Jeff Roberson / AP
Thursday, April 27, 2023 | 8:01 p.m.
The Raiders predictably went defense with their first pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft, and they may have landed an impact player in Texas Tech pass rusher Tyree Wilson.
While some prognosticators expected Las Vegas to address its pass defense by selecting a cornerback, Wilson’s talent at a premium position proved too much to ignore with the No. 7 overall pick.
Wilson profiles as a difference-maker for a team that finished 29th in the NFL in sacks last year. He was the consensus No. 2 defensive end in most pre-draft rankings (behind Alabama’s Will Anderson, who went third overall), and his measurables are impeccable at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds.
Wilson’s stats were modest, as he recorded just 7.0 sacks in each of his last two college seasons, but the tools are there; as a fifth-year senior in 2022, he led the Big 12 with 50 quarterback pressures despite missing the final three games due to injury.
He also fits a gigantic need for the franchise as a possible bookend to star defensive end Maxx Crosby. Crosby led Las Vegas with 12.5 sacks last season, but he was often the only pass rusher able to gain any traction. Free-agent import Chandler Jones disappointed with 4.5 sacks, and no other Raider notched more than 2.0 sacks.
If this pick pans out, Crosby won’t be flying solo any longer.
Wilson certainly displayed big-play ability at Texas Tech.
Lined up outside the tackle on this play, Wilson is able to use quickness and burst to get around the outside of the blocker, and his agility allows him to turn the corner and get to the QB for the sack:
Offensive linemen have to respect Wilson’s outside rush, so that allows him to use his powerful frame to gain leverage on the inside.
Here, Wilson takes an inside route and blows past his interior blocker, forging a path straight to the quarterback:
Teams tried to slow him down by paying extra attention to him, but that didn’t always work. On this play, Wilson draws two blockers but doesn’t concede; he splits the double team with explosion and tracks down the passer for another sack:
When Texas Tech wanted to free up Wilson and get him into favorable matchups, they used stunts to confuse the offensive line. On this play, Wilson starts outside before flashing inside and blowing past his blocker to collapse the pocket:
And while no NFL team is drafting an edge rusher in the top 10 based on their ability to hold up against the run, Wilson did show he can get physical and win in the trenches. Here, the opponent tries to seal him off and block him with a tight end, but Wilson is having none of it. He overpowers the blocker and makes the tackle behind the line of scrimmage:
It’s easy to see why Wilson was widely considered a top-10 talent. If he reaches his potential, it will go a long way toward solving the Raiders’ longstanding pass rush woes.
Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.