NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: NC State LB Payton Wilson

2T9PC07 November 25, 2023: NC State senior Payton Wilson (11) directing traffic. NCAA football game, between University of North Carolina and NC State University, at Carter Finley Stadium, Raleigh, North Carolina. David Beach/CSM (Credit Image: © David Beach/Cal Sport Media)

The 2024 NFL Draft is fast approaching. The PFF big board is live, mock draft season is in full swing and the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped up.

This year's class of linebackers features freaky athletes like Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper and well-rounded players like North Carolina State’s Payton Wilson.

Let's look at North Carolina State's Payton Wilson, who just took home the Chuck Bednarik Award for the best defensive player in college football.


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SCOUTING SUMMARY

Wilson will be one of the older prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft class. He missed time due to injuries at N.C. State, but he proved to be one of the best defenders in college football when he was healthy enough to play.

His 6-foot-4 frame gives him plus pass-rush ability up the middle and around the edge. Despite his knee injuries, he is very fluid for his size, both in coverage and as a pass-rusher. That allows him to match and mirror tight ends and running backs, as well as cover a lot of ground in spot-dropping assignments.

He can recognize where the flow/ball is going and has the pursuit speed to be impactful. He also has great ball skills for a linebacker.

Click here to see Payton Wilson's 2024 NFL Draft profile!

 

WINS ABOVE AVERAGE

WAA represents the number of wins a player is worth over an average college football player and is a metric evaluators can utilize to assess performance.

It combines how well a player performed in each facet of play (using PFF grades) and how valuable each facet is to winning football games. The result is a first-of-its-kind metric that allows for cross-positional valuation and predicts future value at the player and team levels.

Wilson’s Wins Above Average (WAA) since 2019.

HOW WILSON RANKS IN THE STABLE METRICS

The linebacker position is less stable and harder to project than other front-seven positions.

PFF coverage grade is easier to project from year to year if a player plays a similar role. However, it's much more complicated when a linebacker moves to slot corner or strong safety and vice versa. 

Isolating performances in specific alignments — snaps from in the box or slot — provides a lot of helpful information.

Forced incompletion rate is relatively stable from season to season, which makes it an important number when projecting future performance.

PFF run-defense grade is also very stable from year to year, while run-stop percentage is a good measure of playmaking in the run game.

Wilson’s percentile ranks in the most stable defensive stats since 2019.

Wilson is a very sound and athletic player who can affect each facet of the game.

Last year, he earned the sixth-highest coverage grade among FBS linebackers and produced the position's sixth-highest run-stop rate.

The North Carolina State linebacker is incredibly athletic and posted a 98th-percentile 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 93rd-percentile 6.85-second three-cone. His change of direction and explosiveness are special.

BOTTOM LINE FROM PFF's 2024 NFL DRAFT GUIDE

Wilson has the length, movement skills, IQ and tape of a first-round linebacker.

His injury history and age are likely the only things keeping him from being drafted on Day 1. If healthy, he can be a starting inside linebacker in any defense.

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