Most fans and writers (including this guy) would agree that the New England Patriots need to upgrade the other starting safety spot alongside Devin McCourty, but are we forgetting about 2012 second-round draft selection Tavon Wilson?
Despite being partially responsible for a deep-field coverage breakdown that led to a last-second loss to the Seahawks in Week 6, Wilson truly put together an impressive rookie season.
Tallying 41 tackles, six pass defenses and four interceptions as a rookie is no easy task, and Wilson accomplished it even though he only played 42.5 percent of defensive snaps in 2012 (h/t Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston).
So, can Wilson become the safety that Patriot Nation longs for?
Well, there are a few things to consider.
The Eye Test
First off, Wilson certainly looks the part of an NFL safety at 6'0'' and 210 lbs—ideal size for the position.
He's also a good athlete.
Wilson ran an impressive 4.52-second 40-yard dash and a 2.56-yard 20-yard dash at his pro day (per NFLdraftscout.com).
To put that into perspective, Mark Barron—the seventh overall selection and the first safety off the board in the 2012 draft—had a slower 40-yard dash (4.54 seconds) and 20-yard dash (2.65) time at his pro day (per NFLdraftscout.com).
Without a doubt, Wilson has all measurables to be an effective NFL safety.
A Second-Round Reach?
Some of you out there still think the Patriots could have picked Wilson at the end of the draft or signed him as an undrafted free agent.
The mock-draft interwebs even had Wilson on its radar, with WalterFootball.com ranking him as the eighth-best safety in the 2012 draft class.
Wilson was also an All-Big Ten honorable mention in both 2010 and 2011.
Folks, there is no lack of talent here.
Yeah, Yeah, but Can He Play?
Measurables and talent can only get you so far—it all comes down to what you do on the field.
Well, Wilson looked pretty darn good on the field as a rookie.
Joe Soriano of MusketFire.com thinks Wilson hasn't got enough credit for his rookie campaign, pointing out that fans only recall his few bad plays and forget the many good ones.
People look at [The Seahawks] game and assume Wilson played horribly and was burned on just about every play- not the case. That catch was the only one he gave up all day...When you look at the numbers and re-watch the games, you’ll see that Tavon Wilson was a positive part of this New England Patriots secondary...he only gave up four receptions of 20 yards or more this season.
Tony Santorsa of NEPatriotsDraft.com also saw a solid rookie season from Wilson, writing:
Wilson played in all 16 games for the Patriots this year and became a reliable part in New England's secondary. Granted, Wilson had his share of mental lapses early on...but really settled in as a solid defender...I foresee Wilson taking on the role that we expected Patrick Chung to take on when he was in the earlier part of his career.
Bottom line, the man can play.
Is He the Answer at Safety?
Wilson may not have been on Mel Kiper or Todd McShay's big board last year, but he showed in 2012 that he is a capable NFL defensive back and seemed to improve as the year went on.
Between his ideal size, high level of talent and impressive rookie campaign, there's no reason to think Wilson can't take a giant leap in his development next season.
With another training camp under his belt, Wilson certainly has a good chance to be the answer at safety for the Patriots in 2013.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.