Marvin Wilson didn't spend much time thinking about the 2021 NFL Draft when it concluded.
Wilson, a defensive tackle prospect from Florida State, expected a phone call at some point in the mid-to-late rounds on the final day of the draft. After recording 9.5 sacks and 100 tackles in four seasons with the Seminoles, Wilson was poised to crack an NFL roster, and he expected the opportunity to arrive via a phone call from an NFL GM.
The call never came.
"The draft didn't go as planned for me, personally," Wilson said in a recent interview on Best Podcast Available. "It was a roller coaster. Lots of ups and downs."
Once the draft concluded, however, Wilson was one of the most popular players being discussed in NFL front offices.
He fielded calls from several teams looking to add him as an undrafted free agent. So, in the hours following the final pick of the draft, the decision was his to select where he'd start his NFL career.
He picked Cleveland.
"Cleveland just seemed like the perfect situation for me," he said. "I'll have opportunities to make the team. That's all I need."
It's not hard to see Wilson's logic.
The Browns have eight defensive tackles currently on their roster and will likely use the bulk of training camp to determine the position's depth. Wilson, at 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds, certainly has the build and college resume to make a run at a roster spot. He's only 20, too, and has plenty of time to grow.
The competition will also include Andrew Billings, a five-year veteran who opted out of the 2020 season, 10-year veteran Malik Jackson, Jordan Elliott, Malik McDowell, Damion Square, Sheldon Day and 2021 fourth-round rookie Tommy Togiai.
None of those players started for the Browns last season — with the exception of Elliott, who made one start — which leaves the race for starting spots and depth roles wide open.
The prize? A chance to receive snaps between Pro Bowl edge rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney and play with a defense overhauled with some of the best defensive free agents of the 2021 market.
"From the defensive ends standpoint, the tackles and both the linebackers and (defensive backs), it just seemed like a great place for me to get where I can fit in," Wilson said.
Wilson began to position himself for an NFL opportunity as early as his high school days in Texas, where he attended Episcopal High School and built a five-star recruiting rank after amassing 71 tackles for a loss and 42.0 sacks before college. Wilson was the top-ranked player in all of Texas in 2017 and selected Florida State as his college destination after narrowing his choices to LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and South Florida.
In Tallahassee, Wilson ascended as one of the top linemen of the ACC in 2019, when he recorded five sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss and four passes defensed — all career-highs. The gaudy numbers led him to First Team All-ACC honors, and he opted to use his final year of college eligibility in 2020.
"There were a lot of things I needed to improve on to be ready as a pro," he said. "I just felt like there were a lot of things I needed to polish up on before I go to the next level."
Wilson's final season, which was shortened to six games due to COVID-19, resulted in 17 tackles, two tackles for a loss and one sack. Sure, the numbers weren't as gaudy as the totals from his three seasons, but he was still regarded as a player worthy of a draft pick.
The Athletic's Dane Burgler, for instance, ranked Wilson as the 11th best DT of the class, just three spots behind Togiai. Both Brugler and NFL.com's Lance Zierlein gave Wilson a fifth-round grade.
"He rushes with sheer force and leverage to push the pocket," Zierlein wrote, "but might be capable of more with additional schooling."
Now, that schooling will take place under defensive coordinator Joe Woods and defensive line coach Chris Kiffin in Cleveland. The Browns' aggressiveness to sign Wilson signifies they have a plan for him, and it appears as though Wilson will receive plenty of reps to meet it.
The scenario is ideal as it gets for an undrafted free agent, but both the Browns and Wilson are done thinking about how he got that label.
All that matters now is the work in front of them.
"They want me to go out and cause disruption and havoc in the backfield," he said, "so that's what coach is going to get out of me."