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Scouting the NFL Draft: Wisconsin EDGE T.J. Watt

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    Scouting the NFL Draft: Wisconsin EDGE T.J. Watt
    Getty Images
    T.J. Watt of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes against Eric Olson of the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, Nov. 5, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

    T.J. Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
    Ht. 6'4½", Wt. 252, Arm: 33⅛", Hand: 11", Bench: 21
    40 yd: 4.69, 10 yd.: -, 3 Cone: 6.79, Vertical: 37", Broad: 10'8"

    T.J. Watt is the little brother of Houston Texans 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

    Like his big brother, the younger Watt went to Wisconsin as a tight end before converting to defense. The edge rusher started 14 games in 2016 and had 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the draft.

    "He's literally a coach's dream, as far as the hard work he's willing to put in to keep honing his craft constantly," Badgers assistant coach Tim Tibesar said. "And he does all the little things."

    The Cowboys have Watt on their list of prospects to make a pre-draft visit at The Star in Frisco. At 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, he would have to add some weight to be a defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme.

    Former NFL scout Chris Landry raved about his work at the NFL Scouting Combine.

    "Watt is an edge who can drop in coverage and has a motor that just won't stop. I can see him standing or playing base end for a 4-3 team. He's going to keep getting better," he said. "Watt rocked it at both the Combine and on pro day. [The] Wisconsin product was among the top performers at his position in the vertical leap, broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.20 seconds). Watt ran a 4.69 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and on pro day, he displayed a smooth, fluid reverse when stimulating pass coverage. Watt projects as an edge rusher in practically any lineup thanks to his frame and outstanding athleticism (94th percentile)."

    Not every scout is a fan of Watt, though.

    "T.J. Watt has some upside. He's probably a third [rounder] for us," one NFL scout said. "He reminds me of [Washington's Trent] Murphy. [Watt] is another better-players-than-athlete type. He has to be a 3-4 rush [linebacker]."

    Strengths (per Landry)
    • Uses his length and heavy hands to take on blocks, locking out to dictate the point of attack
    • Edge acceleration to threaten the corner
    • Natural balance and active feet to continue his momentum through contact
    • Attacks and disrupts the rhythm of blockers with his violence, rarely allowing himself to be locked up
    • Off-the-chart football instincts with an instant reactor. Senses what is about to happen and understands his surroundings
    • Field fast with the secondary quicks after shedding to string out plays
    • Fast angles working downhill as a blitzer, anticipating cracks in the foundation
    • Physical tackler and strikes through his target
    • Passionate competitor who brings the same energy each snap
    • Meticulous worker and football lifer with a true team-first mentality
    • NFL bloodlines
    • Highly productive 2016 season with a team-best 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks and returned his only career interception 17 yards for a touchdown - also played on special team coverages

    Weaknesses (per Pro Football Focus and draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki)
    • Light for the position though with the frame to pack it on
    • Much of his production came unblocked or versus tight ends
    • Only one season of production. Played 661 snaps in 2016 after playing only 174 snaps in 2015
    • When an offensive lineman gets into his body he's done. Gets locked up too tight often and couldn't get hands off
    • Scheme at Wisconsin put him in a lot of favorable blitz situations
    • Lacks body power and plays too small--gets pinballed by the double team
    • Plays upright and lacks desirable hip flexibility to move in reverse
    • Limited coverage
    • Lacks variety as a pas rushers and will get stuck on blocks without a plan
    • Durability has been an issue

    NFL Draft comparison: Willie Young, Clay Matthews

    Verdict: Second round

    I don't see the Cowboys taking Watt with the 28th overall pick. If Dallas trades back, I could see Watt be selected. I just think 28 may be too high for the junior from Wisconsin.