Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson had quite the decorated career while in Tallahassee. In 2019 and 2020, he was awarded All-ACC first and second teams, respectively. He collected 110 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and six pass deflections. At one point, he was a lock for the top 10 of the NFL draft in 2020 and a sure first-round draft pick according to Cover 1’s Christian Page. However, he wanted to finish what he started as a Seminole by returning for his senior season.
Returning for the 2020 season may have been ill-advised as he has had a series of injuries, most notably to his knees. Specifically, he suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries to his hand and knee, respectively, leading to questions about his durability at the next level.
While Wilson is a tantalizing prospect at defensive tackle, teams will have a lot of questions regarding his health to figure out if he’s not only a good fit for their team but how late they can draft him and how long he will last in the league.
Below is a season by season breakdown of Wilson’s publicly known injury history.
Wilson suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during his senior year of high school. He missed at least two games due to the injury but it is not known whether he had surgery, though it’s highly likely he did. What will be important to note is if he had the meniscus repaired or trimmed. The hope is that it was repaired due to his age and weight.
Played 12 games as a true freshman in limited time with no reported injuries.
During spring practice, Wilson went down with a left MCL tear that forced him to miss the remainder of the offseason. There were reports that he suffered a torn meniscus from The Athletic, but tweets and numerous articles suggest that may have been reported in error. He missed all of the spring practices and was still working through the knee injury early in training camp of that year. Based on the timeline from the original injury in April to return in early August, this appears to be MCL as he would not have been practicing in full by that time had it been a meniscus repair.
During the 2018 season, there were not any publicly reported injuries appearing in 12 regular season games as a sophomore.
In the midst of participating in training camp practice during his junior year, Wilson tweaked his right knee while blocking, ending his day early. He was seen walking with a crutch at times but did not appear to miss a lot of time dealing with this injury.
Later in the season, Wilson suffered a hand injury against Miami which required season-ending surgery, resulting in four games missed. Reviewing the game film, there is not an obvious point where he suffered the injury. He was noted to have both hands wrapped along with his thumbs to reduce the chance of getting his thumbs caught during blocking or tackling.
Outside of the reports that he required surgery, there are no details as to which hand or what he did that required surgery. My initial thought is that it was a displaced fracture or dislocation somewhere in his hand that required surgery to stabilize to allow for proper healing. That is pure speculation, but there is little information to go off of regarding the specifics.
Wilson suffered a leg injury that had been bothering him for several weeks before getting shut down for surgery, missing the Pittsburgh game. He ultimately missed three games, ending his senior season. Like the hand injury, it is not clear which knee or when he suffered the injury.
Looking back at the game film, he did not have any bracing when Florida State played against Notre Dame. He had a brace on the left knee during the North Carolina game and at one point collapsed to the ground well after the play ended. There was no obvious mechanism of injury and he eventually returned to the game. He played against Louisville which was just prior to a bye week and then he was ruled out due to the injury.
Speaking with current FSU beat reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, NoleSports.com, and former Cover 1 contributor Antwan Staley, noted that Wilson had been dealing with the knee injury all year. It finally got to a point where he needed to shut it down and with the season going as poorly as it did, it made sense to stop playing. He confirmed that it was a minor procedure but did not have specifics as to what was done.
Wilson was invited to the Senior Bowl but was limited due to a wrap on the right side and did not get to showcase what he was capable of during the week. The details of the injury are not known but this may identify which knee he had the procedure on.
To understand the various structures that Wilson injured, a brief understanding of the anatomy is necessary. The knee is made up of three bones: the patella, femur and tibia. The knee primarily acts as a hinge to allow for flexion and extension of the joint in order to perform activities such as running, jumping, and walking. Within the knee, it is held together by various ligaments and also contains the meniscus which acts as shock absorbers. The knee also has multiple bursae to lubricate the knee during movement. Below are the various structures listed above that detail the location in the knee.
NFL injury impact
Looking at Wilson as a whole, I am concerned about his long-term future in the league. The main focus of that worry is his knees. While we don’t know the details of the hand injury, he was able to return to play without issue the next season, but Wilson has not had a healthy year since 2017 and numerous issues with his knees.
Injuries are a part of football. Football has a 100% injury rate, but the longevity of his knees with the prior meniscus issues along with the possibility of more may drop his draft stock. He has one confirmed meniscus tear from high school but it’s not known if it was repaired or trimmed. The 2020 season with the procedure that ended the season was possibly a knee arthroscopy that was required to clean out any loose bodies or minor cartilage tears. There is a chance that this was also a partial meniscectomy considering how quickly he turned around and participated in the Senior Bowl.
Looking at risk factors for knee osteoarthritis (OA) in the NFL Combine, those without a history of knee surgery were at 4% for OA. Those with a meniscus repair were at 11% for OA upon evaluation and 27% with a partial meniscectomy. BMI >30 was also an increased risk for OA and seen in 20% of the defensive lineman and tight ends in the study, but the position was not an indicator of OA. As Wilson is 6-5, 304 pounds, that places his BMI at 36 which can increase his risk for OA. This doesn’t imply that he is dealing with arthritis now or will for certain develop it, but this reinforces the longevity concerns.
Addressing the quality of play over the first two NFL seasons when injuries are factored in, defensive players are more likely to play two years and more games in the NFL when compared to offensive players. Defensive lineman are most affected by knee and ankle injuries with the knee injuries leading to decreased fewer games started, fewer mean tackles, quarterback hits and mean sacks.
An important delineation point is where Wilson could end up in his draft position which could impact his ability to play at the next level. Looking at whether he had a lateral meniscectomy, if a player was drafted within the first four rounds, they were 3.7 times more likely to return to play following the procedure than those drafted after the 4th round. This is for players already drafted in the league, but teams will invest more resources in a higher drafted player than those drafted in later rounds or free agents. The draft position will be important for Wilson.
Research further supports that if there has been a meniscectomy, the bigger the tear, the bigger the chondral lesion, which is the cartilage of the knee. This directly correlates to pooer objective measures when compared to matched controls. This led to fewer games played and started along with lesser snap counts as compared to control groups. Isolated meniscectomies also led to shorter careers 5.6 versus 7.0 years and games played 62 versus 85.
Florida State’s pro day is set for March 22, which is plenty of time for Wilson to fully rehab and prepare for all the combine drills. He will need to show solid numbers and have a great medical check-up to justify being selected in Round 2.
I suspect that he will be a late Round 3, early Round 4 pick, placing him at the end of Day 2, early Day 3. If he falls, that’s on the idea that he doesn’t test well, which is possible. With his multiple knee issues, I believe a team should look for other needs and let him fall to rather than chasing him.
It’s impossible to determine how long of a career he will have, but I would add him to an already established defensive line and not expect him to play a lot initially. He would also be best suited in a rotational line versus a heavy snap count observed with some teams around the NFL. My concern is if he’s pressed into service too soon, will he be able to adapt to the next level from a talent standpoint, but will he also continue to have knee or other issues?
It would not be ideal for a team to invest a higher draft pick in him and have his knees already treated as though he needs veteran rest after only two to three seasons as we’ve seen with Sony Michel in New England. Wilson is a great player and he appears to have a lot of the traits needed to play at the next level, but for how long is my concern.
An incredibly strong pro day and medicals could have him sneak into Round 2, but he is more likely a Round 3-4 player in my book. Poor performance could drop him even more, but at some point, the talent will be there to balance out the injury and any performance issues. A Day 2 selection may keep him in the league longer if he struggles out of the gate.
Wilson will be drafted and play at the next level, but where he will be drafted and when will be a big determinant on how long his knees will let him last playing in the NFL.