Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective.
Christian Wilkins made an immediate impact at Clemson as a true freshman in 2015. In just 11 games, he racked up 29 tackles with 10 stuffs and 4 sacks.
In 2016, he took on a more prominent role but was asked to play out of his natural position and lined up as an edge rusher for what was, and still is, a talented and deep defensive line for the Clemson Tigers.
Although playing out of position, Wilkins was still able to prove himself as one of the more dominating forces in college football generating 14 stuffs and 31 quarterback pressures.
These numbers may not be eye popping, however, Wilkins’ true value lies with his on the field disruption. In this edition of our summer series, we look at some key strengths and weaknesses of Wilkins’ game.
Wilkins will not be slated as an edge rusher at the next level and his athleticism speaks to that.
As an edge rusher, he just isn’t fast or explosive enough to beat tackles on a consistent basis. However, if evaluated as a defensive tackle, Wilkins is one of the more athletic DT prospects in years. He has an explosive first step and gets his hands into the offensive lineman with tremendous force before they even know what happens. In this play Wilkins showcases his raw power and just bullies the opposing offensive guard:
Here Wilkins uses his first step quickness to get off the ball and beat the tackle to the inside:
Against the Pass
Wilkins is not a polished pass rusher by any means, and will have to work on developing more moves as he progresses.
He relies heavily on his raw power to out-muscle the linemen, which doesn’t always work in college, let alone work in the NFL. He is a gifted athlete, but even the most talented athletes will struggle without solid technique at the next level.
However, there is plenty of room for optimism, because when Wilkins does utilize a pass rush move, there is no stopping him. In this play, Wilkins sheds the pass protection easily using an aggressive rip move and sacks the QB:
Something that doesn’t show up in the box score but does influence the game significantly is Wilkins’ attitude on the field. He is just a mean son of gun out there.
When Wilkins knows he is stronger and faster than you, he will rub it in your face the entire game. Some call it dirty, but Wilkins’ aggressive style makes offensive players think twice before heading his way again. In this play, he knocks the tight end down towards the end of the play. Why? Just because he can.
This play might be considered late, but he didn’t get flagged, so oh well. The next play is not dirty, but he just punishes this QB for holding onto the ball for just a tad too long.
Wilkins is asked to play outside of his natural position and he does the best he can, but he is not an edge rusher. Although explosive, he can struggle to get around offensive tackles, and his sheer size limits his flexibility. He also just doesn’t have the polished pass rush moves to beat linemen consistently.
There are times Wilkins will struggle to get off blocks against both the pass and rush, and he will need to learn how to keep linemen’s hands off him to improve his block-shedding ability. Learning these skills can be easily developed and are not major red flags.
Although he plays on the edge for Clemson, Wilkins, if he is to declare will most likely be the first defensive tackle off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has that nasty demeanor needed in the trenches, and his combination of quickness, speed, and strength will just be too enticing for teams to ignore.