2016 draft pick Brandon Wilson has not gotten much attention this offseason. Here’s why the Bengals need to keep him around, though.
When filling out the last few spots on the Bengals’ roster for our projections, there were several tough decisions. Intriguing players like Quinton Flowers, Logan Woodside, Alex Redmond, and Junior Joseph are right on the roster bubble, but I cut all of them in favor of Brandon Wilson. Wilson is a player you may not see on many projected rosters, but he’s got the skills and the versatility to make this team.
The first thing that jumps out about Wilson is his raw athleticism. On film, he pops athletically, but his measurements back that up. At the University of Houston’s pro day, he blazed a 4.36 40-time. He also vertical leapt 41 inches and benched 24 reps. At 5’11”, 200 pounds, those are really impressive numbers. After his explosive pro day, many scouts thought he would go early on Day 3 of the draft.
He fell all the way to the Bengals in the sixth round, though. The team used Wilson sparingly in his first season, as he recorded only five tackles. However, he clearly fills a role on this team. Another one of Wilson’s strong suits is his versatility. At Houston, he played multiple positions – cornerback, safety, running back, and kick returner.
Moving around the field helped Wilson pick up multiple skill sets, all of which blend together for his eventual move to safety. As an NFL safety, Wilson’s speed, instincts, and ability to give and absorb contact are all big pluses. He’s not big or fluid enough to play corner, and his vision and fluidity are issues at running back. However, he has clear potential as a rotation safety on this roster.
Wilson’s upside as a safety is higher than any of the other players I named above. Flowers, Woodside, Redmond, and Joseph don’t have true rotation player upside. Wilson could, especially with a couple years raining specifically for one position.
The good thing about Wilson as a developmental safety, too, is that he can play special teams in the meantime. Wilson is a sneaky candidate to return kicks for the Bengals this year, as he did it during his time at Houston. He had two kick returns in his career. However, he could also pick up a role as a gunner on kicks and punts. His speed and willingness to hit opposing players is ideal for special teams. Especially in punt coverage, the Bengals could deploy Wilson this year.
Making the final few cuts for this 53-man roster was difficult, but cutting Wilson seemed wrong. His potential short and long-term impact on the Bengals is clear, and his athleticism alone makes him worth keeping. I’m willing to bet he survives the cut in 2018 and makes the team.