the play, allowing his man a free release in his pursuit of the ball. NFL wide receivers – even when they’re a decoy or not targeted – find ways to contribute, which typically involves blocking.
Areas for Improvement
Route-running. Wilson is a long strider and tends to slow down into and out of his breaks, rounding off his cuts. He needs to work on his footwork at the top of his route to avoid tipping it, and use his shoulders more to get cornerbacks leaning before he makes his cuts.
Lower body strength. Wilson has a slight build (6’3, 188), and is very light in his lower body. He’s still developing physically, but needs to make an effort this season and next offseason to bulk up, particularly in his lower body. This will aide his explosiveness and ability to break through arm tackles in the open field.
Prospects for 2013
Prior to quitting the team, Wilson was widely regarded as a top-75 talent. Physically, there’s little doubt about Wilson’s potential. The biggest hurdle for Wilson to overcome is proving he’s coachable and that was an isolated incident in his past.
The Bears lack a vertical threat who can put stress over the top of a defense and make them pay for doubling Brandon Marshall. Wilson isn’t a burner, but he can get vertical.
Wilson is in the mix for the 5th wide receiver spot, and has made some plays in the early portion of training camp. This preseason is a huge opportunity for Wilson to prove teams made a mistake passing on him six – and in some instances – seven times.
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