The Patriots went against what many thought they would do on Draft Weekend and did not select a single linebacker in the NFL Draft. Despite it being a deep linebacker class, New England chose to address other areas of the roster. That says a lot about how they feel about their current linebacker depth chart. Though unproven, the Patriots are high on Cameron McGrone and are expecting a career resurgence from Raekwom McMillan. In addition, the Patriots traded for Mack Wilson earlier this offseason and he could end up being the perfect blend of Patriots-type player who is also a modern NFL fit.
Wilson, 24, was a standout linebacker at Alabama from 2016-18. He had six career interceptions and showed sideline to sideline range at 6’2”, 236 pounds. He could cover and play well against the run. He played special teams and even took offensive snaps during his freshman year. Wilson was excellent in the National Championship Game against Georgia, totaling 12 tackles including two for a loss.
Since being drafted by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, he has showed flashes of his great Alabama play, but has not put it all together on a consistent basis. Wilson started 14 games his rookie season, but only eight in his second year and six last season. The Patriots are banking on Wilson showing more of the range and athleticism from the plays below and at only 24 years old, Wilson still has time to elevate his game.
When asked earlier this week about how he feels to be in New England, Wilson said: “It’s a blessing to get fresh start, I kind of look at it like a second chance, so I’m approaching it like a pro. Just coming in with that mindset to work hard and earn everything that I can, build that trust amongst the rest of the guys that built this foundation here last season… just try my best to contribute any way as possible.”
The Patriots did not address linebacker in the draft or via free agency and it seems Bill Belichick is banking on Mack Wilson to bring some of the athleticism the Patriots lacked last year. Wilson is a true wild card: if he can return to Alabama form in the Patriots system it will be an excellent pickup, if he continues his inconsistent play from Cleveland the Patriots will have to rely on others to slow down the high-powered AFC offenses.