2024 NFL Draft: Linebacker with no ACL gets taken in the third round


Payton Wilson was the fastest linebacker at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, but he lasted until the third-to-last pick of the third round in Friday’s NFL Draft, when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him No. 98 overall. It turns out one of the big reasons for Wilson’s unexpected slide is the fact he only has one ACL, according to NFL Media.

The NC State product entered the draft with an extensive history of knee injuries, but Ian Rapoport indicated on NFL Network Friday that “one of (Wilson’s) knees does not have an ACL” at all. This likely contributed to existing concerns regarding his durability, one year after Tulane running back Tyjae Spears fell to the third round of the draft amid reports he had only one ACL, leading many teams to believe he’d only be a one-contract player.

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This isn’t the first time the Steelers have taken such a gamble, however. When former Pittsburgh great Hines Ward was coming out of Georgia in 1998, medical personnel discovered he had grown up with only one ACL because of a childhood accident. The Steelers spent a third-round pick on Ward anyway, and the wide receiver went on to enjoy a 14-year career for the AFC North contenders, helping the franchise win two Super Bowls.

Wilson was an impact player for NC State when healthy, totaling more than 400 tackles in college as a three-down defender. He figures to compete for a sizable role alongside free-agent addition Patrick Queen, the former Baltimore Ravens star, as a rookie.

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