Now that the NFL Draft is a 3 day event, many great players must wait until Saturday to hear their names called. In addition, there continues to be an increasing amount of underclassmen who throw their name into the draft pool, many of whom are top talents in the draft. Brandon Watts is one such player who could see the ill effects of the amount of talent in this years draft.
During Watts' career at Georgia Tech, he was consistently on the field and was healthy for the Yellow Jackets. While Watts wasn't a big time playmaker in terms of forcing turnovers, he consistently found the ball and was a major contributor on defense. Last year he managed to record 66 tackles and managed to play well in some of the biggest games of the season. Looking back to the 2012 season, Watts again played a majority of the snaps on defense and recorded 77 tackles.
When teams are looking at Brandon Watts, they'll see an athletic linebacker with all of the tools to become a solid contributor at the next level. He has good vision from the linebacker position, but doesn't have that elite (or even great) anticipation that first and second round linebackers have. Another thing that may shy teams away from Watts is the lack of "big time playmaking" on film. While I was always a big critic of GT's defense the last couple of years, we had a lot of talent and people would expect a top prospect to stand out and create turnovers. This could keep some teams from taking him in the middle rounds where players with his athleticism would normally go.
What benefits Watts, however, is that he has aced the pre draft process. While he was unable to perform at the Senior Bowl and combine, Watts had a big pro day at GT's pro day on campus and impressed many scouts in attendance. At his pro day, Watts stood out with a 4.4 40, 37.5 inch vertical, and 10'3" broad jump, which would have all been near the top at this position at the combine. He was able to show off his athleticism in position drills as well, which sparked some teams interest. He has received increased interest over the last month, and his stock is rising heading into the draft. Some players peak too early in the pre draft process or have poor performances that ruin their draft stock (Teddy Bridgwater for example), but Watts has managed to impress scouts and come on strong heading into the draft, which should help him in the late rounds when teams are looking for prospects who could become diamonds in the rough.
Strengths: Athleticism, Durability, Versatility, Tackling, Value Late in Draft, Awareness, Range
Weaknesses: Size, Strength, Playmaking Ability
Verdict: Brandon Watts has the athleticism and vision to become a successful back up in the NFL who can make spot starts when necessary, but lacks the overall strength and size to become an everyday starter in the league. When teams are looking for value, however, Watts would be an excellent selection given his athleticism and ability to see the play beforehand and make the tackle. It will be interesting to see his development in coverage when going against NFL TEs and pass rushing situations, but he has the speed and mobility to handle both if he works hard enough. At the end of the day, Watts will be a solid 6th or 7th round pick and I would gladly celebrate the pick if he winds up on either of my teams.