To some, it was a surprise when Isaiah Wilson announced along with Andrew Thomas that he would be skipping Georgia's bowl game against Baylor and preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Thomas had been seen as a first-round pick for well over a year and had manned the left tackle spot for Georgia for the past two seasons. Wilson though had been playing on the right side of the line and did not have the same national reputation as Thomas.
Wilson has repeatedly stated that the reason he decided to skip out on the bowl game was that he wanted to spend time with his family in New York before going off to train for the 2020 NFL Draft.
At the 2020 NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, Wilson admitted that it wasn't an easy decision for him to leave Athens. But he added that his matchups against elite talent let him know he was good enough to succeed at the next level.
"I was fairing well against first-round talent, and touted draft picks. Guys I know that have years on me," Wilson said. That's when I decided that I think that I'm good enough."
At the beginning of the process, most mock draft experts saw Wilson as third-round pick. He obviously had a lot of tools to intrigue teams, but he was still less polished than the likes of Thomas, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs and Alabama's Jedrick Willis.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. even went as far to say that Wilson outright should've gone back to Georgia for another season.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected guard Michael Deiter with the No. 78 overall pick. He signed a four-year contract worth $3.9 million, with $985,000 of that guaranteed. That dollar amount alone would've validated Wilson's decision to leave Georgia early.
"It was for sure hard. I created a family there," Wilson said on leaving Georgia. "My teammates there are brothers, not just teammates and it was tough to decide I was going to leave my last year.
"I decided that I was ready to go to work and attack the next level of my life."
But as the draft process has progressed, Wilson appears to be moving out of that draft slot and potentially into a much more lucrative one. Both Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network and Dane Brugler of The Athletic stated that teams they've spoken with see Wilson as a first-round talent.
The reason for this is that the NFL draft and really any draft is because it's not so much about what you've done in college but rather what you could be doing in a few years for a team. And Wilson's biggest asset is that he still has gobs of potential.
Wilson is a rare athlete for someone of his size. He's listed at 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds. That seems massive but Wilson carries and moves with the weight very well. You can't coach size and Wilson certainly has that. If you were going to pick a Georgia offensive lineman to be the first one off the bus as a way to impress onlookers there's a real case to be made that Wilson would've been that one.
While he didn't have the resume of Thomas, it's not like he accomplished nothing in his time at Georgia. He started 24 games over the past two seasons for Georgia and was named Second-Team All-SEC in 2019. Had he returned in 2020, most would've viewed him as one of the best offensive tackles in the country as he would've slid over to Thomas' spot on the left side of Georgia's offensive line.
Wilson and Thomas both entered Georgia as members of the 2017 signing class. Thomas entered as the more polished player, which is why he started at right tackle in his freshman season while Wilson had to redshirt while he adjusted to the rigors of the college game.
But it's worth mentioning that Wilson came to Georgia as a higher-rated prospect. Wilson was the No. 16 overall prospect in the signing class while Thomas came in at No. 45. The recruiting experts saw the same thing NFL teams are seeing now. Wilson still has room to grow and develop as a football player, which is what is pushing his draft stock up.
In all likelihood Thomas is still going to be selected before Wilson will be in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it's becoming more evident that Wilson might not have to wait much longer to hear his name called on draft night.
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