Rookie Profile: Payton Wilson

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Rookie Profile: Payton Wilson, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Welcome to the Rookie Profile: Payton Wilson, a linebacker out of NC State. He is from Hillsborough, NC, and was a 4-star recruit from Orange High School.

Wilson’s collegiate career began in 2019 with NC State. He appeared in 11 games and recorded 36 tackles, 33 assists, 5 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 3 passes defended. He followed that up as a sophomore in 2020 and appeared in 11 games. His production came out to 57 solo tackles, 51 assists, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception and 1 pass defended.

He appeared in only 2 games in 2021 and recorded minimal production before storming back with an excellent season in 2022. That season he played in 11 games and recorded 38 solo tackles, 44 assists, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 passes defended.

His final season in college saw him appear in 12 games for NC State. He once again put up monster numbers where he recorded 69 solo tackles, 69 assists, 17.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 3 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumbles recovered. After that season he declared for the 2024 NFL Draft where he put excellent testing numbers at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.


Payton Wilson

Draft Capital & Landing Spot

Draft Capital- Round 3 Pick 98

  • The Steelers invested heavily in Payton Wilson. A third-round selection and a top-100 pick is a solid sign that they believe he has a future in the NFL, and the Steelers are typically good evaluators of talent.
  • For every one pick the Steelers miss with, they hit on nine others so I am inclined to believe that this draft capital from the Steelers is indicative of a solid level of potential.

Landing Spot- Pittsburgh Steelers

  • The Steelers as I said previously, have an excellent track record with drafting and developing talent on both sides of the ball. I will land on the side of trusting their process and being in on Wilson as a solid defensive player.
  • Wilson was easily one of the best defensive players at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, so it’s easy to see why the Steelers thought he warranted a day-three pick. Overall, this draft capital and landing spot, paired with his performance at the NFL Combine indicates a strong possibility of a solid future in the NFL.

Team Depth Chart

Expected Role: Developmental Edge Rusher

Pittsburgh Steelers IDP Depth Chart

Depth Chart via Fantasy Pros

Fantasy Impact

Wilson’s stature and athleticism may elevate his position on some teams’ draft boards, yet his injury history could suppress his overall draft value. His fluidity in pursuit shines when he’s tracking downplays, making him more effective as a dynamic run-and-hit linebacker than as a stationary defender against direct blocks.

While he possesses the explosiveness to penetrate the backfield and secure tackles for loss, he sometimes lacks the temperament or physical strength to consistently hold his ground in run defense. Wilson often finds himself in proximity to the ball when he can roam freely, steering clear of congestion. His skills extend to third-down situations where he excels as a blitzer and demonstrates proficiency in both zone and man-to-man coverage.

Wilson’s potential to start early in his career is evident, but the fit within a specific defensive scheme and his medical evaluations will significantly influence his draft process. Wilson could be a fantasy contributor from day one, the only thing that remains a mystery is what level or ceiling he has for the future.

Check out our 2024 Rookie Rankings Page for a full breakdown of this rookie class.

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