Thoughts and breakdown breakdown by former NFL NT

The creator of The Huddle Report’s draft profiles, which do not track The Huddle Report’s Big Board (which is authored by another guy who currently ranks #1 in The Huddle Report’s closest to the pin Big Board Challenge), is wrong more often than BR.net about prospects. They still are fun reads because of his unique opinions about prospects.

He absolutely loved Christian Wilkins as a prospect. He liked him more than Q. Williams, J. Simmons, D. Lawrence and Ed Oliver. Shit, what a fucking stacked DT class. Here’s what he said about Wilkins:

Christian Wilkins DL Clemson

by Drew Boylhart • January 10, 2019​

Christian is a uniquely, talented and athletic football player. He can play multiple positions in multiple fronts on your defensive line and impact at all of them. He shows excellent leadership skills and is a coach on the field. He is smart and uses excellent techniques when defending against the run or when he is used to rush the passer. Christian has the athletic talent and the quick explosion off the line of scrimmage that makes it hard for offensive lineman to get set before he engages with them. He gains leverage because of his pad level and natural strength at just about any position you play him at on the defensive line or against any one of the offensive linemen immediately off the snap of the ball. On passing downs, when put over the center, he requires a double team or he will beat that center off the line and disrupt or sack the quarterback almost every time. Christian has the potential to be as good a football player as former Eagles and Packers Hall of Fame defensive lineman Reggie White. For you young Draftniks think of Christian as a bigger version of the Rams Aaron Darnold.

Christian has to watch his weight if he wants to reach his full potential. If stays at about 310lbs or 315lbs he can become a monster to deal with at any defensive line position. If he starts to go above that the truth is, he still might be the best in this class but not as dominating or multi-dimensional.

Christian has made impacting plays on defense, on offense and on special teams. He can play defensive line at any position or become a dominating complete blocking and catching the ball Tight End on offense or…he can be and outstanding Christian Okoye style running back (look him up, I can’t do everything for you), if that is how you want to use him. That’s how his college team used him so why not? What is the most outstanding attribute that Christian will bring to the team that selects him, his character and that alone is worth the signing money this kid should receive. He is a leader who understands that the team concept is more important than just one person doing their job. His college team will struggle to replace this kid’s impact on and off the field for this program. So, if you need to add a multi-talented, athletic big man who can play multiple position for you on defense or offense and will be a coach on the field and a leader in the locker room and… has the character to make the community and team he plays for proud, then it would be smart to select Christian. I know I would if I’m in the top ten trying to build a team… for sure. I call him Christian (The Answer) Wilkins because he is the type of player who will be the answer to a team’s prayers.

BTW, he had a low 3rd round grade on Maxx, who he got right too:

Maxx Crosby DL Eastern Michigan

by Drew Boylhart • April 15, 2019​

When Maxx is on the field there is no lack of effort or flailing arms in his overall play. He has a good burst off the line and with his flailing long arms he is at an advantage against offensive lineman right off the snap of the ball. Maxx is quick to get into the back field and disrupt the rhythm of plays against both the run and the pass. He is stout against the run when he uses good techniques, using his long arms to keep player’s off his body and shed and make tackles. Maxx has good athletic talent but right now, he does more damage with his overall effort and quickness off the ball. He has talent but that talent needs to be controlled and when it is, Maxx could become an impact player and a fan favorite for the team that selects him.

Effort can be a gift and a curse when it is not under control. Maxx plays out of control losing his techniques and although causing havoc, that havoc isn’t effective. Sometimes Maxx has no idea were the ball is. Sometimes. Maxx runs around using lots of energy but can’t finish because, all of that energy and to much movement is just counterproductive. At times he is late to the play but still dives into the pile. When Maxx plays under control using the correct techniques and not trying to make plays all by himself he can be an excellent, impacting defensive player.

