Today, I wanted to take a bit of a sharp turn on the average Friday article and have a little fun. Tuesday morning, future-Hall of Famer, JJ Watt announced that he will be retiring following the 2022 season. Obviously, it’s well-known that JJ starred at Defensive End for the Wisconsin Badgers before he was drafted to the Houston Texans in 2011 and went on to become one of the best Defensive Linemen in the game. Given Watt’s Wisconsin roots, it’s no surprise that fans of the Green Bay Packers wish he played in Green and Gold.
Watt was drafted 11th overall by the Texans in 2011, just a few months after the Packers hoisted the Lombardi trophy winning Super Bowl XLV. Once I saw the news of Watt’s retirement, I couldn’t help but think that for as great of a career as he had, he never got closer than the 2nd round of the playoffs. Watt, was of course too high for the Packers to draft themselves as they held pick 32 in 2011. But what if the Packers shot for the stars and went after Watt?
The 2011 Draft
For the Super Bowl-winning Packers, the 2011 Draft was largely forgettable except for the guy holding the helmet above, Randall Cobb. Cobb was drafted in the 2nd round while the Packers used their first pick at 32 on OT Derek Sherrod. This was seen as a possible steal at first, but Sherrod struggled to catch on until a severe leg injury basically derailed his entire career. The third-round pick was RB Alex Green who also struggled to catch on before injuries essentially ended his time in Green Bay.
So, what if the Packers took a shot at trading up for JJ Watt?
On draft day, 2011, Jacksonville traded up in the 1st round with Washington to acquire the 10th overall pick. They traded the 16th pick as well as a 2nd round pick to get there. Let’s give a hypothetical trade for the Packers. Let’s say the Packers trade 32nd overall (Derek Sherrod), 96th overall (Alex Green), and then 2011’s 1st round pick (Nick Perry). I hesitate to trade the Nick Perry pick, but let’s be honest, he was largely forgettable except for one season. Also, I figure if Ted Thompson really wanted him, he could probably trade the Jerel Worthy and Jerron McMillian 2nd and 4th round picks for Perry early in the second round.
The Packers then nab JJ Watt with the 10th overall pick. Wisconsin goes absolutely insane, and #99 Packers jerseys fly off the shelves before Watt even plays a single game.
Outside of BJ Raji, the defensive line production of the Packers in 2011 was largely forgettable. But add on JJ Watt alongside pass rushers like Clay Matthews, and suddenly the Packers defense is a lot scarier. Watt and Matthews absolutely cause fits for opposing offensive lines as double-teaming Watt, could leave Matthews open and vice versa. Watt’s 5.5 sacks in 2011, and Matthews’ 6 sacks possibly grows much larger with this advantage. The 2011/2012 Packers seemed to mainly win games by outscoring their opponents and not necessarily shutting down opposing offenses. Add JJ Watt to the mix for an added pass-rush and stouter run-defense, and suddenly this might be a recipe for a Super Bowl repeat.
Watt leads a Packers defensive take-over
All of a sudden, a strong Packers offense lead by Aaron Rodgers, is complimented by a Packers defense consisting of JJ Watt, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson.
In 2012, Watt was voted Defensive Player of the Year on the Texans when he finished the season with 20.5 sacks and 39 tackles for loss. Clay Matthews also had an All-Pro season with 13 sacks, 15 tackles for loss. As they possibly give up sacks to each other, their totals possibly lower a little bit, but 2012 looks like a big year for both.
When the Packers met San Francisco in the Division playoffs in 2013 they were completely taken apart by Colin Kaepernick‘s athleticism and part of the blame was placed on an average defensive line. Again, suddenly adding JJ Watt to the mix possibly makes a difference. Add the Watt threat to the defensive line and other, more athletic defensive players are possibly freed to stop Kaepernick.
JJ Watt continued Defensive dominance in his next three years in the league. Call me crazy, or call me a homer, but I believe that there’s a legitimate chance the Packers are boasting 2-3 more Super Bowl wins in the 2010-2015 span with JJ Watt leading the Packers defense.
After this five-year span, the Packers luck and JJ Watt’s injury luck started to take alternating turns in reality so it’s hard to predict, but there’s a chance 2020 may have been a better season for both had Watt been present.
An All-time Great
Take a look at the picture above and imagine Watt in a Packers polo with those other Lambeau greats. I can tell you this much, Packer history would be much richer with Watt amongst the names of those to wear the uniform.
Since now the only time that will be a reality is when I play Madden and force a blockbuster trade, we can only enjoy the fact that a Wisconsin Badger will soon be heading into the Hall of Fame.
JJ Watt was an all-around good guy. As great of a Texan and Cardinal he made, he would’ve made an outstanding Packer and the NFL world is lucky to have had him. Wisconsin is definitely proud to call him their own.
Congratulations JJ Watt on an outstanding career. We would’ve loved you as a Packer, but we’ll still love you for everything you did on and off the field. But it’s not too late to at least sign a one-day deal as a Packer to retire for the heck of it, is it?
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.