Christian Wilkins Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Quick 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 4-3 or 3-4 techniques
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. The Clemson defense was and has continued to be excellent, and Wilkins was one of its best players. He hwas a consistent disruptor at the point of attack who contributed 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 freak athlete via the eye ball test, he certainly is one on the football field.
As a freshman in 2015, Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks. 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. 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 was back where he belongs at tackle in 2017. As a junior, Wilkins totaled 60 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks. In 2018, Wilkins totaled 50 tackles with 14 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He was consistently good for Clemson from start to finish in his final season of college football. In speaking to scouts who were through Clemson last fall, they feel that Wilkins played better as a senior than he did as a junior.
Wilkins is dangerous in the pass rush. 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 also has good hand usage and shows some variety in his pass-rushing moves to get after the quarterback. Wilkins 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 as well. 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 would 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 gives an effort to make tackles in the ground game downfield. Wilkins has a quality motor and doesn't give a poor effort.
For the next level, Wilkins fits any defense. His best fit could be as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. In a 4-3, he also could play end and nose tackle. He has enough length and strength to play end in a 3-4 defense that rushes from the inside in the sub package. With Wilkins' skill set, production, and years of experience against top competition, he looks like a safe pick and a top-20 selection this April.
Player Comparison: Fletcher Cox. Wilkins reminds me a lot of Cox. They are almost identical in size, and both have rare athleticism with speed and versatility. Cox (6-4, 310) has a freakish combination of speed, agility, and athleticism for that build. Wilkins is not quite as fast, athletic and agile, but he could be a poor-man's version of Cox. Cox was the 12th-overall pick by the Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Wilkins could go in that same range this year. In the NFL, I could see Wilkins being a versatile defender who is similar to, although maybe not quite as good as Cox.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, New York Giants, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee
Interior pass-rushers are hard to find, so there should be a lot of teams hoping to land Wilkins as a top-20 choice. Tampa Bay could consider Wilkins with the fifth selection. Gerald McCoy may not be a Buccaneer for much longer, and Wilkins could be the replacement for him.
The Giants could use a disruptor at the point of attack, so Wilkins could be a candidate for them.
Wilkins could be a top candidate for the Lions. They want defensive linemen with versatility, and Wilkins could be the most versatile defensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft with his ability to fit 4-3 and 3-4 sets at a variety of places. Detroit needs an interior pass-rusher and also likes players who are team leaders with a long track record of productive play at a big-time program. Wilkins fits all of that to a "T," so he could definitely be in play for Detroit's first-round pick.
In the AFC East, the Bills could use a young interior disruptor for their scheme, and Wilkins could give them a needed interior pass-rusher. Miami needs to replace Ndamukong Such, and Wilkins could form a nice tandem with Charles Harris.
Atlanta needs more talent on the defensive line and could consider Wilkins to go with Grady Jarrett. Staying in the NFC South, the Panthers could take Wilkins to upgrade their defensive line. He could form a dangerous interior tandem with Kawann Short.
Minnesota also could consider a three-technique because Sharrif Floyd was forced into early retirement and Sheldon Richardson was lost in free agency. The Titans could also consider Wilkins due to needing more talent at the point of attack, plus he could do a variety of things for Mike Vrabel's defense.