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NFL Draft

Why Marvin Wilson Can Make Browns Roster As UDFA

  • The Draft Network
  • July 30, 2021
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Three years ago, if you told me I’d be writing an article about an undrafted free agent rookie with a chance to make the roster, and that undrafted free agent rookie was defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, I would have never believed you.

Wilson was a former 5-star recruit when he committed to play college football in Tallahassee for the Florida State Seminoles. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Wilson chose FSU over the likes of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. At the time, Wilson was committing to a college football program that was coming off its fifth straight double-digit win season, which, in one of those, resulted in a national championship. Jimbo Fisher was the head coach at the time, and Wilson did get to play for the coach he committed to for one season. But Fisher left after that 2017 year and Wilson was then coached by Willie Taggart. That didn’t last long, and after just one and half seasons, Florida State was on to their next head coach, Mike Norvell.

From his freshman season to his junior season, Wilson improved his play and his production. He didn't register a full sack during his sparing playing time as a freshman, but as a sophomore, he recorded 4.5 sacks. As a junior, he recorded 8.5. It appeared Wilson was finally coming into his own as a player and looked like a future top-50 selection in the NFL draft. 

But Wilson opted to return for his senior season, and that decision proved to be costly. After being named a First-Team All-ACC player in 2019, Wilson was overweight and overmatched to start his senior season. Wilson recorded just two sacks in the six games he played in 2020 and did not really have an impact on the games he played. Prior to his senior season, Wilson was billed as a quick-moving interior defensive lineman who was a few pass rush moves away from really being a consistent and dominant interior disruptor. But as time went on, it became clear that many of Wilson's sacks the previous few seasons were effort-based, not an indication of pass-rush skills. This caused the former first-round projected Wilson to fall all the way out of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Wilson chose to sign with the Cleveland Browns, which could actually work out well for him, maybe even in year one. The Browns don’t have a ton of non-negotiables on the interior right now. They have Andrew Billings and Malik Jackson as their projected starters with Tommy Togiai, Jordan Elliott, and Sheldon Day as their depth players. The Browns consistently kept four interior defensive linemen on their regular season roster last year, and with Jadeveon Clowney as a sub-package interior player, they likely won’t increase that number to five this year.

It is worth noting that Elliott is the only interior defensive lineman who played for the Browns last season. All of the other players are newcomers or in Billings' case, back from his COVID opt-out. So there is plenty of room to make a good first impression on the coaches and decision-makers. They will also have to make the right decision, as they are replacing a good veteran interior disruptor from last season with Sheldon Richardson no longer there. It will likely come down to which rookie the Browns want to hang onto between Togiai and Wilson.

The Browns won a heavy bidding war for Wilson’s undrafted free agent services. Though he is a long shot to make the regular season roster—especially given how much of a playoff contender the Browns are—there is reason to believe this once 5-star prospect could catch fire and make his way to some game action this season.

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