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Wilson Dominated in 2023 | Commanders NFL Draft

Updated: Jan 22

Written By Adam Aniba

This year's linebacker class features some diverse talent and NC State linebacker Payton Wilson might just be the most intriguing.

Payton Wilson

6'4" 238 lbs | LB | N.C. ST

Draft Proj Late 2nd-3rd Rd

Career Stats (47 Games)- 402 TAK (202 solo), 48 TFL, 15 SACKS, 7 INTs, 13 PD, 1 FF, 2 FR & 1 TD

2023 Stats (12 Games)- 138 TAK (69 solo), 17.5 TFL, 6 SACKS, 3 INTs, 6 PD, 1 FF, 2 FR & 1 TD


Wilson grew up in Hillsborough, N.C and was a three sport athlete for Orange High School, where he played lacrosse, football and was a state champion wrestler.

As a senior while lining up at outside linebacker, Wilson registered 103 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 2 pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a pick-six.

The Orange HS linebacker also lined up in the backfield rushing for 222 yards and 5 touchdowns, in addition he recorded 15 receptions for 263 yards and 4 touchdowns (754 all-purpose yards).

Wilson finished his career at Orange HS with 266 tackles, 70 tackles for a loss, 24 sacks and 2 interceptions. He was a 4-star recruit by ESPN and 247 Sports. Wilson was heavily recruited and elected to join NC State.

Unfortunately Wilson missed the entire 2018 season for the Wolfpack after sustaining a knee injury in practice (2nd knee surgery since high school).

As a freshman in '19 Wilson was active in 11 games (366 snaps) playing linebacker. He finished the season with 49 tackles (13 assists), 7 QB pressures, 1 sack, 3 pass breakups, 1 interception and QB rating of only 48.7 when targeted.

In 2020 Wilson played in 10 games (689 snaps) recording 74 tackles (25 assists), 20 total pressures, 12 QB hurries, 4 QB hits, 4 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 2 interceptions and a 62.0 QB rating when targeted.

During his junior season in '21 Wilson played in only 2 games (51 snaps) after sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery vs Mississippi State. In the two games he played Wilson registered just 2 tackles (1 assist).

Wilson bounced back in 2022 starting 10 games (561 snaps) recording 42 tackles (16 assists), 19 QB hurries, 3 QB hits, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups and 1 interception.

His best performance of the season came in a 22-21 win over Virginia Tech (10/27/22), in which he recorded 7 total tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks.

Initially Wilson elected to declare for the NFL Draft after the '22 season, but turned down an invitation to the '23 NFL Combine and decided to return the NC State for one more season.

It's believed that his stock was compromised due to his injury history and didn't receive a favorable draft grade, which was rumored to be in the Day 3 range.

“Some of them were saying they think I need to put two healthy years together. I was hearing from other guys that I could go anywhere from the third round to undrafted or that some teams might not even look at me because of my injuries.”

Returning for the 2023 season was a wise choice for Wilson and had a career year (12 games played). The Wolfpack linebacker lined up all over the field, displaying the ability to drop into coverage and rush the passer.

He finished the season with 138 tackles (69 solo) 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 interceptions.

Wilson is the winner of the 2023 Chuck Bednarik Award, Dick Butkus Award and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He also received the Consensus All-American Award and was named First Team All-ACC.


  • Excels in coverage with impressive closing speed and trusted as the last line of defense

  • A ferocious hitter that plays with a non-stop motor

  • Displays good awareness when facing the run and understands when to drop into coverage

  • His background as a wrestler is evident with his hand usage and ability to shed blockers

  • Impressive strait line speed with sideline-to-sideline ability, effective at sealing the edge vs the run


  • Although he lined up at edge in sub-packages for the Wolfpack, he posses a limited toolbox as a pass rusher

  • Lean frame and needs to bulk up/add more muscle mass for the NFL grind

  • Needs to refine counter moves

  • Can be fooled by play-action at times

  • Knee and shoulder surgeries are a mild concern


A team looking for a coverage linebacker with elite pursuit ability, would be wise to take a long look at Wilson.

The NC State linebacker's injury history will be the top concern for teams heading into the draft though, which likely keeps him out of the Top 50 consideration.

His medicals will be gone through with a fine tooth comb after sustaining a dislocated shoulder, torn labrum and two knee surgeries between 2016-2021.

Although Wilson's injury history might scare some, he compiled an impressive two year stat line and displayed his versatility with the ceiling to be an effective MIKE linebacker on the next level.

NC State officials state Wilson has vertical-jumped 36 inches and been clocked in the 4.49-4.54 range in the forty-yard dash. If Wilson puts up those kind of numbers during the NFL Combine and his medicals check out, the Wolfpack do it all linebacker could end up going higher than projected.


9/9/23 vs Notre Dame, 9/29 vs Louisville, 10/28 vs Clemson,11/4 vs Miami & 11/8 vs Va Tech




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