Brandon Wilson has the rare distinction of being a player the Cincinnati Bengals actually traded up for to select in the NFL Draft.
Does that mean the rookie safety is a lock to make the 53-man roster, and where does he stand on the current depth chart?
Weight: 200 pounds
Hometown: Shreveport, La.
According to Spotrac, Wilson is signed to a four-year deal worth $2,542,095. However, that only carries a dead cap hit of $142,095 if he’s cut this year, so the Bengals won’t have much of a penalty if they waive Wilson. He’ll make $500,523 in 2017 if he makes the 53-man roster.
The Bengals love versatility, but they’ve never had someone quite like Wilson. He’s also someone Cincinnati had to trade up to select in the 2017 NFL Draft with pick No. 207, moving 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 love 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. In 2016 on offense, Wilson record five receptions for 52 yards and four carries for six yards while seeing time as a running back in the Las Vegas Bowl. He also chipped in 21 kickoff returns for 510 yards (24.3 average) and even returned a missed field goal for a touchdown vs Oklahoma.
It was in 2015 when Wilson’s offensive ability was really on display. He accumulated 188 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 37 attempts (5.1 yard per carry average) and added six catches for 49 yards. He was the only player in the nation to score multiple touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams that year (he had two in each phase of the game).
Wilson also boosted his stock by putting on a show at his pro day. If he were at the Scouting Combine, his 4.36 40-yard dash would have ranked him tied for third among cornerbacks and tied for fifth overall among all position groups. His 41” vertical jump would have been tied for fourth among cornerbacks. His 11’1” broad jump would have been tied for fifth among cornerbacks.
Some draft experts had Wilson projected to play running back in the NFL. NFL.com had Wilson ranked 205th overall as a running back, but it looks more likely he’ll stick to defensive back with the Bengals. CBS Sports had Wilson ranked 206th overall as a cornerback, though the Bengals currently list him as a safety.
Wilson has put himself in a precarious position with the Bengals. He missed most of the offseason workouts with a knee injury, which led to him opening training camp on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list. It’s unclear when he will return, and it’s possible he stays on this list while missing at least the first six games of the regular season. He wouldn’t count against the 53-man roster, however, which would help him remain with the Bengals for all of 2016.
Once he’s healthy, Wilson would need to beat out Clayton Fejedelem or Derron Smith 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.
Coming into camp, I would have pegged Wilson as a near-lock to make the final roster. But after he’s missed most of camp with no return in sight, I feel less comfortable about him making the 53-man squad come Week 1.
Odds: 67.5 percent.