Muhammad Wilkerson: The Steal of the 2011 NFL Draft?

Coming in to the draft last night, the Jets knew they needed another pass rusher to go along with their already aging defensive line. With Shaun Ellis on the decline at 33, Kris Jenkins battling a bad knee and an unsure future, and Mike DeVito a less-than-desirable starting right end, the Jets had their eyes on multiple defensive lineman. They picked one of the best drafts to have this need, with 12 defensive linemen being selected in the first round, the big name of course being Marcell Dareus, who was drafted third overall by the Bills. Before the draft actually started, I had read multiple reports and mock drafts that had Phil Taylor going to the Jets at pick number 30, and I was ecstatic. Why? He’s 6’4, 355 pounds, can handle double teams with ease, and is one of the most explosive guys available in the first round. Enough said. When the Browns traded up and selected him, however, I knew the Jets were still going to go with a D-lineman. That was obvious, but the more shady question was, “Who?”

The Saints had the number 29 pick, and when Da’quan Bowers name wasn’t called, I thought the Jets would jump all over this guy. Remember, he was at one point in the pre-draft predictions a top ten, even top five pick according to many. However, a bad knee and a poor NFL combine performance lowered his draft stock significantly (which is evident due to the fact that he was not taken in the first round…) Being unaware of his injured knee, I was excited for our defense; we were about to get a solid defensive end from a (somewhat) big time Division I school in Clemson that would help us get more pressure on the opposing quarterback. I was shocked when I heard Muhammad Wilkerson’s name. I immediately jumped to Google and began to dig up as much information I could find on the Former Temple Owl.

Born and raised in beautiful Linden, New Jersey, (for those of you not from the state, that was sarcasm) Wilkerson played three years under Al Golden at Temple University. I learned that in his three years at the University, he recorded 17 sacks and, after his junior season, was named to the First-Team All MAC, and also earned the team’s defensive MVP honor.

I believe Mel Kiper rated him as the number 11 or 12 prospect in the entire draft, which was very surprising to me. Suddenly, a question arose, “How in the world did he slide to number 30?”

Well, the main reason I learned was, of course, his level of competition in college. I read that from his 16 sacks the last two years, five came against Kent State.

No disrespect to the Golden Flashes, but they aren’t exactly a team of SEC caliber. The only team who has had noteworthy success on the Owl’s schedule year in and year out is Penn State, and last year against the Nittany Lions Wilkerson racked up 9 tackles and a forced fumble.

I think based on where he was projected, a top 15 to 20 prospect, the Jets made a solid draft pick (how could this be?) The only question is, obviously, can he take his MAC talent and carry it over to the NFL where everyone is bigger and better and faster, you know, the usual criticisms players from small colleges receive. You hear that all the time. But the guy’s got heart, plays hard every down, and will learn from the old, wily veterans on that Jets defensive line.