2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Wisconsin EDGE T.J. Watt

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#42 T.J. Watt / EDGE / Wisconsin 6’5 252 lbs

The Good:

– Always gives his all, high motor player
– High athleticism
– Great size – 11’ inch hands & 33 1/8” inch arms
– Swim/ rip move fueled by long arms
– Quickness off the snap
– Silenced size questions by adding weight for NFL Combine
– Shows comfortability with dropping into flat
– Able to disengage from blockers
– Gets hands up in passing lanes

The Bad:

– Only one year of success at Wisconsin
– Very raw, transitioned to defense just two years ago
– Pass rush move set needs polish and a counter move
– Bend around the edge not bad but could use some tuning
– Still gets bullied at times by bigger offensive linemen
– Carries injury concerns related to knee


– 2016: 38 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 1 INT
– Season high 2.5 sacks vs Michigan State
– Started career as tight end before transferring to defense in 2015
– First team All Big Ten Selection in 2016
– Second team All American in 2016
– Missed all of 2014 and Spring of 2015 with knee injury

Tape Breakdown:

If players were graded by just numbers alone, Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt would be an A-plus prospect. Watt weighed in this weekend at 6’5”, 252 lbs and recorded a 37” vertical and a 10’8” broad jump, an incredible showing for an edge rusher. Even more impressive than Watt’s NFL Combine numbers are his on-field numbers, finishing with 11.5 sacks last season, just his second season as a member of the defense.

Seeing as Watt transitioned from tight end to edge rusher in 2015, he is still very raw at the position but has the tools to make a name for himself. Watt’s biggest ally are his 33’ 1/8” arms, which he uses to overmatch offensive linemen with great success.

Put an offensive lineman on the ground and people will take notice, but to put an offensive lineman on the ground with just the use of your hands like Watt does above is just incredible. Ripping under the shoulder of the Michigan State left tackle, Watt notches the first sack of the two and a half he would record on the day, a career high.

Watt’s hand work as it relates to his rip move is his most impressive asset but also gives Watt the ability to do much more. Watch how Watt uses his freakishly long arms to bend around the tackle and get to the quarterback on the play below.

Due to his inexperience at the position, Watt may not have the tightest route to the quarterback when it comes to his bend but he more than makes up for it with his arm length. Watch Watt’s reach to grab Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, though he does not finish the play, it is still a great showing of his natural athleticism.

Watt also has the flexibility to play and rush from a variety of positions across the defensive line. Watt can rush from not only the left or right outside linebacker spot but also shows ability to rush from the inside.

Coming out of a cannon through the A gap, Watt easily overpowers the Western Michigan running back Fabian Washington for his final sack of his college career. Being able to rush in a variety of ways, including stunts leaves Watt as a key creative piece for a 3-4 defense.

Obviously being a player with only two years of experience on defense, Watt does come with his fair share of limitations, mainly with lacking a counter move. It is when Watt’s initial hand work is unsuccessful that the Wisconsin product finds himself negated and a non-factor on plays.

A troubling sight to see as Watt is negated entirely by Western Michigan’s tight end Donnie Ernsberger. Watt gives a few attempts to get leverage back on his side to break free from Ernsberger but is unsuccessful both times. Plays like the one above are a big reason why many suggested that Watt add weight to his frame to increase his power and it seems that Watt has taken the suggestion seriously, showing up to the combine at 252-pounds – nine pounds more than he weighed during his final year at Wisconsin.

As a potential member of a 3-4 defense, Watt will be needed to do more than just rush the passer, specifically he will be needed to drop into coverage and play the run. After watching various tape on Watt, I am confident he will be able to do both as well as anyone else at his position. Though Watt’s run defense is still a tad raw, there are some positive taking points that point to inexperience rather than an inability.

Here against Michigan, Watt is at the left outside linebacker position and will be facing a run directed to his side. Watt holds the edge as Michigan’s fullback Henry Poggi attempts to blow him up at the line. But not only does Watt set the edge, he blows up the play up for a loss. Watt stacks and sheds his blocker on route to stopping the play in the backfield. With more reps at run defense, Watt could become a dominant run stuffer at the next level.

