GreenBay Packer Nation

Should the Packers Take TJ in Round One?

Chad Reuter has the Packers picking TJ Watt in round one of the 2017 draft at pick number 29. This pick would have many in Packer Nation ( myself incuded) turning cartwheels. But is this the best route for the Packers to go? A lot of factors go into a first round pick, even for a team that has been consistent in their claim that they always choose the best player available. Who is available? Are there other players available at a position of greater need? Is one position deeper, possibly yielding a player of similar skill-set in the next round?

The name TJ Watt garners everything from the “instant pro-bowler” on the positive end to “draft bust” on the negative. Part of the question has to do with which round the Packers choose him in. If we had a crystal ball, and could pick TJ in the second round…I doubt many would think it is a bad pick. On the other had, that precious first pick, though at number 29, makes some nervous as to whether TJ can live up to the billing.

Let’s talk about the Pros and Cons and get the lowdown on TJ’s stats while at Wisconsin. I will lay out three reasons why I think TJ would be a good pick at number 29.

Overall, I have seen TJ Watt ranked as high as 28th (Cheesehead TV draft guide – get it here), and as far down the big board as the upper sixties or deeper. The knocks on TJ come down to availability and inexperience. He red-shirted in 2013 and was injured in 2014. But moving from the tight end position to outside linebacker in 2015 was a big move and TJ made the most of it when he finally got healthy (13 games in 2015). In 2016 he started all 14 games, recording 63 total tackles and 11 and a half sacks with 38 solo tackles and 15.5 TFLs according to uwbadgers.com. Additionally, TJ had big games when the Badgers needed him and when it mattered most with big games against LSU, Michigan, Michigan St., and in the Big Ten Championship and the Cotton Bowl.

So while the argument against TJ is considered strong by some, the arguments for him began to get stronger starting at the NFL Combine in February/March. TJ did himself a great service, logging measurables that allowed him to bypass them during the Wisconsin pro day and only participate in the drills.

Here are three reasons that the Packers would do well to take Watt off the board straight away if he is available at number 29:

1. The Draft Situation

One of the reasons to grab TJ right away is that taking him in the first round does not negate the possibility of the Packers picking up an excellent corner in round two. The converse is not necessarily true as this year’s draft is not exactly loaded with pass-rushers. If Thompson likes TJ, he may decide to get him in the first and come back to see what the second round has to offer. In this year’s draft, that probably includes a cornerback or two who would go in the first round many other years. With Clay Matthews having a down year, Kyler Fackrell still and unknown commodity, and Jayrone Elliot yet to show he can get on the field and stay there, the pass-rusher situation must still be addressed. Add to that the exit of Julius Peppers from a Packers team that at times struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, and the notion of TJ in green and gold becomes pretty compelling.

2. The Intangibles

The biggest question about whether TJ Watt is on the Packers’ radar in the first round is “What does Ted Thompson think of him?”. TJ is reminiscent of Clay Matthews in that he played in the shadow, to some extent of more seasoned players (Vince Biegel) and had to earn his reps the hard way. Both eclipsed (Clay after getting drafted) those players and TJ may be able to do the same. Ted Thompson traded up into the first round to get Clay, a player whose Combine performance is virtually parallel to TJ’s and the Packers pick is once again at the end of round one. Another intangible is the possibility of TJ coming home to play for his favorite team. NFL prospects are certainly happy to be drafted by any team but going home makes a difference I think…intangible but still there.

TJ is a Watt. So what is in a name? Being a Watt does not guarantee TJ anything, other than he will have the attention of the best defensive player in the NFL for advice. Also, families who put multiple players on NFL rosters (Derek as well) have pride and the players have pride too. TJ knows the expectations and is not shying away from them.

3. The Ceiling

TJ Watt, with just one year of experience, can’t be expected to have reached his ceiling. Coaches (not just Packers coaches) must relish the idea of working with a guy like TJ. Smart, athletic, high motor but still a lot of nuances to learn. Sounds like a project player which is not what most teams want in the first round. I don’t think this is the case with TJ.  Watt would be a great addition to the Packers’ linebacker corps right out of the box. While it would be best to rotate him in slowly, I think if the Packers do pick TJ, he will perform at a level that requires the coaching staff to give him playing time. The best way to grow is on the field and a smart guy like TJ would be well developed by the end of the season when it mattered. And at 6’4″ TJ can still make changes to his body if the Packers see the need.

All in all, while I am not a huge proponent of TJ Watt in the first round, I would admittedly be excited about the prospect of the addition to the Packers defense. TJ would be a good pickup and if the comparison between him and Matthews is something that Ted Thompson has taken note of…he may be the pick. And if TJ becomes even close to the kind of player that JJ did…the Packers will have gotten a steal.

But what do you think? JJ or no in the first round at pick 29. Make your opinion known in the head-to-head poll below:

 

Go Pack!