April 29, 2011

Martez Wilson, linebacker, Illinois

Martez Wilson, linebacker, Illinois, 72nd overall, 8th pick in the third round
6'3 3/4", 250, 4.46 40

NOPF predicted all offseason that the Saints would finally take one of their former defensive coordinator Ron Zook's players, and they made it happen with LB Martez Wilson near the top of the third round.  Wilson is the third of the three top Illini to go off the board, but by far the most interesting athlete.

Wilson arrived on many radars at the scouting combine, running a fantastic 4.46 40 at 250 pounds.  Wilson is a superb athlete, but with questionable toughness and instincts.  Those mental factors stopped him from being overdrafted despite his superior numbers, and saw him drop to the third round.  Saints LB coach Joe Vitt has a special new project all to himself - Wilson is a raw, inexperienced but hyper-athletic linebacker with long 34 5/8" arms and huge potential.

A hard-luck childhood of poverty, born to teenage parents, saw Wilson emerge as a top prospect out of Chicago.  Wilson certainly doesn't play as fast as his sub-4.5 40, and Ron Zook had to resort to motivational tactics to keep him engaged, including benching him for a start, instead starting a rookie linebacker in his place.  That occurred in 2008, a turbulent year for him, when he was suspended for three games and had to undergo surgery after being stabbed in a bar fight where he was not the instigator.  In 2009, a herniated disk injury also needed surgery and knocked him out after the season opener.  

He returned healthy as a senior, a 13-game starter at middle linebacker and a team captain, collecting 112 tackles, 11.5 for loss, four sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a blocked punt.

Wilson fits in immediately on the depth chart, presumably at outside linebacker, which may or not include veteran free agent-to-be Scott Shanle.  The fate of free agency, whenever free agency starts, will determine whether or not Wilson will need to be forced into action as a rookie.  Jonathan Casillas also returns to a presumptive starting job, likely at weakside linebacker.

Despite getting a player that Gregg Williams raved about at the Senior Bowl and was a clear target of the team, the Saints also got great value here - Martez was rated as a fringe first round pick by a consensus of experts during the offseason.  

The Saints have addressed two key defensive needs in the first three picks, with defensive end and linebacker, while also drafting with value and not reaching for players who might have been available later. 

The Saints drafted Wilson with the pick acquired from the Redskins for T Jammal Brown.

Also available at 72: Washington LB Mason Foster, Texas DE Sam Acho, LSU DT Drake Nevis, UNC LB Quan Sturdivant, Clemson S DeAndre McDaniel, Oklahoma S Quinton Carter, LSU OL Joe Barksdale, Michigan State LB Greg Jones, Miami DL Allen Bailey, Georgia G Clint Boling, USC DT Jurrell Casey, Troy WR Jerrell Jernigan, Mississippi State OLB K.J. Wright, TCU WR Jeremy Kerley, Cal S Chris Conte, Tulsa TE/FB Charles Clay, Iowa DL Christian Ballard

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