2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: TJ Watt
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 243
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I was a little surprised to see Watt put his name in the draft. Coming off an extremely productive junior season, I understand his stock may not get any higher than it is right now. Still, that stock seems to be closer to day three than day one, and his professional position is still a bit up in the air. Usually, those factors lead to another year in college, but Watt chose to join a class that is already top-heavy with edge rushers. With all that being said, let's have a look at the kind of player I truly think Watt can be.
Watt's statistics as a junior made him look like one of the top defensive prospects in the Big 10, but those can be deceiving. He may not have a lot in common with his oldest brother but he does have the same motor, and that is what resulted in a junior year that saw him garner both conference and national recognition. Watt doesn't stop until the whistle is blown. Also like his brother he has very good length and size, although for the linebacker position. While his build is a bit slender, he uses his long arms to his advantage. That leads me to his professional position. I honestly believe his best NFL position is as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. While he has primarily been an edge rusher at Wisconsin, he doesn't have the explosion to consistently win at the next level against tackles. He doesn't show the ability to get low and turn the corner, and outside of some occasional hand-fighting, he doesn't possess a variety of pass-rush techniques. The only times I have seen him truly look like an NFL player is blitzing from an inside-linebacker position. There, he converts speed to power well and even shows the ability to successfully execute stunts and twists.
Against the run, he is at his most effective when taking on blocks. He makes solid contact, extends his long arms well, and times his release precisely. He disengages naturally because of his active hands, and he is a strong tackler. He delivers a solid shot to ball carriers and never fails to wrap up. He also tends to take good angles in pursuit which is evident in the amount of tackles he is in on. He may not run a great 40-yard dash, but he plays at full speed and is highly competitive. Wherever the action is on the field, he wants to be involved. That quality will also come in handy on special teams units.
As I mentioned, I think he has what it takes to be a threat on blitzes, but that may be all he has to offer on passing downs. If they choose to occasionally rush him off the edge, he will give his best effort, and if he can't get home, he will get his hands in passing lanes. He could handle the responsibilities as a spy on the quarterback. He shows good awareness, and I could see him reading protections well and understanding where the quarterback is going to step up when lanes come open. He does drop into coverage a fair amount but very seldom is he responsible for a specific player. More often, he is in zone, and while he doesn't have the short-area quickness to get his hands on passes, he does read the quarterback's eyes well.
Overall, he is very coachable and has outstanding character. His work ethic is tireless and no matter where he is drafted, I can see him having success in the NFL. If he is truly going to fit better as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3, he is going to need time to develop the instincts at the position. Still, I don't see that being something that keeps him off the field. His stock is currently in the early parts of day three in my opinion, but if he exceeds expectations in his workouts, that could get him into the day-two range. I am also not ruling out the possibility of him showing a more advanced ability to rush the edge in those workouts. Those abilities just have shown up on tape. Still, the truth is we only have one year to evaluate him, and with what I have seen, a position-switch is his best chance at making it in the NFL.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Kyle Van Noy (New England Patriots)
- Motor runs constantly
- Highly competitive
- Good size and great arm length
- Reliable tackler
- Plays with keen awareness
- Takes on blocks as well as he sheds them
- High character and work ethic
- Slightly slender build
- Not an elite athlete
- One-trick pony rushing off the edge (May lead to a position swap)
- Limited experience
1)   Badgers linebacker T.J. Watt leaving early for NFL   - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel |
2)   Badgers football: Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt's lofty goals pay off with breakout season   - Wisconsin State Journal |
3)   Wisconsin's Watt the Third   - Sports Illustrated |
4)   TJ Watt Twitter|
5)   TJ Watt Instagram|