You remember driving down the road and outside of a business seeing Tubey the tube man, the wacky, waving, flailing arms, inflatable, tube man? That’s what Maxx looks like when he starts playing out of control. He runs around with his long arms flailing faster than he can run, using up energy and not accomplishing anything. He doesn’t make the tackle, doesn’t make the sack and is late to the play. But when he uses those long arms, to control his opponent and work his techniques correctly, Maxx is as good as any defensive lineman in this draft and it’s just a matter of him learning to play more within the context of the defense and not going solo to impact. Maxx effort can easily be used against him if he doesn’t understand that defense is a team effort and not just one person’s effort. He will learn or he won’t play because every play he makes he gives up a bigger play because. He is out of control and easily fooled into making big mistakes. I believe he will learn, and become a core player and a fan favorite for the team that selects him and not like Tubey, the wacky, waving, flailing arms, inflatable tube man.
This morning on Sirius I caught them saying freakish defenders like this you just can't let get away, talking about Myhamy crapping the bed this offseason..
I cant think of anything more relevant than the draft ranking and projection of Christian Wilkins and Maxx Crosby 10 years ago!
Wilkins’ Miami connections to other current Raiders:
  • ‘19 DC Graham: Wilkins’ rookie year
  • ‘19 to ‘21 LB, ADL & OLB coach: Wilkins’ early years
  • ‘21 DT A. Butler: Played 576 snaps next to Wilkins
  • ‘19, ‘21 & ‘22: Played 868 snaps next to Wilkins
I’m sensing Graham had less to do with recruiting Wilkins than, not only AP and Crosby, but also our DL coach (Leonard) and the two DT (A. Butler and Jenkins) who will play next to him this year.
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‘Sick, twisted’ Christian Wilkins is going to fit in just fine with the Raiders​

By Tashan Reed
Mar 14, 2024

HENDERSON, Nev. — On Christian Wilkins’ first day at Las Vegas Raiders team headquarters, his biggest takeaway was a simple message: Be yourself. The edict that has been instilled by coach Antonio Pierce since he took over as interim coach midway through the 2023 season isn’t necessarily unique, but it’s real. And it’s felt as soon as one steps into the building.

Wilkins has a boisterous personality. He has earned a reputation as a relentless trash talker on the field and a constant joker in the locker room. He’s a spontaneous guy who’ll do anything from a celebratory split to resorting to underhanded tactics in fumble scrums to get his hands on the football. Although Wilkins hadn’t yet experienced it firsthand, he was drawn to the Raiders by the opportunity to stay true to himself.

“I’m such a character and such an animated, sick, twisted, individual,” Wilkins said Thursday. “I just love the game. I love the grind, and you just feel that here. … Something’s different about this place and how people go about it. Everyone’s themselves. There’s great energy here, and I’m glad I could be a part of it.”

With a loud “Raiders!” chant, Wilkins signed his four-year, $110 million contract with the franchise on Thursday. When he later addressed the media, he’d changed out of a team-issued hoodie and put on a custom silver-and-black suit with blackjack cards printed on the interior.

The 28-year-old defensive tackle was a first-round pick out of Clemson in 2019 and entered the NFL with lofty expectations. But his journey hasn’t been linear. He was merely solid through his first two seasons. He broke through as an impact player in 2021. His ascent has been constant since then, but he has maintained the same drive despite the success.

“That mentality that I won’t be denied and just the desire to be great,” Wilkins said when asked how he made the leap. “I worked so hard and didn’t have much results or much production early. You’ve just got to grind through it. … You never know where you’ll end up if you just keep working with passion and a great mindset and keep having that love for what you do.”

The Raiders gave Wilkins $82.75 million in guaranteed money. He was paid $57.5 million at signing and will receive a guaranteed $20.5 million roster bonus in March 2025. His 2026 salary of $25.25 million doesn’t become fully guaranteed until March 2025, but it was guaranteed for injury at signing. He’ll have cap hits of $11.5 million in 2024, $35 million in 2025 and $31.75 million in 2026 and 2027. He has an average annual salary of $27.5 million, which ranks fourth in the NFL among defensive tackles. That’s a huge investment, but it’s easy to understand why general manager Tom Telesco was comfortable making it.

Wilkins will primarily be used as a three-technique defensive tackle, according to league sources briefed on the matter. A three-technique lines up on the outside shoulder of a guard. That role requires a defensive lineman to be quick and agile enough to rapidly penetrate through the offensive line and cause disruptions in the backfield, whether through tackles for loss in the run game or impacting the quarterback against the pass. Wilkins is 6 feet 4, 310 pounds with elite athleticism, burst and footwork, so it’s an ideal fit for his skill set.

Wilkins can also line up at other positions along the defensive line. In five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Wilkins logged at least 100 snaps at left defensive end, left defensive tackle, nose tackle, right defensive tackle and right defensive end. He has experience playing in 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and boasts true inside-outside versatility.