With a dominant Combine showing to back up his on-field production, Watt has seen his draft stock rise from “J.J. Watt’s younger brother” to legitimate pass rusher with great upside. Watt’s great length, athleticism and raw talent leaves the notion that Watt has yet to scratch the surface on his potential. With some polish Watt can become one of the most highly productive pass rushers from this year’s deep class. Look for Watt to go very early in the second round, though a late first round selection would not be surprising either.

Projection: Late Day One to Early Day Two

Games Watched: vs LSU, vs Western Michigan, vs Michigan, vs Michigan State, vs Ohio State, vs Nebraska

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi Melifonwu

About the Author

Daniel Valente

Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel

  • falconsaftey43

    Another guy I’d happily take at 30.

  • Pricopea

    This draft is stacked

  • Steelman72

    I’ve been waiting for this breakdown for awhile. This is the guy for me if he’s there at 30! He’s tough, smart, productive, athletic and has the pedigree. I think it will be tough for the Packers to let him slip by them at 29. His numbers at the combine were icing on the cake. Bring him in and let him learn from Deebo for half a season and he will be ready by mid season. JJ is a freak and TJ will be too! Remember, JJ started out as a tight end as well at Central Michigan.

  • NinjaMountie

    I agree. He’s had a good amount of success in comparison to his actual experience at the position.

  • falconsaftey43

    Honestly, I don’t know how he’s not talked about more as a high 1st round pick. Athletically he’s elite, 11.5 sacks is one of the best numbers in the this draft (and that’s with limited experience) not to mention his bloodlines. Is it just because he’s white? Not sure how you can argue any other OLB is a better prospect.

  • NinjaMountie

    Maybe white but that doesn’t seem to hurt players as much at LB positions. He’ll probably start to climb draft boards after the combine. If he doesn’t, then I’ll agree it has to be the white thing.

  • PapaJuju

    Not to mention that you know he is going to be working out with his big brother in the offseasons.

  • James Cowan

    I would love this guy at 30.

    Had a great combine so he has the athletic tools to make it work, transitioned and was extremely successive early on and his big brother will teach him what it takes to be a beast.

  • “WC”

    Don’t know who the Steelers are selecting. To get the right player, they may have to move up to get him.

  • popsiclesticks

    Another top edge guy that might end up in the 2nd round because it’s 2017. Crazy.

    I think I like Reddick more, and while I liked McKinley the most his Combine may force me to re-evaluate, but I certainly like Watt as well. People see JJ on TV and in his cabin and all that and he’s out there after practice and the announcers talk about his heart and drive and all that, which is all well and good, but I think it causes people to forget sometimes that this is a family of athletic freaks. JJ Watt’s combine was like, high 90th percentile results and young TJ isn’t too far behind.

  • popsiclesticks

    You know, it could be to an extent, and it happened with Luke Kuechly. I posted another comment in here but I think people lose focus on the fact that the Watts are absolute mutants athletically.

    Then again, Reddick is being talked about the same way. This class is just so stacked (it’s like all the good players in 2013 must have teleported to the future or something) and Myles Garrett is just on another planet and that’s hurting some of these guys too.

  • Daniel Valente

    Don’t think they’ll move up, this draft is so deep with edge guys that they’ll be able to get a quality guy with their pick regardless.

  • steelburg

    I agree. But me personally I always cringe when a player has a torn ACL and knee problems in general in there past history.

  • “WC”

    Thanks for the info. Many of us hope you’re right. Again, thanks!

  • Daniel Valente

    Thanks for reading!

  • Daniel

    Project player? I don’t like that..need somebody who is gonna start week 1

  • PaeperCup

    SEriously, 11.5 sacks without being an athletic freak. 11.5 sacks on account of mostly effort, motor, hard work. Sign me up. Just think of how good he’ll be when he refines his tools.

  • Brian Tollini

    Yes. Just, yes. TJ Watt, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Godwin, Wayne Gallman. 4 picks, 3 rounds.

  • NinjaMountie

    Realistically, any OLB you get at 30, actually most of them in the whole draft, are project players. There aren’t many “can’t miss” NFL ready edge rushers that come out.

