During his time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, T.J. Watt was known for his relentless pursuit. His never-ending hunt for quarterbacks made him a household name in the Big Ten. His use of his hands and excellent technique made him an offensive tackle’s nightmare, not unlike his brother – Wisconsin legend J.J. Watt.
Heading into Indianapolis, T.J. was pegged as a mid-2nd round pick with the major questions about him being whether or not his pass-rushing prowess would translate to the next level. Teams questioned his athleticism and explosion as rush-linebacker. Watt answered those questions emphatically with his performance during the combine.
Watt scored above the 80th percentile in the vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone, short shuttle, and long shuttle. He posted a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, which will not blow many people away, but at 252 pounds answers questions about whether he has the speed to compete at the next level. Watt’s display in the broad and vertical jumps show teams the explosiveness they are looking for in elite pass-rushers. Equally important are his numbers in the shuttle runs, demonstrating his ability to change direction and his short-area quickness. Teams that project Watt as a rush-linebacker in a 3-4 scheme will want to know if he has the ability to drop off in coverage, something he was rarely asked to do during his time in Madison.
Watt will undoubtedly be asked to show his fluidity and change of direction during the Badgers’ Pro Day on March 15th. If he impresses once again, he could sneak into the bottom half of the first round or early second round. The Packers, Steelers, Falcons, and Patriots could all use pass-rushing help, and Watt is the kind of scheme-versatile talent that could fit with any of those teams. If he does not get scooped up in the first round, the Chargers are a team at the top of the second round that could be in need of a rush linebacker, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of linebacker Melvin Ingram, whom they just franchise-tagged. Los Angeles would be a sweet deal for the Watt family, as T.J. would join brother Derek as a member of the Chargers.
The combine tends to irrationally affect a player’s draft stock, as teams can get enamored with prospects because of the way they move in spandex. Every year there are one or two workout warriors that are drafted far ahead of where they should be. The issue for those players is that their on-field performance does not match their eye-popping combine results, but for Watt that is not the case. T.J. Watt had a terrific 2016 campaign, and he only boosted his stock by impressing in Indianapolis.