Name: T.J. Watt
Position: Edge Rusher/ ILB
Height: 6 foot 4
Games Watched: 2016 – LSU, Michigan State, Iowa
2016: First Team All-American (ESPN, SI)
2016: Second Team All-American (AP, CBS, Fox)
2016: Consensus First Team All-Big Ten
2016: Academic All-Big Ten
2015: Academic All-Big Ten
Watt was redshirted in 2013 and did not play in 2014 due to injury. Watt played in all 13 games in 2015 but was limited to a back up role.
Watt’s only season as a starter was in 2016, as a Junior. He compiled 63 total tackles, 15.5 TFL, 11.5 Sacks, 2 FF, 13 QB hurries, 1 INT and 4 PBs.
TJ Watt played predominantly as an edge rusher at the collegiate level. While he put together some impressive tape in his lone season as a starter – I believe he projects best as a 4-3 ILB or 4-3 Strong Side OLB, however, he has the intangibles to play Outside in a 3-4. Watt has very good length and size for the LB position. He is a highly intelligent football player with great recognition skills as he quickly diagnoses plays. Once Watt has diagnosed what is going on, he doesn’t get caught up in traffic and against the run is most effective when taking on blocks. He makes solid contact and uses his long arms and hands to disengage blockers quickly before getting to the play without hesitation. He is a strong tackler who delivers a solid shot and lets ball carriers feel his presence when tackling. Watt is a sure tackler and never fails to wrap up.
As an edge rusher, Watt wins with tremendous hand play and his favourite push-pull technique. He strikes fast and early to create leverage and uses his arm extension to allow him to upset opponents balance with a push-pull technique. His fast hands are his greatest asset and he is constantly searching for the ball. Watt takes good angles in pursuit and has a tremendous motor – not stopping until the whistle is blown. While his 40 time was better than expected, he is highly competitive and runs at full speed, always looking to be involved wherever he is on the field. This part of his game add special teams value.
Watt backed up his tape at the combine and showed he is functional in space. He could be a good spy as he was predominantly used in zone coverage at Wisconsin where he showed he can read the QBs eyes well, and is active in passing lanes. Watt is extremely coachable and has outstanding character – teams will wonder whether his one year as a starter is a blessing or a curse – whichever team picks Watt could be getting him at a launch point in his career and at a bargain price due to the lack of available tape.
Watt is not an elite athlete and relies too much on hand work his push-pull when rushing the edge. This is something that could turn him into a one-trick pony and while it may defeat RBs and TEs, could lead to him getting swallowed up by quality Offensive Tackles. He is not an overly twiched up athlete and lacks the necessary acceleration to cover speed-to-power. He can also be a bit over aggressive at times when rushing the passer and can lead to him breaking contain.
Watt has a slender build for a DE and if he wants to be an edge rusher as a 3-4 OLB will need to fill out his frame and add power in his base, in order to hold the point of attack at the next level. Watt’s limited experience, having only started one season in Wisconsin, is also something that could worry teams.
TJ Watt’s lack of elite athleticism and his limited pass rush arsenal could lead to him being a much better blitzer as an ILB than DE or 3-4 OLB. Some may argue he could play 4-3 weak side DE, but I believe he would be best suited standing up as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 ILB/ 4-3 Strong Side OLB. Watt was a good pass rusher and has some of the intangibles scouts look for, but he will need to add variety and polish if he wants to excel at the NFL level.
While he may not have the athletic ceiling of others in this Draft class, Watt has a strong football IQ, a motor that doesn’t stop and adds excellent value with his hands. He’s not flashy but he gets the job done and still had a tonne of room to grow.
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