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January 13, 2012

NFL Draft prospect: QB Russell Wilson




There isn't a better time for Russell Wilson, who finished his career with a Rose Bowl berth at Wisconsin, to be in the NFL Draft than 2012 after mobile quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow have found success in the league; and front offices begin to re-examine what they look for in a signal caller.

There also wasn't a better place for the 5-11, 210-pound senior to wrap up his career than Wisconsin with the Badgers' pro-style offense after three seasons as NC State's starter. In Madison, Wilson proved that he can be very effective in a run-oriented scheme and that he is not allergic to taking snaps from under center.

Everybody wants to compare Wilson to New Orleans Saints standout Drew Brees, but that isn't really a fair comparison - not yet, at least. Both players lack the ideal height most NFL teams look for under center, but Brees is one of the most accurate quarterbacks ever. A more fair comparison could be CFL Hall of Famer Doug Flutie, who helped lead the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in 1999 and was selected to the 1998 Pro Bowl, or Seneca Wallace, a former fourth round selection of the Seattle Seahawks out of Iowa State who now plays for the Cleveland Browns.

While Wilson doesn't possess Brees' pinpoint accuracy, he is usually very smart about taking care of the ball and making the right decision. From 2008 to 2009, he attempted an NCAA-record 379 consecutive passes without an interception and, as a senior, he threw for 33 touchdowns against just four picks. He also set the NCAA record for passer rating when he finished with a 191.8 mark this season and set the standard for consecutive games with a scoring throw at 38.

Wilson's senior numbers also included him completing 225 of his 309 attempts (72.8 percent) for 3,175 yards. He ran 79 times for 338 yards and six touchdowns and hauled in three receptions for 56 yards and a score. His efforts garnered him third-team All-American laurels from Yahoo! Sports and Phil Steele while he finished as a finalist for the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was also a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, won the Grese-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year honor and was named team MVP. He was named the MVP of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, as well.

His career totals are jaw-dropping after starting four seasons in college. He started 50 of his 51 appearances and completed 907 of his 1,489 attempts (60.9 completion percentage) for 11,720 yards, 109 touchdowns and just 30 interceptions. Wilson rushed 441 times for 1,421 yards (3.2 average) and 23 more scores, in addition in hauling in four passes for 60 yards and another touchdown.

There are no questions about Wilson's arm - it's strong and accurate enough, although it's probably not considered elite. He's at his best on the move and his biggest critics will say he's limited in the pocket because of his size, but he did a fine job behind the Badgers' mammoth, NFL-sized offensive line this year. Although he's not a burner, he possesses more than enough speed to play quarterback on the next level and be an effective, mobile option under center. His quick release and touch on throws is another big-time asset.

The two-sport star is a winner, he compiled a 30-19 record over his four seasons in college, and he proved to be very durable over his final three seasons. He has always said that his goal is to play in the NFL and betting against Wilson is never a smart thing.

Wilson and his height is sure to make him a polarizing figure in the Draft once April rolls around, but his final campaign should be more than enough to warrant his name being called by an NFL team during the event. Predictions on when he will hear his name called in New York City are greatly varied, and we won't even try to prognosticate because it only takes one team to like a player, but how his workouts go will likely go a long way in determining when a team selects Wilson.

His potential professional baseball career (he was a fourth round selection of the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 MLB Draft) is the only thing close to a red flag outside of physical stature for Wilson, but he put those concerns to rest when he told The New York Times on Jan. 11, ""I want to put all my focus in football and see where it takes me. I know that I have the talent, aptitude and leadership to succeed on the next level."

He will not report for the Rockies' spring training and will begin preparing for the Draft in the very near future at IMG Academy in Florida with former Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, who tutored Cam Newton before last year's Draft.

Wilson is a dynamite team leader (he was elected captain at Wisconsin less than two months after stepping on campus), intelligent field general (he earned his NC State degree in just three years and learned the Wisconsin offense in weeks) and model citizen off-the-field. He has all the intangibles you could ever ask for in a quarterback and is known as a phenomenal teammate.

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported on Dec. 14 that Wilson was one of three Badger players to be invited to the Senior Bowl, which is set for Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala. The contest, which will be broadcast at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network, will provide the quarterback an excellent opportunity to improve his draft stock and prove the doubters wrong once again because on the game field is where Wilson thrives.

NationalFootballPost.com's Wes Bunting ranks Wilson as the No. 10 quarterback available in the Draft currently and the website lists him as the No. 173 available prospect. Meanwhile, Pro Football Weekly lists him as the No. 10 quarterback and No. 149 overall player; they tabbed him with a fifth-round grade. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Wilson as the No. 10 quarterback in the Draft and the No. 185 overall player.

Former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt told The New York Times he projects Wilson as a fourth-round selection.

"We're getting shorter," Brandt told the newspaper. "Drew Brees opened the doors for a lot of guys. Someone is going to take him, and I think he can play. He has a great arm, great accuracy and great mobility."


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