J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin Badgers
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
J.J. Watt has been working on his burst as he prepares for the NFL Scouting Combine. In-game, when he got out of his stance quickly, he was a nightmare to block. The fact that he's focusing on this area of his game to get off the ball even quicker is promising. He's a high motor guy that plays tough and with aggression through the fourth quarter.
He brings great size to the position and is very athletic for a lineman his size. He uses his hands well and has a good arsenal of moves to get by defenders. He's effective as an edge rusher for a player of his size, but he also knows how to use his hands to beat his man to the inside. He has long arms to bat down passes and even came away with three blocked kicks his junior season. Watt can also change direction well, which helps him when chasing down ball carriers or shifty quarterbacks around the line of scrimmage.
Watt could get overpowered by bigger linemen at the next level, so hitting the weight room to add strength to his frame may be a focus his first offseason as a professional athlete. He won't be pushed around easily, but adding strength will be important, especially if he is put at end in a 3-4 alignment and needs to hold the edge.
He can, at times, be fooled on option plays. Against Ohio State, Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor was able to get to the outside for big gains when Watt went inside or over-pursued on his pass rush. He was also able to get to or pressure Pryor on several occasions in the Badgers' big win over the then-top ranked Buckeyes last season.
Watt is very versatile as a defensive lineman. He could play the end spot in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment. He would excel as a 4-3 end where he'd face more one-on-one matchups, but he's also a great fit as a 3-4 end with his big frame and pass rushing ability. He's been mentioned as a possible 3-4 outside linebacker prospect, but I don't expect to see him in that role in the NFL.
Watt ended his 2010 season with 62 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and three blocked kicks. He won the 2010 Lott Trophy, which is given to the defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. IMPACT stands for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.
Potential NFL Team, Round
Watt's NFL home has been all over the board leading into the Combine. Some have him as a top ten pick, while others do not have him in the first round at all. What he has going for him is great size and athletic ability that allows him to work well as a defensive end in either a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment.
Watt has been mentioned as a possibility for the Cleveland Browns with the 6th pick where he'd play end as they transition back to a 4-3 defense. Watt could also be an attractive option for the San Francisco 49ers or Tennessee Titans in the top 10. He has also been mentioned as a possible target of the Dallas Cowboys at #9, but Dallas badly needs offensive line and secondary help and could go that way instead.
More towards the middle of the first (where I expect him to be selected) and bottom of the round, teams that might be interested include the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. The Green Bay Packers could also look his way with the last pick of the round if he's still available. Again, Watt is versatile in terms of his ability to play in either 4-3 or 3-4 alignments, so his draft position is a hard one to project. He's expected to generate some buzz at the Combine and leading up to the draft, at which point his potential NFL suitors could become clearer.
Danny Hobrock, a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB is the editor of our college football content. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
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