|Patriots 30, Panthers 7: What we were watching for||Rusney Castillo signs with Red Sox for 7 years, $72.5 million||Connelly’s Top Ten: All-Star Starting Pitchers, Medal for Frates, Weekend||Video: Angels’ Garret Richards Blows Out Knee vs. Red Sox|
2010 stats: 70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks
Since the 2010 season came to a close, Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson went from an under-the-radar prospect to a potential first round pick in the NFL Draft. The massive Wilkerson ended the season with eye-opening statistics for a defensive tackle — 70 tackles, 9.5 sacks.
Wilkerson’s stock has been on the rise, with a tremendous first step and the ability to play both on the inside and out. Despite declaring for the draft as a junior, Wilkerson looks polished for the NFL game. At Temple, Wilkerson was a man against boys as he dominated every opposing center and guard he faced.
However, it’s Wilkerson’s level of competition that he faced in the MAC that has raised some questions for scouts in the NFL. Temple’s toughest opponent last season, Penn State, gashed an otherwise solid front seven as Evan Royster rushed for 187 yards.
There aren’t any Villanova’s, Buffalo’s or Akron’s in the NFL. Wilkerson will be facing the cream of the crop. When looking at prospects from school’s that are in lesser competitive conferences it’s hard to completely tell how they will transition in the NFL.
The Patriots are one of the many teams that have privately worked out Wilkerson, according to Jason La Canfora. The Patriots were decimated with injuries late last season and haven’t had the production they hoped for since the departure of Richard Seymour.
Wilkerson’s agility and technique would make him a solid option inside or out for New England. Adding Wilkerson to the mix would allow Vince Wilfork to stay at the defensive tackle position, where he has proven to be far more effective than when he has shifted outside.
Despite depth along the defensive line, the Patriots do not have a prospect with high ceiling like Wilkerson. Throughout the pre-draft campaign the Patriots have already worked out Northwestern’s Corbin Bryant, Miami’s Allen Bailey and Arizona’s Brooks Reed, so it is evident that the coaching staff is looking to upgrade the defensive front.
Wilkerson is the boom-bust type player that some teams will shy away from. However, Wilkerson has everything you look for in a young defensive prospect. Look for Wilkerson to go in the first round — even as high 11 to Houston.
Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio