Trey Wilson is probably going to find his way onto a NFL roster this fall. Why? Because he's the best defensive back in his class at Vanderbilt and recently, that's meant a lot.
Led by Casey Hayward, the Commodores had four former players roaming the defensive backfield on Sundays last fall. D.J. Moore, Myron Lewis, Sean Richardson, and Hayward were all key producers for NFL teams in 2012. Hayward's performance, which nearly garnered Rookie of the Year accolades, has made him the new standard by which Vanderbilt's defensive alums are judged.
Wilson, the fire to Hayward's frying pan in the Vandy secondary in 2011, has a chance to follow in his teammate's footsteps. The All-SEC corner didn't have the impact that his teammate had as a senior, but he developed into the focal point of a Commodore D that ranked 15th in the NCAA in points allowed. Wilson's heady play helped his team limit explosive offenses like South Carolina, Northwestern, and N.C. State to low-scoring performances in 2012.
However, he's viewed as a potential late-round pick thanks to a lack of eye-popping athleticism and a stat sheet that fails to convey the impact he had on the field for the Commodores. Wilson had only six picks in his two years as a primary starter for Vandy, and he has earned less exposure than Lewis and Hayward had before him. While there's no denying that he played a huge role for one of the country's best defenses, the fact that he didn't dominate has scouts wondering if his skills will translate at the next level.
Still, even if he goes undrafted the hard-nosed senior will have several opportunities to find a spot in the NFL. Wilson was a standout in a deep Commodore secondary, and the success of his peers should give him extra credibility in the eyes of professional scouts. Let's take a closer look at what he brings to the table.
Strengths: Wilson is explosive after a turnover, as he proved by returning four of his six interceptions over the past two seasons for touchdowns. He provides strong coverage in space and was able to handle single-coverage duties for the 'Dores, performing well when left without a safety to back him up. Wilson helped Vanderbilt limit passers like Tyler Bray and Mike Glennon to subpar performances, and his ability to pick up schemes early should help him make an immediate impact on the next level.
Wilson was a rare case in Nashville, earning playing time as a freshman in a stacked defensive rotation thanks to his ability to adapt to a new defense and adjust to dynamic offenses on the fly. That ability to adjust will be key in his potential transition to the NFL. It won't translate well into Combine stats, but it will make the hard working cornerback a steal in the later rounds or as a free agent.
Weaknesses: At 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, Wilson's top end speed lags behind the NFL's elite receivers. While he has good hips and can turn to make plays with relative ease, his lack of top-end explosiveness suggest that his peak may come as a nickel back rather than a starter at the corner. He's got average size at 5'10" and 192 pounds, and he was a solid tackler but never a standout at the position. Bigger receivers will be able to out-jump him, and the better blocking wideouts may be able to contain him when opposing tailbacks turn the corner.
Best fits: Wilson plays at a position where the ability to adapt and adjust on the fly is a premium. The NFL's pass-happy trend has made defensive back a focus in recent years. There are few teams that couldn't use extra depth in their secondary. However, in terms of impact, Trey would work well in places like New England, Arizona, Jacksonville, or Baltimore - teams that are still looking to stock their defensive backfield with inexpensive help who could develop into key role players as the season wears on.
If I had to guess...: Wilson isn't getting a lot of draft buzz right now, and it seems like there's a good chance that he follows Sean Richardson's path and ends up earning his way onto a NFL roster as an undrafted free agent. He and Richardson have plenty of similarities; they're hard working, versatile players whose intangibles make them valuable in practice, on the sideline, and on Sundays. Let's say that Wilson will go undrafted, but he'll work his way onto a professional roster or practice squad when this fall rolls around, probably on one of the defensive back-needy teams that we addressed earlier.