By TomE. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series of looks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt, 6-5, 290 DE, Wisconsin
The Skinny:The buzz for this kid istremendous. Mike Mayock, the highly-respected NFL Network draft analyst and aman whose opinion Bill Belichick values, thinks Watt is one of the best"5-technique" defensive ends to come along in a while. (5-technique meanshe lines up on the outside shoulder of the left tackle; 0-technique means aplayer is head-up over the center). Put together an amazing show at the NFLCombine where his measurables in short quickness drills were equal to somerunning backs. He is a 3-4 defensive end, though, not an edge rusher. ThinkRichard Seymour. Same spot, not as outstanding though.
Gotta Have Him:The Patriots werekicking Vince Wilfork out to RDE last year to take advantage of his ability outthere but clearly their preference has been to keep Vince in the middle wherehe can impact more plays and crush the pocket. Watt would be an excellentrun-stopper. Wes Bunting at the National Football Post says Watt is similar tothe Steelers 3-4 DE Aaron Smith. "He may not ever make the Pro Bowl buthe's going to make everyone around him better and be a four or five sackguy." The Patriots have always thought highly of Smith. Additionally, withthe lockout ongoing, teams need rookies who don't need a ton of hand-holdingduring this 2011 offseason. Watt is a smart, self-starter with great characterand workethic.
Don't Need Him:Watt is a possibletop 15 pick. The Patriots sit at 17 and Bunting says there's a 50-50 chancehe'll be there at that point. Do the Patriots want to move up to take him or dothey stand pat and take one of the hybrid guys who are more athletic like Cal'sCam Jordan who could probably be more versatile and drop into coverage as well,a la Willie McGinest?
Forecast: Watt will be a guy who can playvery early in his career. With Richard Seymour still not adequately replaced,Ty Warren getting up there in age (and expense), recently added Marcus Stroudat the end of the line and Mike Wright coming off a serious concussionsituation, Watt may be too good to pass up if he's sitting there at 17. Whilehe'll be best on first and second down, playing him at end on 4-3 the way thePatriots like to could also be an option. A very safe pick.
Patriots Draftability: 8