T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
6-4, 252 lb.
Attended Pewaukee (WI) HS
Rated as a three-star recruit by various scouting/recruiting services
Honorable mention All-State First Team All-Conference as a quarterback, linebacker and punter
Averaged over 18 yards per catch on 27 receptions as a junior tight end
Started his career at Wisconsin as a tight end, moved to linebacker for the 2015 season
Both of his brothers - Derek and Justin James - play in the NFL
2016 1st Team All-America (ESPN, SI)
2016 2nd Team All-America (numerous sites)
2016 1st Team All-B1G (coaches, media)
Led the Badgers with 11.5 sacks (5th all-time) and 15.5 tackles for a loss in 2016
Arms: 33 1/8"
Bench Press (225 lb): 21 reps
40-yd dash: 4.69 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37"
Broad Jump: 10-8
3-cone drill: 6.79 seconds
Short Shuttle: 4.13 seconds
60-yard shuttle: 11.20 seconds
When T.J., the youngest of three talented Watt brothers, finished his senior season of high school, little did he know it would be the last football he would play until the fall of 2015. He redshirted upon his arrival at Wisconsin and then tore his ACL in 2014. So, in 2015, he was recovering from a torn ACL while also learning a new position - outside linebacker.
A lot of people ask me if Watt's success in 2016 was a surprise. It was considering that Watt had all of eight tackles and no sacks heading into his final year. But, two things are important to note - one he was finally healthy and two, he was blessed with some fantastic genes and a tremendous work ethic. So, as he entered the 2016 season, he was sort of a calculated question mark, if you will. There were going to be questions about what he could do when fully healthy, but he had some experience under his belt.
All he did was become one of the top edge players in this draft class, registering 11.5 sacks and numerous huge plays, including a big stop on LSU star running back Leonard Fournette in the 2016 opener at Lambeau Field. His pick six against Purdue later in the season had a very familiar look to any Texan fan, kind of like we'd seen that play once before.
"He's so similar to me but he's farther along than I was at that point in the process."
--J.J. Watt on his brother T.J
"He has a similar game to Clay (Packers star Clay Matthews) - an edge who can drop in coverage and had a motor that just won't stop.
--NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock
What to like
-- HUGE hands and he knows exactly how to use them
-- If he gets his paws on you, he can shock and shed, disengage quickly
-- Excellent feel for the pass rush, very instinctive
-- Combination of speed and power
-- Possesses a variety of techniques to get to the quarterback
-- More athletic than many first thought he was
-- Drops into coverage with purpose, even though he wants to rush (and I don't blame him)
-- Chess piece, Wisconsin coaching staff moved him on 3rd down a bunch
-- Fullbacks looking to kick him out on power are going to get hammered, keeps his outside shoulder free
What needs some work
-- Would like to see him rush half a man and not get squared up on a lineman on his pass rush
-- Wins more with technique than twitch and jaw dropping explosiveness
-- Must set edge with ferocity, fight through tight end's outside shoulder
-- Stop backpedaling on his drop in coverage - turn hips and go
Watt was the perfect complement to Badgers three-year starter Vince Biegel in 2016. Biegel is going to drafted, perhaps late day two, and he can play. I remember watching that first game against LSU and kept seeing Biegel running up on plays already made by No. 42. It took me a second to realize that No. 42 was T.J. Watt.
He's a much better athlete than most people realize and his best football is certainly ahead of him. He's a football lifer and that's all he ever wants to talk about or pay attention to, which is not typical. It's odd to watch him and see flashes of the same things that his older brother does, but don't get it twisted, T.J. is his own guy and a different player altogether. He's a true 3-4 outside linebacker that some teams have inquired about using at inside linebacker. If he's able to move inside and be a true combination inside/outside linebacker that can be used in a multitude of schemes, he's going be in this league for a long time.
On one hand, it would appear that the Texans have enough pass rush acumen and talent that they would want to allocate resources to another position. But, if T.J. can learn to play some inside linebacker, rush with the crew on third down and play special teams, all the while growing as a disruptive defender, he could be a valuable asset for an already stout defense.
Would I do it? Well, I told Drew Dougherty back in December that I'd absolutely think about it and told him why. It made sense then and it does still today. Think about it...rushing the quarterback, T.J., Jadeveon Clowney, J.J and Whitney Mercilus?
Yeah, that's cool.
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