There aren’t many defensive play callers in the NFL who mix up their personnel groupings, front alignments and coverages as frequently as Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. He was the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator when they drafted Wilkins in 2019, so he already knows the player well on and off the field. The same goes for defensive line coach Rob Leonard, who held multiple defensive assistant coach roles with the Dolphins from 2019 to 2021. That familiarity should pay dividends from a schematic and relationship perspective.

“That makes a transition like this easier,” Wilkins said.

Graham will know how to utilize Wilkins’ ability to move around the D-line. For example, the Raiders plan to install a sub package for use on passing downs with Maxx Crosby and Malcolm Koonce at defensive end, Tyree Wilson at three-technique defensive tackle and Wilkins at nose tackle, according to league sources briefed on the matter. Having that down-to-down flexibility will make it difficult for opposing offenses to prepare for what’s coming.

Wherever Wilkins has lined up, he has been consistently productive when it comes to making plays behind the line of scrimmage. His best season came last year when he registered 10 tackles for loss (T-21st among defensive linemen), nine sacks (T-17th), 25 quarterback hits (eighth) and 58 pressures (T-21st).

The final piece that drives up Wilkins’ value is his otherworldly stamina. He has played 1,756 snaps since 2022, which is tied with Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne for the third most in the NFL among defensive linemen. The only linemen who’ve played more snaps during that span are Crosby (2,075 snaps) and Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (1,846).

Wilkins played 84 percent of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps in 2022 and 81 percent last year. That type of endurance would be impressive for anyone, but it’s incredible for someone Wilkins’ size. The Raiders will want Crosby and Wilkins on the field at the same time as much as possible, of course, but their combined presence should also come with the mutual benefit of being able to rest more when necessary. Wilkins said Crosby is one of his two favorite players in the league — the other is New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II — and lauded his new teammate’s energy.

“That work ethic, that grind and just how he does everything the right way,” Wilkins said. “Obviously, he’s got great talent, but that motor is something that I respect so much. I try to do things like that, too. I try to be an inspiration. … I want to be great at what I do and just be my best. Whatever that means for me, I can live with the results. I can be happy knowing I put my all into this.”

Wilkins and Crosby become arguably the best inside-outside defensive line duo in the league — San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and defensive end Nick Bosa are pretty good, too — and should make life easier for each other. They’ll have a pick-your-poison dynamic that makes it difficult for opposing offenses to consistently send extra help in either of their directions.

“Now, Maxx doesn’t have to run so far on the outside,” Pierce said last month when envisioning how a game-changing defensive tackle could lessen Crosby’s load. “That quarterback can’t step up anymore because you’ve got that inside, B-gap pressure and force. My main focus is really just building this team inside out.”

The Raiders still have work to do when it comes to building out their defensive line. As it stands, Wilkins is the only defensive tackle on the roster with starting experience. Wilson will play more defensive tackle this year, but he isn’t making a full-time transition from defensive end. Defensive tackles Byron Young, Nesta Jade Silvera, Matthew Butler and Marquan McCall have zero combined career starts. The Raiders have about $25.6 million in cap space at their disposal — that doesn’t account for tight end Harrison Bryant, who agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.25 million contract but hasn’t signed it yet — if they want to address the position in free agency. They could sign outside free agents or bring back in-house free agents like John Jenkins and Adam Butler. Or they could wait to address the position in the NFL Draft.

Still, the D-line has the makings of one of the better units in the league with Crosby, Wilkins and Koonce leading the way. And, collectively, there’s plenty to like about how the defense is shaping up. The linebacker corps is already in good shape with Robert Spillane, Divine Deablo and Luke Masterson in tow. The Raiders need another starter at cornerback, but the secondary has four good starters in cornerback Jack Jones, nickelback Nate Hobbs, strong safety Marcus Epps and free safety Tre’von Moehrig.

There’s a realistic chance the Raiders defense could make the leap from being good last year — it finished ninth in scoring defense — to great in 2024. The franchise hasn’t had that in decades, and the mere fact it’s possible is something to get excited about.

“It’s going to have to be built,” Wilkins said. “It’s definitely a process and a journey. … I’m just looking forward to the possibilities.”
It’s a nice click tweet, but it’s the entire DL rotation that matters, and I like Koonce, Wilson, Jenkins and A. Bulter has the T6 DL in our rotation.

Rich Eisen is the most corporate pimp of all time.