Golden Tate has been pretty vocal about his desire for a contract extension (and the raise that would almost surely accompany it). He even went so far as to call himself underpaid last summer. And he wasn’t wrong. The Lions wide receiver has caught 90-plus passes in each of his four seasons in Detroit, all while playing under a contract with an average annual value of $6.2M. He’s also recorded three 1,000-yard seasons and made a Pro Bowl with the team. Needless to say, his contract has been one of the best values of the past few years. And I must give credit where credit is due – it was a hell of a signing by Martin Mayhew.
But, Tate will be 31 years old come opening weekend 2019 and the team has been customarily mum on any potential extension that may be in the works. And while they spent a third-round pick on Kenny Golladay, he’s a very different receiver to Tate. Which is to say there’s not a clear cut replacement for him on the roster if the team lets him walk. Whether the slippery receiver should be extended is another debate entirely, I believe I’ve found the next Golden Tate in Kansas City’s Albert Wilson.
The stories of how they came into the league are quite different. Tate was a second-round pick from a blueblood school; Wilson, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State, which was an FCS program when he first arrived on campus. But they possess similar skillsets and I think Wilson’s career trajectory could follow Tate’s.
Wilson caught 42 passes on 62 targets for 554 yards and 3 TDs en route to averaging 13.2 yards per catch in 2017. Perhaps more impressive was his YAC average, a whopping 7.7 yards per reception. (For comparison’s sake, Tate averaged 6.9.) Those may not exactly be eye-popping stats, but they stack up to Tate’s production in his last year in Seattle when adjusting for production:
Tate, 2013 (99 targets): 64 catches on 99 targets, 898 yards, 5 TDs
Wilson, 2017 (adjusted for same number of targets): 67 catches, 884 yards, 4.8 TDs
This is not to say they are the same caliber of player, but the stats should be taken with a grain of salt considering their respective situations. Wilson was competing for targets with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt, an emergent rookie back in Andy Reid’s system which has always valued receiving production out of the backfield. Tate led that Seahawks team in targets over Zach Miller, a fledgling Doug Baldwin, and Marshawn Lynch. Apples, oranges. But, I digress.
|Prospect (Last, First)
|Scout Name (Last, First)
Free agent (Kansas City Chiefs)
|Games Played||Starts||Games Won||Winning %||Positions Started||Captain|
|INJURIES||2017 – knee (Week 7, missed no games), hamstring (Weeks 9, 11-13, WC, missed two games)
2016 – N/A
2015 – right shoulder AC joint sprain (Weeks 1-5, missed two games), shin (Week 17, missed no games), left hamstring strain/pull (Divisional, missed no games)
2014 – ankle (Weeks 1-2, missed one game)
|KEY STATS||2017 – 62 targets (4th on team), 42 receptions (4th), 554 receiving yards (3rd), 13.2 YPR, 3 TDs (T-3rd), 538 offensive snaps (52.1%)
2016 – 51 targets (5th), 31 receptions (4th), 279 receiving yards (6th), 9.0 YPR, 2 TDs, 466 offensive snaps (45.5%)
|Height||Weight||40 YD||10 YD||Arm||Hand||Vert||3Cone||SS||Broad||Bench|
|5093||202 lbs.||4.43s||1.54s||30 3/8||9 1/8”||37.5”||7.00s||4.21s||123”||10reps|
|TAPES VIEWED||2017: 9/7 at NE, 11/26 vs. BUF, 12/10 vs. OAK, 12/24 vs. MIA, 12/31 at DEN|
In Kansas City, Wilson operated from both the slot and out wide. Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy predominantly used him in the short and intermediate areas with screens, curls, drags, digs, and crossers, but he was also asked to work vertically on seams and go routes. Wilson is not the biggest player. At 5’9” he has short arms and his hands fall below the baseline for what you’d like in a receiver, but he checks in at 202 lbs. and has the kind of thick, compact frame you’d see in a running back.
He’s a good athlete with acceleration, change of direction, and straight-line quickness with solid jumping ability to boot, although he does struggle a bit to redirect at high speeds.That athletic ability is evident in his work off the line of scrimmage, where he uses his quick feet to beat press and his speed to chew up cushion when given a free release. He has good ability to generate separation on stems within about 12 yards of the line of scrimmage, using fakes, his agility, and understanding of leverage to open. In fact, he averaged the most separation (4.1 yards) of any receiver in 2017, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
He has good play speed to reach the third level quickly, especially if unaccosted, and works all areas of the field at the same speed. Wilson looks passes in with good hand-eye coordination and tracks the ball well over both shoulders without throttling down. Furthermore, he’s able to secure catches through small- and medium-sized collision. But, where he excels is in the YAC department. Wilson is a natural with the ball in his hands. He has very good vision and transitions into a runner almost immediately. From there, he gets to work using good burst from a standstill, impressive elusiveness, the ability to shed the tackles of corners and safeties, and the effort to fight for extra yardage.
There weren’t many opportunities to evaluate his ability to catch the ball against the sideline, but flashed good body control, sideline awareness, and footwork to do so. He also adjusts to balls outside his frame. Above his head, below his waist, in front of him, behind him – it didn’t matter, and he did it while on the move.
He also demonstrates solid mental processing through good situational awareness, the ability to make correct reads on Mesh/Stick concepts and finding the soft spots against zone.
But what I loved most about Wilson was his competitive toughness. First of all, he’s an exceptional blocker. He plays with excellent knee bend and gets good arm extension, blocks through the whistle and even buried CBs occasionally. He’s visibly upset in the rare instance he misses a block, whereas most receivers simply shrug. This competitive nature shone through at all times. Critical situation? He’s going to step up. Down big when a game’s already been decided? He’s still out there hustling. And this level of effort is consistent throughout the game. He also appears to be a selfless teammate; he helped other Chiefs up and didn’t pout when he didn’t get the ball. And believe me when I say NFL evaluators are going to take notice of that.
What I didn’t like – outside of his height – was his struggles against jams. Twitchy, long-levered press cornerbacks that were able to get their hands into Wilson gave him problems. His arm length is certainly a factor in this regard but he could use his hands better too. His ability to stem routes at 90-degree angles suddenly diminishes as he approaches 15 yards. As a result, he must gear down into these breaks which tips off cornerbacks. This will limit him to running seams, go routes, comebacks, flags, and posts when working vertically.
He’s also not a natural hands catcher and is a slightly below average catcher. He often double- or body-catches passes and seems to fight the ball at the times, which leads to drops. In addition to his issues working through jams, his strength is below average elsewhere. He doesn’t hold the redline (the area from the sideline to the hash mark) well on downfield routes and he could do a better job of shielding the ball from defenders at the catch point.
If the Lions are looking for an heir apparent to Tate, Wilson is a player they should strongly consider although he could potentially have to bide his time for a year with the logjam at receiver. Furthermore, there will be competition for his services. The receiver-needy Bears, who are now coached by Wilson’s former offensive coordinator, are an obvious landing spot. He could also be a candidate to replace the overrated Jarvis Landry, which would honestly be an improvement for the Dolphins. The volume Landry commanded is any receiver’s dream and no state tax is appealing, too.
Whoever lands him will be getting a tremendous value. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be a true WR1 but he offers great value as a high-end WR2 who can work all three levels of the field, particularly the short to intermediate areas. If Quinn does indeed move on from Tate, Wilson would be an excellent addition to the team.