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Assessing the value the Bengals received in drafting Brandon Wilson

The Bengals found another do-it-all defensive back in Brandon Wilson.

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NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Houston vs San Diego State Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals love versatility, but they’ve never had someone quite like Brandon Wilson.

Wilson was actually a guy the Bengals needed to trade up to select in the 2017 NFL Draft with pick No. 207. The team moved up from pick No. 217 while surrendering the No. 227 selection in the process. Even though it was a late-round pick, trading up to get Wilson showed how much the Bengals loved the do-it-all defensive back from Houston. He’s one of only four players the team has ever traded up to select.

This pick actually came one year after the Bengals took fellow Houston cornerback William Jackson III in Round 1. With Jackson off to the NFL last year, Wilson stepped up as a starter last season, racking up 43 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble in 2016.

Wilson played all over Houston’s defense, and he even spent some time at running back, too, especially as a junior. Last season on offense, he accumulated five receptions for 52 yards and four carries for six yards while seeing time as a running back in the Las Vegas Bowl. Wilson also chipped in 21 kickoff returns for 510 yards (24.3 average) and even returned a missed field goal for a touchdown vs Oklahoma. But, it was in 2015 when his offensive ability was really on display as the 5’11”, 200-pound triple threat accumulated 188 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 37 attempts (5.1 yard per carry average) and added six catches for 49 yards.

Some draft experts had Wilson projected to play running back in the NFL, but it looks more likely he’ll stick to defensive back with the Bengals. In terms of draft value, it was mixed reviews in part because there wasn’t a consensus as to what Wilson will play in the NFL.

For what it’s worth, NFL.com has Wilson ranked 205th overall, but they had him pegged as a running back. Part of that came from Wilson’s freakish workout numbers, highlighted by a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, a broad jump of 11'1" and a 41-inch vertical.

DRAFT PROJECTION: Rounds 4-5

SOURCES TELL US: "Looks like everyone is woke on Brandon now. I was hoping he would have pulled a hammy (hamstring) so he couldn't work out and I could have kept him off the radar. You don't jump 41 (inches) and run 4.3 and stay off of radars." - NFC national scout

NFL COMPARISON: Orleans Darkwa

BOTTOM LINE: Explosive athlete who could be considered on either side of the ball as a defensive back or a running back. Wilson doesn't have as many flashes on tape at cornerback as he does at running back, but his he was primarily a fill-in at running back in a few games over the last two years due to injury. If Wilson transitions to running back, he will be a developmental prospect who could make a roster sooner over later thanks to his kick return potential.

Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller also considered Wilson a running back, comparing him to Christine Michael.

For now, the Bengals are listing Wilson as a safety, so it looks like that’s where he’ll stick as a rookie. The Bengals love versatility, and Wilson certainly fits that bill, though he’d be facing a stiff challenge to make the roster if he stuck to corner with so many players already there.

Safety isn’t much better, though Wilson would just need to beat out Clayton Fejedelem for the final safety spot if the team only keeps four safeties. If they keep five, Wilson would be almost locked into that fifth spot.

Be sure to check out our interview with Wilson from prior to the draft.