JJ Wilcox Scouting Report

April 7th, 2013

JJ Wilcox earned a Senior Bowl berth despite only one year at safety (photo courtesy Statesboro Herald)

QB / RB / FB / WR / TE / OT / OG / OC / DT / DE / OLB / ILB / CB / SAF
Prospect: JJ Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern
Height: Height
Weight: Weight
Grade: 5.55 P (Grading Scale)

Scouting Report:

+rocked up physique with thick torso
+was a successful running back and slot receiver before switching to safety
+very fluid and low in his backpedal with quick feet
+decent straight-line speed and has a chase gear
-has short arms (31”) and smallish hands (9”) for his size
-doesn’t explode out of breaks with great balance or burst

-still very raw and inexperienced in making reads and anticipating routes
+aggressively closes on the ball with excellent finishing burst
-takes false steps and moves his body in reaction to everything he sees
+/-still working out the timing on making contact with the receiver but makes the hits count
+flashed decent hands, no doubt a carryover from his time playing offense
-single-minded in assignment; cannot break off from one receiver to another or switch quickly from coverage to run defense on draws or QB runs

Run Support:
+very strong tackler who can wrap and drop with force
+powerful hitter, sinks his weight behind his pads and explodes into the ball carrier
-doesn’t feel or anticipate blockers well enough
-has an alarming tendency to drop his head just before contact
-doesn’t yet have a feel for squaring up his target or approaching under control
+/-will take on lead blockers like a middle linebacker, but likes to dive illegally at their lower legs

-shows very little instinctiveness as a safety
-doesn’t always see plays quickly or trust his eyes
+goes full throttle every snap all the way to the whistle
+strong character, interviewed very well according to multiple sources I trust
-likes to jaw after the play, even ones he doesn’t make
+has lots of special teams and return experience
+willingly switched positions twice to help his team

My first exposure to JJ Wilcox was during Senior Bowl week (as chronicled below) as he had not played safety until this season. What I saw that week was a very impressive but not outstanding athlete who often looked like he had not played defense for long. I went back and watched two games and came away feeling the same; there is a lot of real potential in Wilcox but he needs a lot of work and experience. His rawness in coverage and general lack of instincts are not going to go away quickly, but if he can harness the aggression and refine his technique some he will be able to tough it out. He is greener as a safety than Ziggy Ansah is as a pass rusher. I like that he has lots of special teams experience, and that figures to be where he makes his biggest mark while he learns the intricacies of playing safety on the fly. Judging strictly on what he is right now, a small-school athlete with one year of playing experience at the position, I would have a hard time drafting him before the 7th round. But I saw enough during Senior Bowl week to believe he can eventually develop into at least a quality 3rd safety and become a special teams demon by the end of his second year, with potential to start beyond that. He will need to go to a patient team with a stable, teaching-oriented coaching staff. I still wouldn’t risk more than a 5th round pick on JJ Wilcox but he could sneak into the bottom of the 3rd round to a team like Baltimore or San Francisco. —Jeff Risdon

Scouting Notes

Old Dominion vs. Georgia Southern
-lined up over slot, misses jam and has to chase receiver with back to QB, who scrambles for a big gain
-quickly flows outside on short pass, squares himself to receiver but initially misses the tackle, holds on and gets it on second effort
-beaten by a step on outside break, called for an iffy pass interference on the breakup
-exceptional open field tackle in red zone; stayed low and balanced, pounced with power and wrapped at thighs with head up
-fumbles on kickoff return
-gives too much room outside to slot receiver, who catches and quickly turns upfield for a big gain
-plays way too deep in center field, cannot close to the sideline on QB scramble
-takes an extra long step to break outside but quickly bursts out of it
-alertly pounces on the ball on another fumbled kick return (fumbled by teammate)
-breaks quickly on ball and wins a contested battle for the INT in the final minutes to seal the playoff win

Georgia Southern vs. Samford
-gets low and takes down both the blocker and the ball carrier
-gets blindsided by blocker coming right at him, showed narrow vision stream
-quickly reads a screen and closes outside under control to make the solo tackle
-jumps at a tackle instead of staying low and making the hit
-breaks quickly on draw play but runs out of control past the cutting runner
-wildly out of control on a blitz, misses the QB and rolls over twice from his momentum
-flat footed and slow to react to quick inside move while playing man cover on slot
-crosses the formation to chip in on TFL on slow QB waggle run
-late to see a screen, makes open field tackle down the field
-nice burst and vision on kick return to the 34
-stays low and balanced and keeps outside contain on stretch run
-dives into the shins of a blocker to allow teammate to get hit on RB
-blows up WR who was juggling ball at goal line for an incompletion

Senior Bowl Notes (seen in person):
From Tuesday:
This was also my first real look at Georgia Southern safety JJ Wilcox, and I focused quite a bit on him. My notes are all over the map. Among the comments I scribbled are “dove at feet with head down”, “very low and balanced in stance and backpedal”, “exceptional burst to close on the ball”, “lost balance when making a wide break but recovered quickly”, “easily the fastest of the safeties in a straight line”, and “very fluid out of break”. My general opinion is that he has the great size and speed and shows general awareness worthy of strong consideration but needs a good year of solid coaching before really finding his way in the NFL. I need to hit some tape on Wilcox, who did not stand out until the very end when I watched their recent playoff game against Old Dominion.

From Wed:
In one drill he (Sanders Commings) was working next to JJ Wilcox and he was a good two steps faster than Wilcox when they broke from the backpedal and sprinted forward to the sidelines

Newcomer Russell Sheppard twisted JJ Wilcox around with very quick feet on a hook/out.

(Landry) Jones exploited a miscommunication between safeties JJ Wilcox and Robert Lester, neither of whom decided it was a good idea to run with Vance McDonald down the field.

For the actual game, look for the South to have a decided advantage on special teams. Both Robert Alford and JJ Wilcox have shown juice as return men and Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen has a booming leg

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