The Arizona Cardinals filled a dire need in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Saturday morning.
Making a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, the Cardinals turned a fifth-rounder and a 2022 fourth-round selection into fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2021, the former being used on Florida cornerback Marco Wilson.
While Wilson is excited to be headed to the Valley, the cornerback feels he should have been off the board sooner.
“I just feel the experience playing this position and just the league that I played in, the SEC, I feel like it’s just built me to play in the NFL,” Wilson said. “Also I feel like my athletic ability is better than anybody in this class, but only time will tell that and show that.”
Starting as a true freshman in 2017, Wilson was thrown into the fire early at Florida, recording 21 tackles and 10 passes defensed, the fourth most in the SEC that season.
The corner, who modeled his game after CB Darrelle Revis, was forced to grow up quickly, as he took over a leadership role at the age of 18 in a tough SEC conference.
“It … made me be able to make decisions that vets would have to make,” Wilson said. “It gave me a lot of experience early on. I just felt like it was a natural thing just moving through.”
Unfortunately for Wilson, his climb to being one of the best defensive backs in the conference took a massive blow in 2018, when Wilson suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the season, something he feels impacted his draft stock. It was the second time Wilson suffered an ACL injury, tearing his right one in high school.
He responded in 2019 with a three-interception and 23-tackle season. He also knocked down two passes. Wilson followed it with four pass deflections and 21 tackles the following season, spending time at safety.
Wilson’s 2020 campaign will be remembered mostly on a single play, however.
In the final game before the SEC Championship, the Gators and the LSU Tigers were all knotted up at 34-all. After appearing to force the Tigers to punt on fourth down, Wilson celebrated the stop with the launching of LSU tight end Kole Taylor’s shoe down the field. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct immediately.
The Tigers would go on to kick a field goal that would end up being the difference. The corner learned a big lesson that day.
“You just got to be in control of your emotions at all times and make sure you’re doing the right things, but also I learned that silly mistakes like that can affect not only just you but a lot of people around you,” Wilson said. “Just gotta stay away from doing things like that.”
Wilson rebounded with an impressive pro day that saw the corner run a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. He showed off his hops with a massive 44-inch vertical.
He now joins a cornerback room that could use Wilson’s attributes.
With the departure of Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick to free agency, Arizona went out this offseason and added former Tennessee Titans CB Malcolm Butler and re-signed Robert Alford to one-year deals. They slide in with Byron Murphy at the position, with Jace Whittaker also in the fold.
Depth concerns made addressing the position that much more important in the draft, with Butler and Alford in their 30s, the latter of which suffered season-ending injuries in Cardinals training camp the past two seasons.
“I know they’re in need of cornerbacks,” Wilson said. “I know there’s a lot of guys who are there already that are very talented and all the guys have a lot of experience. I feel like I can come in and make an impact and while doing that learn a lot from those guys who are already there.”