To be the ideal complete back in the NFL, you must be able to get the though yards between the tackles in short yardage and the redzone. For a running back tagged as a speed back, proving he can handle a full workload is always a constant struggle. Given the higher failure rate of speed backs, it’s clear that the NFL looks for a combination of speed and power— being one dimensional is usually a death sentence.
Is the speedy Virginia Tech running back destined for part-time work or did he prove in his first full year as a starter that he should be a first round pick and the complete back that plenty of teams desperately search for?
David Wilson – Running Back – Virginia Tech
5’10”, 205 lbs., 4.3-4.4 (projected)
SEASON ATT YDS AVG TD REC YDS AVG TD
2011 290 1709 5.9 9 22 129 5.9 1
Film Study: In this clip, Wilson acts out the fake handoff on the option and ends up behind the play as his QB takes the ball up field. After getting almost 10 yards behind the play, he decides that he wants to try to catch up and throw a block. When the video goes in slow motion it seems like everybody else is reacting to the slowed down video except for Wilson who looks as if he is at warp speed.
Overall: Speed is undeniably Wilson’s most impressive trait. He was an All-American track runner in college. Now that Jeff Demps from Florida decided to train for the Olympics, he could very well run the fastest 40 time at the combine out of this year’s running back class. Wilson has elite acceleration, and he hits the hole with tremendous speed. If he finds a seam he gets to the second level almost instantly. He has a prodigious burst and speed to press the edges, a true home run threat every time he gets a touch.
Film Study: Watch this incredible play where Wilson shows some amazing agility. He gets the ball and can’t find a hole inside so he tries to bounce it outside, nothing’s there. He then tries to reverse field but almost gets tackled 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He then reverses the field again and finds some daylight. The important thing to take from the play is the way he uses his acceleration and agility to changed direction 4 times while maintaining his speed.
Overall: Wilson can make very sharp cuts at full speed. He has the ability to make people miss in the open field usually by breaking arm tackles or using his speed to create bad angles for the defenders. Most speed backs utilize the jump cut move to enhance their ability in the open field and make defenders miss in a telephone booth, but Wilson does not. I would like to see more shifty hips and lateral foot speed. His overall athleticism makes this still an elite part of his game.
Film Study: Wilson shows an ability to stay with his quarterback during a scramble and get to an open part of the endzone that is viewable by his quarterback. He then makes a good sideline catch falling out of bounds using his hands. This play is not only a testament to his hands but to his ability as a receiver out of the backfield.
Overall: Very good hands, reliable catching the pass on screen routes and swing passes. He gets his head around and looks up field quickly. Wilson has an ability to be very dangerous after the catch. He is very patient when running the screen pass, and sets up blocks well.
Overall: As the case with most backs coming out of college, Wilson will need work in this area. He does not move his feet to get in front of the blitzing defender to get his hands on him. He tries to throw his body at the defender and I saw plenty of whiffs.
Inside Running: 8.0
Film Study: This play shows Wilson’s ingrained tendencies to want to bounce most everything outside. He gets the hand off and it looks like the play is designed to run off the right side of the right guard but the defensive tackle pushes the guard back. Instead of trying to get some yardage inside and run off the left side of the right guard, he tries to bounce it outside to his demise.
Overall: Now I rated him a little higher here than I normally would a smaller speed back. He is a tougher runner inside than his size indicates. He does get his pads low and hits the hole faster than anyone else in college. If he wants to utilize his speed and get to the outside, he will need to learn to be a more patient runner inside. If he does that, he will find success both inside and outside.
Outside Running: 9.5
Film Study: This clip shows Wilson’s ability to get to the edge and turn it up field. He has a ton of film just like this clip where he gets an edge on the defense and is gone in a flash.
Overall: This is where Wilson will make his money in the NFL. He has a tremendous ability to get to the corner and get his shoulders squared to go downhill. He shows a second and third gear, breaking away from defenders left in his wake. He also shows patience on the outside, picking a hole and exploding through it.
Film Study: The balance that it takes to make this play is tremendous. He is pulled down by his head and basically does a cartwheel with his head a foot from the ground, and still keeps his balance and breaks out of the tackle.
Overall: This group of attributes is probably the most important to a running back. If I was grading on balance alone he would have received much higher marks. This is a rare ability of Wilson’s that is most impressive to me. He can absorb a lot of contact while at full speed and still keep his balance. He has a background in gymnastics and it shows with his ability to keep his feet after contact. As for the vision, he tends to want to bounce runs outside and miss some holes on inside runs. His experience as a kick returner has given him remarkable instincts in the open field.
Film Study: There are three clips in this video, all of which exemplify his strength and ability to take contact and keep moving. The first clip shows his ability to break some arm tackles down the sideline. The second clip shows some ability to take a hit on an inside run and the leg drive to move into the endzone. The third clip is impressive, you see him hit the hole with tremendous speed then break a couple of arm tackles. He then he loses his shoe before shedding a tackler that jumped on his back.
Overall: This is an inconsistent area of Wilson’s game. On one hand, he shows the strength and leg drive to break arm tackles and be a tough runner, but on the other hand, he goes down with barely a touch at times. He can get caught running too high with the ball and get tripped up too easily. He is a stronger runner than what his size would indicate. He has strong legs that he keeps churning throughout the run. He broke 140 tackles this season and gained close to 1,000 yards after contact. That shows he has the strength and balance to finish runs.
Overall: Wilson does not have the ideal size that you would like to see from a complete back with compact strength. He has the frame to add 10-15 pounds and still keep his tremendous speed.
Ball Protection: 6.5
Overall: In his first year as a full-time back, Wilson had 290 carries and seven fumbles, four of which he lost. This will be an area of concern going forward. He needs to get the ball higher and tighter during his runs.
NFL Comparison: CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Both Spiller and Wilson have track backgrounds and show the same abilities to get the corner and hit home runs on any given play. They both had success returning kicks in college. They are very similar in size and how their bodies are built.
Spiller is a better receiver both out of backfield and in the slot. Wilson has better balance and agility.
This is a very explosive back with a ton of potential. He should go early in the second round. He might be relegated to third down and return duties in his first year. He has some black marks that he still needs to prove he can overcome. He must prove he can get the tough yard and not dance to try and break a big play when it’s not there. He must improve blocking as well as patience as an inside runner. The most important thing for him to be successful at the next level will be going to a spread offense that will utilize his speed. It is important to note that he had a lot success in the kick return game and that could be an asset at the next level, as well. He is more than just your run-of-the-mill speed back, and a tougher overall runner than he is given credit for.