The last and maybe most significant potential returning piece for NC State’s defense is Payton Wilson, who has been weighing his NFL Draft prospects. According to a report from Joe Giglio this afternoon, Wilson is leaning toward a return to college.
Wilson missed the majority of the 2021 season after suffering a should injury against Mississippi State that required surgery. Wilson also injured his shoulders at the tail end of the 2020 season, causing him to miss the Gator Bowl.
As he told the Fayetteville Observer’s David Thompson last month, those injuries are definitely a factor in his decision-making process—as they should be. In addition to the shoulder problems, he’s also endured two ACL injuries, the first of which happened in high school.
Given all that, nobody would fault him for wanting to go ahead with his NFL shot now. But he could definitely make himself some money with a successful, injury-free 2022 season at NC State. He also isn’t likely to be able to return to football activities until March, according to the Fayetteville Observer article, which might make it tougher for him to put his best foot forward at the NFL Combine in April.
If he is indeed staying in school, that’s a frightening prospect for the rest of the ACC.