Still need more proof that the Las Vegas Raiders’ definition of best player available differs from the “consensus” BPA? Because if the selection of Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson didn’t definitively show that, then I don’t know what to do for you.
I’ve been adamant from the get-go, haven’t I? That the Silver and Black’s BPA would be different from everyone else’s best player available on the board. And what better example than Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft? When the Raiders were on the clock, general manager Dave Ziegler, his player personnel staff, and head coach Josh McDaniels and his staff had the prime choice of Wilson, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez—a trio of defenders who could each uniquely contribute and reshape Las Vegas’ defense.
And Ziegler’s BPA was Wilson, when a lot of people were adamant it would be Carter. Ziegler admitted in the post-first-round press conference that the team had a pocket of prospects that included Carter and Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., but Wilson was the best fit for the Raiders.
As I’ve said numerous times, the scouting and selection of a player is tough work. But the heavy lifting will come with developing Wilson into a consistent contributor to the Raiders defense.
2023 NFL Draft: The Raiders went with their “BPA,” not everyone else’s
Wilson was dominant at Texas Tech before a foot injury ended his 2022 campaign (which required surgery and screws in his foot), but Ziegler and assistant general manager Champ Kelly spoke lengthily about the work and development Wilson must do in the pros.
Not naive to the competition he faced as a Red Raider, Ziegler highlighted the need to show what he did against that level of competition can be done against NFL players. And Kelly lamented that every single first-rounder selected Thursday evening needs refinement.
Wilson certainly looks the part, both physically and production-wise. He is a chiseled 6-foot-6 and 271 pounds, and he has an absolute monstrous wing span of 84 ½ inches. He’s got 36-inch arms and the natural strength to overpower offensive linemen. His long arms allow him to stab the OL matched up against them, and that knocks the offensive linemen off their anchor. He also has a pass rush toolbox that has good stock moves, as he can seamlessly go from speed to power on his way to quarterbacks.
Wilson’s ungodly wingspan allows him to make improbable tackles in terms of both sacks and tackles for loss in the backfield. Before his foot injury knocked him out, Wilson racked up 61 total tackles, seven sacks, 14 stops for loss, and one forced fumble.
Tyree Wilson is a physical specimen, simply put…
“It helps a lot, and just playing defense, being able to get the defender off, and being able to convert,” Wilson said regarding his long arms. “The big thing on defense is getting turnovers, so it helps you get to the quarterback quicker, get sacks, and get strip sacks.”
But like any prospect, there are areas of opportunity for Wilson. Most noticeable is his lack of bend, something desired from edge rushers. He’s an upright attacker now that pins his ears back, but playing too tall lends to offensive linemen being able to mirror and stay on anchor when the stab and power moves don’t work. Against powerful and agile NFL linemen, Wilson will need the bend to add an even more tantalizing skillset to a pass rush toolkit ripe to add more. Wilson’s diagnostic skills will need to elevate in the NFL, where everyone is faster and stronger than on the collegiate landscape. But with his well-built body and frame, that shouldn’t be an issue for Wilson.
At least the Texas Tech product is willing to admit he needs work.
“It helps a lot, and just playing defense, being able to get the defender off, and being able to convert. The big thing on defense is getting turnovers, so it helps you get to the quarterback quicker, get sacks, and get strip sacks.”
Admitting shortfalls is the first step to improving.
He and the Raiders just need to ensure his foot is fully healed so the Silver and Black can get the most out of Wilson’s terrorizing potential.
*Top Photo: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press