Ahead of the Curve: Linebacker Eric Wilson

Ahead Of The Curve is a weekly series of fantasy football articles here to help IDP owners gain that winning edge. From general advice to standard information, Ahead Of The Curve is an insightful and take-action series every week for those die-hard IDP owners. And certainly will become one of your go-to sources for everything on the defensive side of the ball for your fantasy football lifestyle.


Trends And Patterns

Whenever anyone starts doing anything for any significant length of time, the person accruing volume will notice trends and patterns simply via the process of repetition.  Prior to their start, the person may have preconceived notions as to what type of trends and patterns should be expected.  The person may also have a veteran inform them of what trends and patterns they should expect while they accrue their volume and why presenting data and personal anecdotes for why these trends and patterns are likely to appear. The new person will use their critical thinking skills and question how likely any expected trends and patterns truly are to appear, and they will form their own opinions as they accrue their volume and see results with their own eyes.  Once enough volume has been reached, the widely accepted trends and patterns that were questions become verified to the person accruing the volume as they are witnessing them in real-time.  Once verified the trends and patterns are accepted as true.  However, a new kid may arrive on the block who is just starting to begin their volume and our original person has now become the veteran who informs the kid about the widely accepted trends and patterns.  The kid then critically thinks and questions the trends and patterns, and this cycle starts repeating, over and over again.

This long-winded paragraph can be applied to anything, and since you’re on a fantasy football website reading an article about Eric Wilson you can probably figure out where this article is going.  There are trends and patterns within Wilson’s career that have been seen before and those that have not accrued experience will continue to question his value and production.  This article is your veteran and the reader is the new kid on the block.  We have seen this happen before.  These trends and patterns are known.  Act upon this information.

Eric Wilson was draft-eligible in 2017 and was widely rated outside the top 20 outside linebackers in his draft class. A quick deep dive into his pre-draft profiles found the highest evaluation of his skill as a potential 5th rounder who could be a rotational player for multiple years. No team saw him as more than a bit player, including the Minnesota Vikings who signed him as a free agent after he went undrafted.  During Wilson’s rookie year he was solely a special teams player seeing zero defensive snaps, but he still stood out making 8 tackles and forcing 1 fumble. In 2018, Wilson’s role grew to start the season earning him 2-3 defense snaps per game up until Week 7 when the Pro Bowler in front of him Anthony Barr got injured. Wilson stepped in and managed 2 QB hits, 1 TFL, and 13 combined tackles in his two weeks as the starter and then went back to his reserve role 2 weeks later once Barr returned.   Wilson started once more at the end of the season when Eric Kendricks got hurt, and he continued to perform well netting an average of 9.5 combined tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1.5 QB hits over his two starts in Weeks 16 and 17.  For 2019, it was the same story. Wilson filled in as an injury replacement making 5 sporadic spot starts/in-game injury fill-ins where he saw a snap count over 40%.  Wilson continued to perform, averaging 8.8 combined tackles, 1.0 TFL, and 0.8 QB hits in those 5 games and looking deeper at the numbers his snap percentage was over 50% for only 3 of those games.  Wilson has performed in truly every opportunity he was given.

In 2020, Wilson was still slated to be a top reserve behind Anthony Barr, but Barr got injured early in Week 2 and now he was going to be given a chance to perform for an entire season.  Eric Wilson showed up again like he always has, and performed.  Averages of 7.6 tackles per game, 0.5 TFLs, 0.6 QB hits stayed in line with his career numbers, and then Wilson added new tricks like his 3 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble proving he can wreak havoc in a multitude of ways. Every single step of the way, Wilson has produced when he’s on the field.

The Vikings have a financial decision to make this offseason, continue paying the older, more expensive Anthony Barr or pay the younger, cheaper Eric Wilson.  It’s a decision that typically favors the cheaper options, but in the case of Wilson, there are doubters who feel Barr is clearly without the cost as an upgrade.

This brings us back to the opening paragraph. At what point will we stop questioning Eric Wilson’s ability to perform due to his draft grade, and start accepting his ability to perform due to his on-field performance.  This trend and pattern of doubting unheralded players who have performed on the field for far too long past their due are common.  The discounting of late-round and undrafted players until they perform well for multiple years is a trend and pattern.  It’s one we see every year.  It’s one that’s often wrong.  It’s one to take advantage of.

We play this game in order to accumulate stat lines, and Eric Wilson produces one when on the field.  The apprehension towards giving him high value stems from his draft stock and the uncertainty that Minnesota will cut Barr.  The reality is that should Minnesota keep Barr, Wilson will flourish elsewhere.  Wilson’s production is independent of whether his uniform says Vikings or not, when he is on the field he performs.  When a player performs they should be in fantasy starting lineups.  Accepting that Eric Wilson will be on a field playing football means accepting that Eric Wilson should be in fantasy starting lineups.  Take advantage of this trend and pattern.  Use the knowledge that unheralded players from every draft class appear and produce.  Buy into this trend and pattern before others.  Turn a draft day profit that will have an immediate impact on your fantasy lineup.  Be the veteran, not the kid.  Use the volume you’ve accrued playing this game to win.  Accept the trends and patterns, and win.

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