Position: edge defender
Weight: 243 pounds
School: Wisconsin Badgers
The final chapter of T.J. Watt’s career at Wisconsin ended with an exclamation point as the redshirt junior helped lead the Badgers to an 11-2 record and Big Ten Championship Game appearance. Watt was the star of one of the most dominant defenses in the country, piling up 11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, both team highs, and one interception that he returned for a touchdowns. This stellar season has put Watt in the talk of being selected in the first round come draft day in late April. However, things always weren’t so bright and shiny for the now revered prospect.
The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native initially came into the program in 2013 as a tight end, but promptly switched over to the defensive side of the ball in the summer of 2015 before his redshirt sophomore season. Watt had to overcome three significant injuries in consecutive years before he even could get on the field in 2015. After overcoming the series of injuries however, he put together one of the most memorable seasons by an individual defensive player at Wisconsin since his brother J.J. Watt roamed the Camp Randall Stadium sidelines in 2010.
- Has the ideal size and length to play on the edge.
- Unique ability to keep blockers off balance with variety of finesse moves.
- Keeps eyes on ball at all times, high awareness.
- Good agility.
- Quick off the ball, creates leverage well vs blockers.
- Has shown ability to play inside gaps as well as off tackles.
- Great football IQ, quick study.
- Finishes plays.
- Played well in biggest games.
- Hasn’t shown real strong power moves.
- Lacks elite acceleration.
- Needs to control movement better through offensive line redirection.
- Shown to be injury-prone (three significant muscle injuries since the beginning of college career).
- Will need to add creativity vs NFL caliber tackles.
- Lack of experience at outside linebacker/Edge Rusher position.
NFL Comparison: Chandler Jones
Teams With Need at Position: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins
Projection: possible late first round
Watt is an intriguing prospect. Obviously, there is a direct connection to his brother, but Watt actually does follow a similar path to J.J. Both came out of hight school as tight ends before flipping over to the defensive side of the ball. And the two also put up big numbers playing on the edge even with little experience playing the position.
Time will tell, however. Watt’s injury history is a red flag to many general managers and coaching staff. Albeit something like that is uncontrollable from Watt’s perspective, but it could incite caution amongst some teams.
However, teams may be able to look past his recent injury history based on the sheer fact of the production he could bring at a very key position. His potential is unlimited, and if put in the right system with the right coaching, he could flourish into a possible star. Given the high level of success but with relatively small sample size, the risk could be worth the reward when it comes to drafting Watt
In summary, T.J. Watt has the ability to make an NFL team very happy for the coming years. Whether it’s in the first or second round, the star outside linebacker is on track to make a name for himself, and outside of his older brother’s shadow.