Christian Wilkins Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Fast at the point of attack
Dangerous interior pass-rusher
Closes on quarterbacks in a hurry
Uses hands and feet at same time
Good rip move
Technically sound interior defensive lineman
Repertoire of pass-rushing moves
Ability to shed blocks
Rare athletic skill set
Strong at the point of attack
Can bull through offensive linemen
Quality run defender
Not easy to move at the point of attack
Carries weight well
Successful against good competition
Ready to contribute quickly
Can play a variety of techniques in a 4-3 or 3-4
Lacks speed to be a full-time defensive end in the NFL
Can have some quiet stretches and games
Summary: Deshaun Watson was the star of Clemson's National Championship season in 2016 and the program's runner-up performance the previous year, but the Tigers' defense has also been excellent and Wilkins has been one of their best players. He has been a consistent disruptor at the point of attack who contributes well in both phases. Wilkins is an extremely gifted athlete with a rare combination of speed and agility in a big body with length. While Wilkins may not look like a freak prospect with the eye-ball test, he certainly is one on the football field.
Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks as a freshman in 2015. He then played well for Clemson in 2016 as part of a tough defensive line that controlled the point of attack. The sophomore recorded 48 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 10 passes batted on the year. That season, Wilkins had to play a lot of defensive end because of injury. He displayed a nice ability to play there, but his home is on the inside, and he has spent 2017 back where he belongs, at tackle. Entering the bowl game against Alabama, Wilkins has 45 tackles with seven tackles for a loss and four sacks.
In the pass rush, Wilkins is dangerous. He is a quick defender at the point of attack with the ability to fire his gap. He uses his strength to push through blocks and can close in an instant on the quarterback. Wilkins has a burst to fire by guards into the backfield and the strength to bull rush through linemen. He has good hand usage and shows some variety in pass-rushing moves to get after the quarterback. Wilkins has displayed excellent versatility during college in terms of rush production from a variety of positions and techniques. While he played a lot of end in 2016, Wilkins really doesn't have edge-rusher speed for the NFL. He will have to rush from the inside as a pro, but that is his natural position anyway and he presents a speed mismatch when rushing against guards.
Wilkins is a solid run defender, too. He has a strong, thick lower body to hold his ground at the point of attack. He fills his gap and can be tough to move at the line of scrimmage. Wilkins is able to eat up his block and prevent holes from opening up. Regularly, you will see him shed his block to stuff a run near the line of scrimmage or fire into the backfield to disrupt a run off the snap. He also will give an effort to make tackles in the ground game downfield. Wilkins has a quality motor, and you don't see him dogging it.
For the next level, Wilkins fits any defense. His best fit would be as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. In a 4-3, he also could play end and nose tackle. Wilkins additionally has the length and strength to play end in a 3-4 defense. With Wilkins' excellent skill set, production, and years of impressive performances against top competition, he looks like a safe pick and a lock to be a top-25 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Fletcher Cox. Wilkins reminds me a lot of Cox. They are almost identical in size, and Cox (6-4, 310) also has a freakish combination of speed, agility, and athleticism for that build. Cox was the 12th-overall-pick by the Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Wilkins also could go in the top 20 of his draft class. In the NFL, I could see Wilkins being a tough and disruptive interior defensive lineman like Cox is for the Eagles.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Washington, Arizona, Oakland, Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit, Buffalo and Atlanta
There are a lot of teams that could target Wilkins in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. With his ability to fit any scheme and being a rare interior pass-rusher, Wilkins will be in high demand. Perhaps the highest he could hope to go would be to the Browns' second first-round pick. They could consider an interior pass-rusher to go between Myles Garrett and Danny Shelton.
Tampa Bay needs to improve its line play on both sides of the ball. Wilkins could form a tough tandem next to Gerald McCoy. The Redskins need more talent in their front seven, and Wilkins could give them a five-technique book end across from Jonathan Allen. Arizona has missed Calais Campbell this season, and Wilkins could be in play for them during the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Raiders also badly need more interior defensive line talent. Wilkins could be a great fit for them. Staying in the AFC West, Wilkins would make sense for the Chargers as they could use an upgrade over the declining Corey Luiget.
The Lions need an interior pass-rusher to go with A'Shawn Robinson. Wilkins would be a great fit in Detroit. Buffalo could use an interior defender to replace Marcel Dareus, and Wilkins would fit the Bills' defensive scheme well. Atlanta also could use more interior defensive line talent, and Wilkins would be an excellent value for the Falcons' first-round pick.