Elijah Wilkinson is yet another undrafted guy who could carve out a role on this Broncos team, who has a history of finding hidden gems from the college free agent ranks.
Wilkinson was signed as an UDFA out of UMass in 2017, where he spent the majority of his career playing right tackle.
Experience: 3rd year
Weight: 329 lbs
Brought into camp in 2017 as a long shot, Wilkinson brought value with his versatility as he showed ability at both guard and tackle. He missed the 53-man roster, but was brought onto the practice squad in 2017, and eventually was promoted to the active roster after injuries to Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson.
In 2018, he continued to showcase his versatility and made the 53-man roster seeing time at both guard and tackle in camp. That versatility would be called upon mid-way through the season as Wilkinson was thrown into the starting lineup at right guard after Matt Paradis went down with an injury in Houston.
As a result, Wilkinson played almost 50 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018 and started the final seven regular season games at right guard.
I asked Rich Scangarello if there’s a player that has surprised him in camp. He said Elijah Wilkinson, an undrafted linemen. Said he loves the way that Wilkinson works and that he’s shown tremendous progress while working with Mike Munchak.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) July 21, 2019
It was an up and down season, as a you might imagine for Wilkinson, but he certainly got valuable in-game experience during his trial by fire.
While he struggled in pass protection early on, giving up three sacks in his first three games, he was solid in the run game, and got into a bit more of a rhythm later into the season.
Solly had 7 total pressures against Denver, his highest on the year and nearly double his next highest total (4 in week 2 vs DET).— Oscar Aparicio (@BetterRivals) December 12, 2018
Great hands here to keep himself clean, then uses his athleticism to go right by Elijah Wilkinson. pic.twitter.com/SLfNu8CmT8
His tape overall from 2018 is about what you would expect from an undrafted/practice squad guy making his first entrance into the starting lineup, but there’s flashes, and he performed admirably for the situation he was put in. Wilkinson is still a young player with a lot of growth ahead of him.
Rich Scangarello on whether there are any players who have surprised him so far (in camp)
“I’ll say Elijah Wilkinson, the tackle that was here the day we got here. He was an undrafted free agent coming out of college, I believe. He was a lot heavier, he’s lost weight. He’s a very athletic and a great scheme fit. I just like the way he works out here. I think [Offensive Line Coach] Mike Munchak has done a great job honing out his skillset and really helping him develop. I think he is a good football player. I think he is a guy that we are very happy with up to this point.”
Wilkinson during OTAs
“Man, OTAs has been different. It’s just been crazy, man. I don’t think I’ve ever done that much situational work in OTAs since I’ve been in the NFL,” he said. “The fact that we’re getting that much of a jump on it, should really put us ahead when we’re in those situations [in the games], and we’re going to be able to hone in on our training since April and be able to get right through and know the signals they’re showing us.”
“Vic’s a pretty old school dude, so you know it’s going to be a grinder; it’s going to be tough, and I think that’s what we need. We need that toughness back. We need that Broncos football back. We need to get back to who we are.”
The fact that he earned an unsolicited shout-out from Rich Scangarello is a great sign, and I’m excited about Wilkinson’s growth potential under Mike Munchak. He is still just 24 years old and entering his third year, so he should continue to improve.
I expect him to easily make the roster as the swing tackle/sixth man on the offensive line as his versatility is a huge asset to the team.
I’m glad Denver drafted Risner and have Leary starting at the opposite guard spot as it gives Wilkinson another season to sit and develop, hopefully honing his skills to be able to step into a starting role next year for Leary, if he continues his current trajectory.