You would not be blamed if you had no idea what went on this season between the Tennessee Titans and their 2020 first-round pick, offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson. Wilson played in exactly one game. When another team's first-round pick does so little in their rookie season, they drop completely off the radar for anyone not a fan of that team. But Wilson's story is a strange one, and he has set down a path that may result in the label of one of the biggest draft busts of all time.
We'll start at the end then work our way there from the beginning. Last night, Wilson tweeted out that he was done with football as a Titan and had no further comments. This comes one week after GM Jon Robinson, the man who selected Wilson, said Wilson had to decide if he wanted to do what it takes to play professional football. Apparently not, or at least not in Tennessee.
There have been a lot of first-round flame-outs in NFL history. Whether it's due to injury or just plain poor play, plenty of players have shown after one year they don't have what it takes. It is rare, however, that a player announces he is done playing football for the team that drafted him less than one year ago for reasons unrelated to catastrophic injury. How did we get here?
Wilson was a fast-riser ahead of last April's NFL Draft. He was named second-team All-SEC as a redshirt sophomore in 2019 and promptly entered his name into the draft. The big draw for Wilson was his potential as a gigantic 6-foot-7, 350-pound tackle who needed some work in pass protection but could enter the league as an effective run blocker from Day 1 due to the aforementioned size. More relevant to our interests here, not a single one of the five draft profiles I found mentioned any potential off-the-field issues, reasons to suspect that Wilson may not be able to get on the football field due to decision-making off it.
Apparently he was saving that for the big leagues. Wilson was not necessarily expected to go in the first round, but it wasn't a huge shock when the Titans picked him No. 30 overall. His potential was obvious and adding another road-paver to help Derrick Henry aligns with the Titans' whole program under Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel.
Then the troubles began. The Titans placed Wilson on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late July, weeks before teams would be permitted to start holding practices ahead of the 2020 season. He was also the only rookie not under contract at the time. Wilson finally signed his contract in early August and was able to participate with the team when everything got going later in the month.
He was then placed on the COVID list again in early September. This might have been related to the fact that Wilson was caught attending a Tennessee State party when police came to break up the gathering. He reportedly considered jumping from a second-story balcony to avoid getting caught, but decided against it.
While still on the COVID list, Wilson was charged with a DUI after crashing his car. A witness said Wilson crashed because he was doing donuts in the middle of an intersection. His blood alcohol level was recorded at .107 percent, above the legal limit of .08 percent. So while away from the team, likely due to the fact that he went to a college party, Wilson had some drinks and decided to do donuts in the middle of the street before crashing his car and getting arrested. It is worth noting all this happened before Week 1 of the 2020 season.
Ten weeks then pass by without incident. Wilson did not play a single snap through those first 10 games. He was finally put in during Week 11 as a part of the field-goal protection unit and was promptly knocked on his ass. Wilson lasted one more week before he was suspended for the team's Week 13 matchup against the Browns for a violation of club rules. One week later, he was placed on the non-football injury/illness list due to "personal issues."
Thus, we come to the end of the 2020 season. Wilson has basically been MIA from the team due to his self-inflicted wounds for almost the entirety of the season. When Vrabel was asked about Wilson's disastrous season, he gave an answer that was extremely telling, even if lacking in details.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel often mulls his words before delivering them. Even after a long pause, he had nothing substantial to say about 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson’s future with the team. “I can’t comment on Isaiah,” Vrabel said. “I wouldn’t even begin to be able to eloquently have an answer for you.”
Now Wilson says he's done with Titans football and it doesn't seem like his GM nor his coach are going to step up to the plate on his behalf. It's a truly bizarre situation. Unless Wilson wakes up tomorrow a changed man, it seems like a 2020 first-round pick might be out of the league entirely after less than 12 months. This isn't a situation that another team looks at and believes they could be the ones to remedy the issues at hand. Wilson couldn't get on the field and sabotaged any chance he had of getting off the bench with his decision-making outside the building.
Definitely one of the stranger NFL draft stories of all time. It would be good for both player and team if Wilson figured things out, but that doesn't seem likely.