  • PaeperCup

    So many options at 30! Seems like it’s been a while that we’ve had this many people likely available to us at 30, usually I’m looking at high second round picsk to see how we can trade out of our first round spot.

    I have done a couple mocks that had him fall to me in the 2nd. I don’t think that will happen. Likewise with Derek Rivers who initially was falling to the 3rd….Rivers, Reddick, and Watt are my favorite edge guys that could be there at 30, if they all were there I really would not know which one to pick.

  • Daniel Valente

    And if there are any completely ready edge rushers that come out, they are usually taken in the top 10-15.

  • Daniel

    Don’t want another jarvis jones

  • NinjaMountie

    Jarvis and TJ are totally different. Jarvis had a bad combine whereas TJ has had an exceptional one. I’d compare TJ more to Dupree.
    I certainly don’t blame you for not wanting another OLB miss, though.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Honestly, I’m torn. There is a lot there that I like. But does he really think he’ll be able to just overpower guys in the NFL? I mean, his combine numbers were so good that he definitely has my attention. But there are some MAMMOTH beasts who play Tackle and Guard in the NFL. IF he didn’t have such long arms, I really would be wondering if he can get it done. But, he HAS those long tree cutters, so I am intrigued. Would love to put him one on one with Villy and see what happens. Let him get a taste of a 6’9 340 pound behemoth.

    Watt is now officially on the radar. And dare I say, it may be a good thing if the hype train stops at the station on him and doesn’t get rolling. If it does, there will be no way he’ll last to us cuz he’ll have his brother out there calling everybody telling them to grab him and showing them that combine tape. Really afraid he won’t get past the Packers at 29. Could be a Bengal scenario where they steal our guy a pick before us. Grrr..

  • PaeperCup

    I hate it when teams I hate take guys I like….I then have to kind of dislike that player all of a sudden. There will be a few of those this draft since there’s so many I like.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Good call. So true. So true… Considering I dislike 31 other teams. 😉

  • barry foster

    That comp pick may come in handy

  • barry foster

    Packers need cornerbacks badly did you see that Falcons game

  • Darth Blount 47

    Oh, I agree. They need D help all over. But they are likely losing 3 LB’s including Nick Perry and Julius Peppers and Datone Jones. So they need LB’s as well. I mentioned them because they would be the last line of defense for teams not letting us take Watt.

  • barry foster

    Their letting peppers and perry walk ?wow


    I would too…as far as the white thing goes…for some reason it’s a rarity to find white NFL caliber players certain positions just as there are black players at certain positions. We rarely see black punters, long snappers, etc at this level.

    But…he ran well, far more athletic than J. Jones and plenty other black prospects. His tape looks solid. He has the pedigree…I too hope he’s on the board at 30.

  • Applebite

    Just have to live with the fact that this draft is deep enough to where good players will be dropping down, and it’s not because they can’t play the game. And there are players that are going to rise up from their initial spot, like a Jordan Willis, Obi Melifonwu, and Rivers.

    The Steelers have options in this draft, and lots of them. So if they manage to pick up a Kizer or some other CB, say Sidney Jones finds his way to #30, don’t be upset because they didn’t pick up an OLB. If there was ever a case for going BPA in the draft, I can’t think of a stronger example than this year.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Peppers is 50 years old and Perry will cost them a ton. Peppers might sign a 1 year deal so they don’t ship him off to the old folks home, but it will have to be for cheap, rumor has it. And Perry could be back but I hear he wants way too much cash.

  • The Truth

    First round is too early.

  • Hmestly I’d be pretty stoked about watt. In the 2nd. Mahomes in 1st 😉

  • Idk mayb change my mind he is explosive and high effort. Steelers could work with him

  • Doug

    If they’re moving from a college DE to an OLB, they’re going to be a “project player”.

  • Doug

    How is Watt another Jarvis Jones?

  • PaeperCup

    “high effort” I keep coming back to this, this is really big in my book.

