The final 2017 NFL Draft order has been set, meaning experts from around the NFL media realm are taking their first guesses at who each team will pick in the first round. NFL Analyst Daniel Jeremiah released a mock draft of the final ten picks of the first round, and has the Green Bay Packers selecting Wisconsin’s own T.J. Watt.
The Badger linebacker is the third Watt brother to make it to the NFL, along with three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. and Chargers fullback Derek. Like J.J., T.J. arrived as a tight end at Wisconsin and was redshirted for the 2013 season. He would miss the next season with a right knee injury, and sustain a left knee injury in 2015 spring practice as well. However, he returned in a reserve role after surgery, totaling eight tackles (1.5 for loss) in 13 games. The 2016 season was a breakout campaign for Watt, as he attained second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors with 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks in his junior campaign.
Expert opinions on Watt vary:
ESPN’s Mel Kiper omitted Watt from a countdown of his top linebacker prospects, but the position is widely regarded as one of the deepest among the 2017 NFL Draft Class. He also said in a teleconference last month that “you know what you’re getting there,” in regards to the quality of Wisconsin draft prospects along the offensive and defensive fronts.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein believes Watt’s technique and production in only one full season as a starter are major pros. Other skills highlighted included his coverage, quickness to cutback lanes and tackling ability. The major Drawback of Watt’s game by Zierlein’s assessment was a lack of explosiveness, which makes him a less-than-ideal pass rusher. Zierlein also quoted one AFC Scout saying the following about Watt’s draft prospects:
“He looked a lot stronger and a lot more confident on tape this year. He needs to get bigger, but he’s already a strong guy. I can see him standing or playing base end for a 4-3 team. He’s going to keep getting better,” said the scout from a Midwest AFC team.
WalterFootball.com also ranked Watt as their number three inside linebacker, and number seven ranked 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in the class. Interestingly, WalterFootball.com claims Watt has good edge rushing ability and projects as a perfect outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
With the Packers possibly losing Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones in free agency, the Packers may be in the market for some linebacker depth. The only question is whether Watt is the right fit to replace any of the aforementioned as an outside rusher in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. The tape shows me a technically sound linebacker without the tremendous explosiveness of a Clay Matthews. Granted, that is a pretty high bar for comparison, but if he is not jumping off the college tape, he most likely will not look any faster at the NFL level.
He projects as an inside linebacker compliment to Blake Martinez, who totaled 69 combined tackles, a sack and an interception in his rookie campaign for the Packers.
What are your thoughts on T.J. Watt? Do you believe he can be half as dominant as J.J.? Is he a good fit for the Packers? Let me know in the comments below.