Summary: Florida State's Marvin Wilson was one of the consensus top interior defensive linemen entering the 2020 college football season. He had decided to return for his senior year after putting together two solid seasons for the Seminoles, and that track record led to a lot of media hype, including some projections of being a top-20 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
As a sophomore, Wilson established himself as the Seminoles best interior lineman, combining with teammate edge rusher Brian Burns to form a nice tandem. Wilson recorded 42 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two passes batted and 4.5 tackles for a loss that season.
As a junior, Wilson stayed consistent in the ground game and improved his pass rush despite not having Burns next to him to draw attention. Wilson totaled 44 tackles with five sacks, four passes defended and a forced fumble in 2019. Team sources say he could have been a second- or third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft had he left school, but Wilson decided to return for his senior year.
Going back to Florida State ended up being a mistake for Wilson, who was putting together very disappointing season before suffering a season-ending leg injury. For his six-game 2020 season, he made 17 tackles and picked up one sack. Wilson really only notched one tackle against Notre Dame and one solo tackle against Miami, which saw the Hurricanes blow out their in-state rival. He was better in Florida State's upset over North Carolina, but the Fighting Irish offensive line, with its future NFL competitors, shut him down. His one sack came against Jacksonville State.
In the ground game, Wilson is generally stout at the point of attack. He uses his size and length to hold his ground and displays the ability to fight off blocks. Wilson's strength and length give him the skill to fight off blocks to flow to the ball. Overall, he does a nice job of holding down his gap and plugging up runs that come downhill at him. Wilson can occasionally push his way upfield thanks to his size and strength, and once there, he will cause disruption in the backfield. Wilson is a solid run defender heading into the next level, and that is his best trait.
Wilson is a case of different stories as a pass rusher. In 2019, he showed some strength to fight through blocks and some quickness to close with for a big body. Wilson, however, was a complete non-factor in 2020, seemingly incapable of getting off blocks. His bull rush did not create a push, he looked very tight and lacking in athleticism, and he did not show the speed to fire his gap to get upfield. Wilson also didn't field a variety of pass-rushing moves - like a rip, a club or a spin move - and was a complete non-factor in the pass rush.
Thus, Wilson is a more challenging evaluation given two opposite-looking seasons for his last two years of college. Projecting to the NFL though, Wilson does not look like he has the speed to rush the passer against pro guards, and he is not overwhelmingly strong to push around through NFL blockers. As a result, he looks limited to being a run-stuffing nose tackle.
WalterFootball.com surveyed six teams partway through 2020 to see where they were grading Wilson. Five teams came back as saying they saw Wilson as a mid-rounder, with none of those teams grading him higher than the third round. The sixth team said they thought he could still be an early-rounder.
"I agree with a third-round grade, Wilson has been awful this year," said one director of college scouting. "He's overrated by name and a locker room lawyer too."
A few of the evaluators said they felt Wilson is more of a nose tackle for the NFL and not a player who can offer much in the pass rush at the pro level. His pass-rush production and pressures were not impressive in 2020, which really hurt his grade with team evaluators. Here's how one executive summarized Wilson, "I don't see it. I definitely don't see a great player. He's a tight wound guy."
For the next level, Wilson looks like a limited nose tackle for a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He doesn't have enough pass-rush ability to have a role in the sub package, so he will probably be more of a rotational player.
Wilson would be fortunate to go in the third round in the 2021 NFL Draft. He may end up going off the board in the early rounds of Day 3.
Player Comparison: Carl Davis. Wilson reminds me of Davis, who got a lot of media hype coming out of Iowa but was a limited player for the NFL. Davis (6-5, 320) and Wilson are similar in size but lacking the speed and athleticism to dangerous interior pass rushers. Davis has become a journeyman backup and was a third-round pick in 2015 by the Ravens and has played for six different teams so far. I could see Wilson being a similar caliber player in the NFL.