With less than a month remaining before the NFL Draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper predicts that the Redskins will select UConn cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson with the 51st pick of the draft.
Coming off of a four-year career that saw him record 181 tackles, nine interceptions and 27 pass breakups, Wreh-Wilson has great size at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds with long arms, and good speed (clocking a 4.39 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and a 4.45 40 at the Combine). Wreh-Wilson missed the bulk of the 2011 season with a knee injury, but returned to have a strong senior season and was named to the All-Big East second team in 2012.
“What I like about Wilson is I like the fact that in this league you’ve got to be able to cover, and certainly [Wilson] can do that,” Kiper said in a pre-draft conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “He has, obviously, the height you want. He’s over six feet. You think about the length, you think about the ability that he showed at Connecticut to match up in coverage and do a good job. His tackling is so-so at times, a little sloppy as a tackler, he’s got to shore that up. But he’s worthy of being a second-round draft choice.”
Wreh-Wilson still a work in progress when it comes to football. He played in middle school, then played soccer (his sport since he was five) his first three years of high school. He said at the combine that his parents feared for his safety, but that before his senior year, he convinced them that he would be fine.
Wreh-Wilson says that his soccer background has helped him on the football field.
“A lot. Yeah, a lot. The body control, the footwork — a lot of things like that transferred,” he said.
When it comes to experience with different corner positions, Wreh-Wilson spent the bulk of his time playing on the outside, but he has some familiarity with playing in the slot.
“Yeah. In our system, I wasn’t really required to play in the slot all the time. It was something we had, things I did in practice, things like that. But on the outside, basically, it was my freedom. When my coach made a call, I was the guy — I could choose to play off, I could choose to play press, any coverage. It was just kind of something that helped me out in the long run.”
In case you were curious about his first name, which is pronounced bleed-ee, it means “Trouble.” Wreh-Wilson explained the story behind that as well.
“My dad’s a philosophy professor, so he kind of put his own little twist on it. In Liberia, at the time there was a war, so that was the trouble, and by having me, I’d be the bringer of the peace,” he said.
Cornerback seems to be a need for Washington, but free safety could be more pressing because they don’t seem to have a player capable of starting and playing at a high level full-time at that position.
But Kiper envisions Washington taking a corner because he believes the top safeties may be off the board by the time the 51st pick rolls around, and that the Redskins may have some cornerbacks rated higher than the remaining safeties.
Projecting the safety class, Kiper says, “There’s an elite group that are all going to go high. You’re going to have a run on safeties in the second round. If Jonathan Cyprien is not a first round pick out of Florida International, he will be a second [rounder]. Matt Elam, if he’s not a 1, he’ll be a 2 out of Florida. Shamarko Thomas out of Syracuse will be a 2. J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern, Shawn Williams from Georgia could be a 3. D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina probably a 2. Eric Reid, LSU, probably more of a 3. Duke Williams is an interesting guy out of Nevada. I think Don Jones from Arkansas State is an underrated fifth to seventh round pick. Same thing with Ray Polk from Colorado. Rontez Miles from Cal PA has moved into that fifth round mix. Zeke Motta would have been a third-round pick had he run better. He didn’t. Now he’s a late-round or priority free agent out of Notre Dame. Melvin White is a versatile kid out of Louisiana Lafayette.”
Listing some safeties he expects to be available in the third-to-fifth rounds of the draft, Kiper said, “Bacarri Rambo from Georgia, Don Jones from Arkansas State, Earl Wolff from NC State, Phillip Thomas from Fresno State could be guys; Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma, Cooper Taylor from Richmond is another one in that mix.”
He added, “There’s a lot of guys. It just depends on when you want to pull the trigger on a safety, whether you want to do it in second round, and you’re going to have to if you want one of those guys I mentioned because they’re going to be gobbled up quick. Or do you want to go corner? Is it a better corner or safety on the board when the Redskins are up with that 51st pick overall?”