clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cardinals’ rookie Michael Wilson primed to start in wake of DeAndre Hopkins’ release

Arizona cut five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver on Friday

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Though the news did not come out as a complete shocker, the Arizona Cardinals announced that they have released star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday after spending the last three years with the team.

Hopkins’ future with the Cardinals was already in doubt since the end of 2022 when he decided not to play in the final two regular season games. Taking into consideration that he was not present during voluntary OTAs, the trade rumors swirling around media outlets since January, and his expressed interest in playing elsewhere over the last few months in podcast interviews, Hopkins’ playing days with Arizona was already over well before yesterday’s breaking news.

To replace Hopkins, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown assumes the role as the Cardinals’ No. 1 wide receiver. The player that could be the favorite to start opposite Brown split out wide is rookie third-round pick Michael Wilson.

In April, former NFL quarterback and current NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said “[Michael Wilson] is a first-round receiver from film” and even went on to say he is the fourth-best receiver of the 2023 NFL Draft. Simms had Florida States’ Zay Flowers, Ohio States’ Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Texas Christian’s Quentin Johnston ahead of Wilson but ultimately the Stanford product was the 13th wide receiver selected in the draft.

And even though he ran a poor 40-yard dash (4.58 seconds) during the Combine, Wilson had really good testing numbers in other drills such as the 10-yard split (1.5 seconds), vertical jump (37.5 inches), and led all receivers at the bench press with 23 reps.

He is an above average route runner with length, standing at 6-feet-2 inches tall and weighs 213 pounds. Wilson is the best blocker among the wide receivers of his class with incredible upper body strength that should translate to the NFL.

Wilson was also a standout in Mobile, Alabama at this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl with four catches for 76 receiving yards and a touchdown. He impressed heavily in his interview with Arizona. Cardinals’ quarterbacks coach Israel Woolfork coached in Mobile which gave him a head start in the evaluation of Wilson and their fifth-round quarterback selection Clayton Tune, who also played in the Senior Bowl.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here is what Cardinals’ general manager Monti Ossenfort had to say about the selection of Michael Wilson:

“Good size, good toughness, physical receiver,” Ossenfort said during the press conference following day 2 of the NFL Draft. “Another guy our scouts identified as having high football character.”

Some of Wilson’s accolades at Stanford includes being voted a two-time team captain, made the Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll four times, a two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention, and earned the 2021 Al Masters Award given to a Stanford player displaying the highest degree of leadership and respect of his teammates.

Of courses accolades will not win any player a starting job in the NFL but it speaks volumes about the kind of person Wilson is and the potential he has as a professional. However, that does not mitigate the durability concerns with the Cardinals’ rookie. Wilson carries an extensive injury history entering the NFL having missed 16 games over the last three years at Stanford. Through his five-year college football career, he only played one full season which was in 2019 when he hauled in 56 catches for 672 yards and five touchdowns.

In a press conference at the NFL Combine, Monti Ossenfort said that he would “put the medicals and interviews up above the on-field workouts” in importance when evaluating rookies at the combine. It is fair to say that the Cardinals’ general manager and staff are comfortable with the health of Wilson and fellow third-round pick Garrett Williams, who tore his ACL in October.

Injury concerns and long-speed questions aside, there is no denying Michael Wilson was a good football player at the collegiate level when healthy and a person that was well respected by his peers. He played primarily in the slot in college but has the intangibles to succeed as an outside wide receiver as he displayed in Mobile. With that said, Wilson is now in an excellent position to seize this opportunity to earn a starting job with the vacancy created after DeAndre Hopkins’ release. The future is now and starting Wilson, if the job is earned, would epitomize that.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Stanford at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images