The list of needs for the Las Vegas Raiders was endless entering the 2023 NFL Draft. The Raiders’ defense specifically needed help at cornerback, linebacker, safety, defensive tackle, and defensive end – and that’s not even including offensive needs. During the days leading up to the draft, many analysts projected the Raiders to make a variety of moves. Fans speculated Las Vegas could trade up for a quarterback or select a cornerback with Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez. Despite the various theories, Raiders’ general manager Dave Ziegler used his first first-round pick with the Raiders to select a defensive player – Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson.
This was finally a first-round selection where we didn’t see Raider fans at the draft actively rolling their eyes.
Clelin Ferrell to the Raiders and fans are confused ? pic.twitter.com/W6c8T2QWhu
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) April 26, 2019
The Tyree Wilson pick is.. Good!
With the seventh-overall pick, the Raiders selected defensive end Tyree Wilson. Wilson is an impressive physical specimen (6’6″, 271 lbs) and an absolute wrecking ball at the defensive end position. In 2022, Wilson led the Big 12 in pressures with 50, recording 7 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. The 22-year-old has incredible size which he uses to push back tackles, and uses his power and bend to get to the quarterback.
Wilson will be joining Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones on the defensive line. Although fans of the Silver and Black hoped for a defensive tackle early, Wilson has the frame to play inside as well. Patrick Graham has put formations on the field with five defensive lineman and two linebackers (5-2), which could put all three aforementioned stars on the line at once.
The rookie’s strengths also include setting the edge, dominating in the run game, and having a quick get-off. Maxx Crosby is known for having a seemingly endless motor, which is a trait he shares with Wilson.
My favorite non-sack play from @tyreewilson77. Strong hands, relentless motor, doesn’t give up on the play and gets the forced fumble. #raiders pic.twitter.com/GvJb6v7RTX
— Raiding The Kingdom? (@RaidTheKingdom) April 29, 2023
It can’t be all good
A critique for Wilson is that his pass-rush moves are not as polished as they could be. Additionally, he can be thrown off balance by blockers that can get underneath his massive frame. The seventh-overall pick doesn’t exactly have elite speed, and his explosiveness is not as consistent as it could be.
One of the main concerns is that Wilson was unable to participate on the field at the Combine or his Pro Day, due to a foot injury (Lisfranc) sustained during the season. Despite only being able to participate in the bench press, Wilson reportedly interviewed well with interested teams in Indianapolis. Since then, the now-former Red Raider has been cleared by a renowned foot surgeon. Draft reports indicated Dave Ziegler and the Raiders did their due diligence on the injury.
The media loves Wilson
Prior to the draft, analysts were very excited about Tyree Wilson. NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms provided his yearly positional rankings on his Youtube show, Chris Simms Unbuttoned.
Simms had only one defensive end in his top-tier group of edge rushers.
“It is Tyree Wilson from Texas Tech. Let me just say, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a no-brainer. He’s definitely the best edge pass-rusher in this draft. If you want to think about Myles Garrett, or that type of football player, that’s what we’re talking about here. If there was a number– if the team at number one needed a pass rusher, we’d be talking about this guy being the number one pick.”
Simms went on to describe Wilson as similar to Travon Walker; the first-overall pick in 2021. He explained that Wilson is built like Walker, but is able to rush the passer more efficiently due to his movements and body positions.
After Las Vegas made the selection, Simms was ecstatic about the pick and went on to compare Wilson to another pass-rushing legend.
“This guy can do everything. So that’s where it’s awesome. Willie McGinest with an extra gear coming around the edge for old Patriot fans or that kind of mold of player, that’s what we’re talking about here.”
Pete Prisco, an analyst with CBS Sports, shared a similar review about the Raider’s seventh-overall pick.
“I love this pick, one of the best of the day. If Wilson’s injured foot checks out, which it certainly has for the Raiders, he’s going to be a big-time end in their defense to go with Maxx Crosby for a long time. He has all the traits you want in an edge rusher.”
The Tyree Wilson pick receives a grade of..
The Raiders had an enormous list of needs heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Why Wilson is such a perfect selection is just as lengthy.
Las Vegas’ defense in 2022 was not terrible against the run, ranking 19th out of 32 teams. Wilson can be an asset against the run, but his pass-rush skills are what will help improve the Raiders in 2023.
The Silver and Black compiled only 27 sacks in 2022; the third-worst ranking, finishing 30th-of-32 teams. Only the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, who notched 21 and 20 sacks respectively, finished the season with a lesser total. Adding Wilson to the defensive line will definitely have an impact on the sack numbers in 2023. The Raiders need to put pressure on rival AFC West quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert as they see each twice per season.
Taking a pass rusher with a ceiling as high as Wilson’s – without trading up – is a slam dunk for Dave Ziegler. This is the Raiders’ most electrifying first-round pick since Khalil Mack went fifth-overall in 2014. Mack, similar to Wilson, was overlooked due to the presence of Jadeveon Clowney, who went first-overall to the Houston Texans. In the 2023 draft, most of the attention went to Alabama defensive end Will Anderson, who was drafted just ahead of Wilson by.. the Houston Texans. Anderson has been regarded as the most complete defensive end in the draft, but Wilson has the greater potential of the two.
The real test comes on the football field in September, but for now Wilson checks all the boxes for an A+ draft grade. Dave Ziegler seems to have gotten this one right.
Chris Simms sums it up perfectly;
“Tyree Wilson is Myles Garrett. He’s Nick Bosa. He’s the freak that comes around like once every five or six years.”
*Top photo: Inside The Red Raiders/247 Sports
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