  • RickM

    Love his attitude and how quickly he’s learned the position, but I hope they pass on him. He had the major knee injury in 2014, and last year he reportedly played through a shoulder injury in the Northwestern game, describing it as a shooting pain. He didn’t miss any games, but he went to the lockerroom the week before supposedly because of the shoulder. If it wasn’t for the health concerns, I’d love to see him in a Steelers’ uniform. Given his older brother is now battling injuries, I have to take a pass on him.

  • Joey

    He is Watt’s younger brother, great way to learn. I think he would be great at 30.

    Had my hopes on Taco… he sounds delicious, but I will take Watt… he sounds bright.

  • LucasY59

    he is so raw I would hope the Steelers dont consider taking him till their 2nd pick, but if it works out that they could get him then it would be a good pick, so many guys that are just a little bit of a reach at pick #30 but probably wont make it to #62… kinda makes me think the Steelers should trade out of the 1st

  • LucasY59

    I agree, especially the part about the cheeseheads,

    Its kinda weird how much this draft might turn upside down after this combine, lots of guys that were supposed to be 1st rdrs didnt excell, and guys that were 2nd rd / fringe guys have catapulted into the 1st, draft “experts” big boards could have to flip about half the players

  • LucasY59

    this draft is so deep it might even be VERY tempting to bypass OLB in the 1st, since there could be some great BPA candidates at other positions, and they should still be able get a good OLB later

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I agree with the assessment. His name carries too much built in hype, but he’s not the player his brother is. He’s also very little experienced. Agree that he might go between 30 and 62.

  • LucasY59

    I liked McKinley early as well, but the news of his shoulder needing surgery already had me changing my mind on him being the 1st pick, now with his combine (IMO wasnt as bad as some think, but still disappointing) I think he could even be a candidate for the Steelers 2nd pick (which would work out great if they could get Reddick in the 1st and a guy like Mathis or Price in the 5th/6th)

  • LucasY59

    I think Gallman might still be available in the 4th, but if that is how the draft ended up I wouldnt hate it

  • LucasY59

    there are so many good players I kinda still want to trade out of the 30th pick

    think there could be 5-10 guys available at 30, so moving back would still result in one of those guys, plus they would gain an extra top 100 pick, and there is so much talent that extra guy could be pretty good as well

  • Daniel Valente

    I could not agree more Lucas, there’s so much variety with this year’s draft edge class. Just compare all the mock drafts you’ve seen, one could have Tim Williams (for example) at 9th overall, while another has him at 32 and others have him outside the first round. Just so many quality guys to pencil in. Rare group of guys at EDGE this year.

  • PaeperCup

    Tim Williams has gotta be falling out of the first now. He was originally considered the second best rusher in the draft but his off field stuff had him sliding to the late first…After his combine I would be surprised if he was taken before the 3rd.

  • Shannon Stephenson


  • LucasY59

    this yrs randy gregory for almost identical reasons

  • PaeperCup

    Yeah, we’ll see if teams have been paying attention.

  • Jamie P

    Man o man. I’d take him if he’s 75% as good as jj

  • Reggie Cunningham

    Is he good enough for the first or can he last til the second

  • Applebite

    I think everyone here likes Reddick…..Including the Steelers and everyone else that saw that combine and his performance thereafter. He’s totally a question mark as far as falling to #30 right now. Watt is much more plausible at this point.

    Thing is, his position is not the only one worthy of #30 and his position is just large enough, that a team could get by with another option…

    Don’t get me wrong, and of course that’s just my lowly opinion. If they manage to draft Watt, Rock on. I hope TJ add some much needed voltage to this front seven in the ‘Burgh. But if he isn’t there, it won’t be the end of the world…unless Colbert and Tomlin totally drops the ball and refuse to recover it.

  • I know right. Guys like that always seem to overachieve, at least more times than not

  • Austin Willie

    I think he might be the pick I honestly think riddick won’t be there I think it’s between him and Lawson

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  • tequila0341

    Watt’s combine numbers show that he is, in fact, an athletic freak.

  • TsarPepe

    When was the last time the Steelers traded out of the first round?

  • Alan Tman

    I think Watt is only second to Reddick on my list at 30, because I’m betting his brother will make him a player technique wise. He already has everything else

  • Jon Crissinger

    Nailed the projection there Daniel.