Cleveland Browns: Comprehensive 2017 NFL Draft review

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Sep 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Howard Wilson (6) reacts after recovering a fumble against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second half at NRG Stadium. Houston Cougars won 33 to 23. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Howard Wilson, CB Houston

The Browns determined they couldn’t wait until their picks in the fifth round, so they opted to trade up and swap picks with the Denver Broncos. The Browns sent the Broncos picks 145 and 175 in exchange for 126 and 252. They then used 126 to select Wilson.

Athletic Profile

Age: 21 (Born Oct. 30, 1995)

Height: 6-0.625
Weight: 184 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.57s
Broad Jump: 9’11″
Vertical: 33.5″
3-Cone: 6.68s
Shuttle: 3.94s
Bench: 10 reps

Credit: Jim Cobern

Wilson’s agility is outstanding but the explosion shows what could be a major stumbling block for his career in the NFL. The challenge for Howard is to get more explosive, which is a matter for the weight room. Wilson needs to add weight to his frame anyway, so if that can be muscle, especially in his lower body that might mean the difference between success and failure from a physical standpoint.

Production

Career Games: 29 (Howard played 3 games in 2015 before tearing his ACL and taking a medical redshirt)

Solo Tackles: 77 (7.3 percent in 2014 & 2016)
Interceptions: 9 (34.6 percent in 2014 & 2016)
Pass Deflections: 15 (16.1 percent in 2014 & 2016)

Credit: Jim Cobern

Wilson finished his final year at Houston with 45 solo tackles, 10 pass deflections, five interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, one fumble return and one defensive touchdown. This past season, every three times Wilson got to the football, he intercepted one of them. It’s 37.5 percent for his career with the Cougars.

Game Tape

Houston had Wilson play tight man, off man and drop shuffle technique in coverage, so he has the benefit of playing different coverages and techniques. He’s accustomed to playing off and coming up as well as playing with his back turned to the play while he’s locked in coverage.

As a tackler, Wilson is certainly a physical football player. He doesn’t have a ton of strength but he brings all of it. At times, he gets himself in trouble because he will just throw his body at opponents, which can miss far too often. The flip side is he’s not afraid to wrap up ball carriers and take them to the ground.

Sep 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jeffery Mead (15) attempts to catch a pass as Houston Cougars cornerback Howard Wilson (6) defends during the game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson is also not afraid to sacrifice himself when it comes to taking on a block while maintaining outside leverage to force a ball carrier inside to his teammates, so they can make the play. He’s willing and often eager to read and then attack the running game.

In coverage, Wilson does not have elite speed and can get beat deep. He is someone that can be overaggressive going for interceptions and can be susceptible on a double move. Wilson plays like someone who is not only looking to prevent the offense from scoring, but is actively trying to figure out how he can cause a turnover.

His favorite way to do that is attempting to undercut routes to try to cause the interception and ultimately score. He also does a pretty good job of attacking the opponent arms and working to pry them off the ball when he goes to break up a pass. Wilson is physical and aggressive with opponents in coverage and has pretty good mirroring skills.

Fit, Usage and Projection with the Browns

Initially, Wilson is probably going to be a depth corner that plays on special teams. Right now, he projects better to play in the slot, where the Browns have a ton of depth. In the event of an injury, he could see time on the perimeter as a corner early, but his lack of physical strength and explosiveness poses a problem that plenty of opponents will take advantage.

If Wilson can get strong enough to hold his own physically on the outside he has a chance to be a pretty good boundary corner after a year or two. Considering the comments Joe Haden revealed from Gregg Williams, they may well be looking for Howard to play his spot after this year. Howard is aggressive enough to play the strong side as he has shown to be an extremely agreeable run defender.

For his career, Wilson has the chance to be a pretty good corner, but that may only go as far as his body can take him in terms of additional strength. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, Wilson’s impressive agility might make him an interesting slot corner because of his height. The Browns certainly did not draft him for that purpose, so they will be interested to see how much work he’ll put in the weight room.

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