It’s never too early to start looking at the future.
Every year, teams have weaknesses that manifest themselves early and as a massive NFL Draft fan, my brain immediately starts to project players in those spots. When you love the draft, there is no real offseason. With the college season almost in full swing now, there are numerous opportunities to watch the future of the NFL on Saturday’s.
After starting 0-2, the discourse about the Minnesota Vikings on Twitter has been a huge roller coaster. The Anti-Kirk and Fire Zimmer subsections are not only feeling vindicated, but also more vocal than ever. They are also starting to convince some of us, including myself that they might be right.
Is it too early to fully give up on the season? Maybe, but the signs are there and have been for some time. Even if you don’t fall into the camp of blowing the whole thing up and starting over, one thing we call all agree on is we can look forward to the NFL Draft.
This is the first of a year-long series that I am titling SKOL Search where I will profile potential early draft targets for the Minnesota Vikings come the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout the course of this series, I will hit a numerous amount of positions, including quarterback (in time), but we will start with the one position that has eluded Mike Zimmer’s defense throughout his tenure in Minnesota: the 3 technique defensive tackle.
The 3 technique (3T) position is a vital one in the defense that Zimmer runs in Minnesota. Lined up in the B gap between the guard and the tackle, the 3T is responsible for penetrating the gap to get pressure on the quarterback and impact the run. Their job has been made a lot easier over the past 6 seasons in this defense with having Linval Joseph next to them eating up blockers and giving them one on one match-ups. Having Linval at his peak afforded the Vikings to put resources into other positions first but they still tried to fill the hole with mixed results.
When Mike Zimmer took the job in 2014, the Vikings had just selected Sharrif Floyd out of Florida. He had flashed early on in his career and the future looked bright for him until a routine knee scope went bad. Floyd had a nerve cut in his knee during the procedure and it ended his playing career. After that, Zimmer turned to veteran Tom Johnson, signed Sheldon Richardson to a big one year deal to try and solve the position and now it has turned to former 7th round pick Shamar Stephen. It has been a bag of mixed results for the position over the last 6+ years. Tom Johnson was the most successful, getting a total of 20.5 sacks over the last 5 seasons with the Vikings. What they have lacked is a true difference maker, something they had hoped Sheldon Richardson would be. As we look forward to the 2021 NFL Draft, there is a really good group of DT prospects headlined by the untra talented Marvin Wilson.
Out of Bellaire, TX, the 6’5″ 304lb defensive tackle was a 5 star recruit ranking 6th nationally in the 2017 class per 24/7 sports. He has been a wrecking ball ever since he arrived on campus. Through 29 games in Tallahasse, Wilson has ammassed 94 tackles, 13 TFL, 8.5 sacks and he blocked 2 field goals in the opening game this season against Georgia Tech. Not only are his stats impressive, but his impact is felt far beyond the stat sheet.
When evaluating a defensive tackle, you want to see 3 main traits: quickness, good hands and what I call grown man strength. What is grown man strength? The ability to manhandle and throw large, strong men around like ragdolls. This play against the 11th overall pick of the New York Jets Mekhi Becton emphasizes that perfectly.
Throughout the entire draft process and the first two games into his NFL career, Becton was known as a fierce mauler in the running game and could manhandle just about anybody with brute force. Standing at 6’7″ and almost 370 pounds, it isn’t a surprise to see him manhandle anyone. On this play, however, Wilson throws him aside like a kid rushing to his presents on Christmas morning. Becton comes at him with a down block and Wilson uses his momentum and strength to throw him out of the way. This wasn’t the only time that Wilson did that against Becton. If you can throw a massive man like him around, you can handle just about anyone.
As a 3 technique, the ability to get up field quickly is a must, as generating an interior pass rush is key for this defense’s success. Furthermore, having that quickness is also big in stopping the run. With quickness, gap penetration is the name of the game and Wilson can do it at a high level.
In this montage, Wilson is able to get penetration using a variety of factors. In the first play, he just beats the guard to the inside with his first step. On every play, his ability to close the gap on the quarterback is a truly elite trait. A man that large should not be able to move that fast. The next clip exemplifies this perfectly.
I know this is a screen and the guard is supposed to let Wilson run free, but the way he moves and gets off the block is incredible. His quickness is unmatched in this class and will remind Vikings fans of a more physical Kevin Williams.
When you play in the trenches, a high motor is a must have because there are going to be quite a few times over the course of a game where you are faced with a double team. It’s commonplace especially in a zone blocking scheme where you will get down-blocked as one of the lineman moves to the second level. Having a relentless motor will help with cutbacks in the running game and when the coverage on the back end is excellent. This play perfectly exemplifies his relentless effort.
When this defensive line is healthy and fully loaded next year (assuming an Ngakoue extension), Marvin Wilson is a perfect fit and the missing piece to Zimmer’s defense. After having a season with a lot of growing pains on the back end, the addition of Wilson could be as impactful as Kevin Williams when the Vikings selected him at 9th overall in 2003. If the team decides that Kirk Cousins is the quarterback for 2021, getting Wilson should be a priority. While it will likely take a top 10 pick to land him, the Vikings might end up picking that high or will be within range to make a trade up for him. Make sure you keep an eye out for him at Florida State this season Vikings fans. He’s the real deal. Oh, and one last thing, he blocked two field goals against Georgia Tech two weeks ago.