Payton Wilson’s Draft Profile | NC State, LB Scouting Report

If his medicals check out, NC State LB Payton Wilson has the scouting report to be the top player at his position in the 2024 NFL Draft.

In a wide open 2024 NFL Draft LB class, could NC State LB Payton Wilson be the best player at his position? Wilson, an All-American in 2023 and a Senior Bowl standout, has the scouting report to win over NFL teams and stay productive.

Payton Wilson Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’4 1/8″
  • Weight: 234 pounds
  • Length: 30 1/8″
  • Wingspan: 76 1/8″
  • Hand: 9″
  • Position: Linebacker
  • School: NC State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior

In the final year of his high school career, Wilson tore his ACL. As a true freshman at NC State, he tore it again. And later, just a couple games into his 2021 campaign, Wilson injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the season.

Adversity has been a commonality for Wilson, but it didn’t stop him from becoming not just one of the most productive LBs in the ACC but one of the most productive defenders in the entire nation.

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Twice — in 2020 and 2022 — Wilson eclipsed 80 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. And in 2023, he dominated in all phases, with 138 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, six sacks, three interceptions, a pick-six, six pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.

Not only did Wilson distinguish himself as an all-league performer, but he also proved he could come back from multiple ACL injuries without losing an ounce of his speed. If medicals prove a non-issue, Wilson might be the top linebacker in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Wilson’s Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Tall, streamlined athlete with effortless acceleration capacity and energetic strides.
  • Has hyper-elite explosiveness and long speed and can cover absurd amounts of ground.
  • Twitched-up support LB who uses abrupt micro-movements to sift through congestion.
  • Has the lower-body flexibility to quickly adjust pursuit angles while keeping speed.
  • Contact tackler who can encase runners with his frame, using leg churn to drive force.
  • Fluid lower half and explosiveness enable him to gain quick depth and manage zones.
  • Patient and instinctive as a gap invader, splicing through narrow lanes to make plays.
  • Can process blocking angles immediately and flow ahead of runs with blistering speed.
  • Has extremely impressive swivel flexibility in coverage, which he uses to keep leverage.
  • Alert coverage LB who follows the QB’s eyes but also has great blind spot awareness.
  • Understands spacing and how to adjust his hip alignment to take away QB options.
  • Has shown he can trigger, plant, and drive on crossing patterns and impact the ball.
  • Lethal QB spy who can erase scrambling lanes from across the field with his range.
  • Has the burst, bend, and agility to stunt, loop around blocks, and tighten rush angles.
  • High-motor defender who is legitimately always around the football.

Weaknesses

  • Despite height, has a lean and narrow frame with below-average length.
  • Motions can bait him into drifting pre-snap with wasted motion, exiting proper position.
  • Occasionally overruns pursuit angles heading downhill and breaks down too quickly.
  • Sometimes fails to get enough depth after disguising rush looks as a feigned blitzer.
  • Sometimes hesitates to combat blocks head-on and can give up leverage as a result.
  • Below-average length and strength make it harder for him to deconstruct OL blocks.
  • Can use sudden, precise swipes to decouple from blocks, but needs space to work.
  • Lack of mass and inability to halt momentum as a solo tackler allows runners to finish.
  • Lacking play strength sometimes limits his ability to finish moves as a pass rusher.
  • Can still improve hand precision on swats and rip moves.
  • Has two torn ACLs in his medical history and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2021.
  • Will be a 24-year-old rookie at the start of the 2024 season.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

On film, Wilson grades out as a top-50 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. He has my highest pure film grade in the 2024 LB class and could easily field consideration in the early-to-mid Day 2 range.

Unfortunately for Wilson, medicals will play a heavy role in his ultimate valuation and could drop him down the board. He has two torn ACLs in his history and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2021. Couple that with his leaner frame, which might not be as durable, and his profile could concern teams.

That said, if Wilson passes medical examinations at the NFL Combine, he has the profile to be a starter right out of the gate in his NFL career, and if he can keep adding weight to his frame, the sky is the limit.

Wilson has the best range in the class — a culmination of his size, speed, and instant explosiveness. And in close quarters, he has the agility, fluidity, and instincts to flow in front of plays, sift through congestion, and barrel over runners in pursuit. He’s essentially a mosquito — always around the ball.

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Going further, Wilson has impressive versatility as a coverage and pass-rush defender. He has the burst and bend to threaten the arc and invade gaps, and he also has the fluidity, leverage IQ, blind spot and spatial awareness, and playmaking ability to lock down second-level routes.

With his below-average length and mass, play strength can be an issue at times — both when deconstructing blocks and making solo tackles. But if Wilson can improve his strength and maintain a clean bill of health, he has impact starter upside as a dynamic, versatile off-ball LB.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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