Bill Belichick should be very happy if J.J. Watt is still available when his New England Patriots make their first of the team’s two first round selections at pick 17.
Watt, a 6-foot-5, 290 pound defensive end out of Wisconsin, is the 12th ranked prospect according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc. and presents tremendous value at this point in the draft.
Watt could be off the board by the time the Pats pick at 17, but if he’s still available it would be tough for Belichick to pass on one of the top defensive linemen in the draft who also seems to fit into the “Patriot mold.”
He’s a tough, hardworking kid who finished his two year Wisconsin career with 106 tackles and 11 sacks. Watt started his collegiate career at Central Michigan where he played for one season as a tight end before transferring to Wisconsin.
Watt showed his great pass rushing and sound tackling abilities throughout the 2010 season at Wisconsin where his Badgers finished the year 11-2. He is a versatile defender who has the ability to play in all styles of defense as a defensive end and possibly as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Watt’s versatility is one of his many appealing attributes that will make him a target early in the draft.
New England’s defensive front seven, specifically the defensive line in the 3-4 scheme, is full of question marks. While Vince Wilfork is an elite option at nose tackle, the Pats have lacked an elite option at defensive end since Richard Seymour was traded to Oakland.
Marcus Stroud was signed earlier in the offseason after being cut by Buffalo but there’s no telling what the 32 year old has left in the tank. New England’s other current options at defensive end are Ty Warren (if he isn’t cut) who’s recovering from a hip injury, Ron Brace, Mike Wright, Brandon Deaderick, Myron Pryor and possibly Gerard Warren, although the Patriots aren’t expected to resign him.
Watt would provide the Pats with a huge upgrade at DE and would also have the ability to play some outside linebacker in pass rushing situations.
A solid run stopper with pass rushing capabilities, Watt impressed at the NFL Combine back in February with 34 bench press reps and his stock has been rapidly improving heading into the draft.
Watt is a hard working player with a “Patriots character and work ethic.” He has outstanding potential to improve and his toughness and strong fundamentals would make him a great fit for the Pats if he’s available at seventeen.
For more about the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to check out the hornface.com NFL Mock Draft.