I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 31st-ranked player: cornerback Josh Wilson.
To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.
Total Score: 47/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 49/100
Teams he is starter: 5 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 29 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +4
Alongside Javier Arenas, Wilson is another free-agent addition made by the Falcons this offseason to bolster their cornerback depth. Like Arenas, Wilson will be competing with incumbent Robert McClain for the team’s nickel cornerback position.
What Wilson brings to the table more so than the other is experience and toughness. While he’s never been blessed with ideal size, Wilson has always been the type of corner that played with a chip on his shoulder to best compensate. Unfortunately, at age 29 Wilson has begun to show the signs of slowing down. He had an abysmal performance last season against the San Francisco 49ers where he was repeatedly torched by Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.
Wilson served as a starter for the Washington Redskins the past three seasons, but was also tasked with playing in the slot in the nickel last season for the first time as a Redskin. For his efforts, Wilson was one of the lowest-graded slot corners according to premium website Pro Football Focus, allowing 75 percent of passes against him completed, 8.6 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 114.8 in the slot. Fortunately for him, McClain did not fare any better in Atlanta last year: allowing 78.4 percent completions, 11.1 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 132.4. So there is certainly room for improvement as far as the Falcons nickel spot goes, which Wilson’s experience could earn him.
Unfortunately, Wilson’s age may hurt his chances of making the roster given that McClain and Arenas, both of whom are 26, at least project better long-term. All three players are working on one-year contracts, but there is at least a lot greater potential that McClain or Arenas could earn new deals next year due to their youth. At this point Wilson may only have two or three more years left of peak production, which will be likely be only as a nickel cornerback.
But helping Wilson is his extensive experience playing on the outside, where the Falcons are hopeful that second-year players Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford can fill. While Trufant is coming off a strong rookie campaign, Alford had his fair share of ups and downs and is far from a proven commodity. If Alford gets off to a slow start this summer, it may give Wilson added opportunity to prove his merit.
Either way, McClain’s time in Atlanta should make his roster spot relatively safe even if he manages to lose the nickel jobs. Thus Wilson will likely be competing directly with Arenas for what may be only a single roster spot. If he can hold off Father Time for another summer, then the odds are good that Wilson can stick in Atlanta for at least one season.