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Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown: Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 23 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

T.J. Watt

Outside linebacker
Wisconsin

Height: 6-4
Weight: 252
40-yard dash: 4.69

Projected draft round: 1-2

What they’re saying

Uses his length and heavy hands to take on blocks, locking out to dictate the point of attack. Edge acceleration to threaten the corner. Natural balance and active feet to continue his momentum through contact. Attacks and disrupts the rhythm of blockers with his violence, rarely allowing himself to be locked up. Off-the-chart football instincts with an instant reactor. Senses what is about to happen and understands his surroundings.

Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The younger brother of three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt told NFL.com that he has a pre-draft visit scheduled with the Redskins. While a draft visit doesn’t necessarily indicate great interest in a player—each team can bring in as many as 30 players and the Redskins have only 10 picks—it does mean that the team has seen something in the player that they want to explore further.

The Redskins have four outside linebackers who have double-digit sack potential on the roster but question marks surround all but the steady Ryan Kerrigan. Trent Murphy is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Preston Smith has shown flashes of dominance surrounded by long stretches of near invisibility. Junior Galette has missed the last two years due to injuries and he is on a one-year deal.

Since you can’t have too many good pass rushers the Redskins are looking at more of them in the draft. Watt was a playmaker at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.

The arrow could be pointing up on Watt. He entered college as a tight end but he was moved to outside linebacker in 2015. A knee injury kept him out that year but he burst onto the scene as the starter last year. He is a meticulous worker who plays with a high motor. He could be headed straight up.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. Ohio State, vs. Minnesota

He switches from one side of the line to the other, usually on the edge but occasionally a few steps off the line.  

On a third and goal against Ohio State he showed his aggressiveness and recognition. He stormed in from the left edge and the pulling guard who was supposed to keep him from blowing up the play never had a chance to get him. QB J.T. Barrett tried a play action fake but Watt slammed into the running back right after the fake, allowing another player to come in a tackle Barrett for a loss.

Watt was not asked to do much in pass coverage. He usually just dropped into the flat in zone coverage.

You can see his high motor on display frequently as he chases down plays from the back side and keeps chasing the ball.

Watt can get pass pressure based on his hustle and quickness. But if he’s in a situation where he needs to overpower a blocker he’s in trouble. He might have to bulk up from his current weight of 252.

In the fourth quarter of a tight game against Minnesota he had a sack and three pressures that led to three Badger interceptions.

Potential issues:

As noted, Watt has just the one season of experience playing outside linebacker. While that leaves room to grow and improve, it also leaves room for the possibility that his strong performance last year was that of a one-year wonder.

In Brugler’s analysis on CBS Sports, he said that Watt “needs to mature his pass rush arsenal.” In the two games I watched he didn’t have enough moves to be considered “an arsenal”. It goes back to his lack of experience and it remains to be seen how much he can develop.

And, again, his size makes him kind of a tweener. He should be able to pack some more pounds onto his 6-4 frame and maintain his hustle.

Bottom line:

Watt seems to be a tweener in more ways than one. He would be a reach with the Redskins’ pick at No. 17 but he could well be gone when their second-round picks rolls around. Should the Redskins look to add some extra picks by trading back to a spot later in the first, somewhere in the late 20’s perhaps, they could find Watt to be a good value.

In his own words:

Watt on his potential:

"I’m only scratching the surface. I've only played defense for 18 or 20 months. If I can do all the things I did this last year what can I do when I'm under the tutelage of an NFL coach? Obviously lack of film lack of experience point that's come across I think it's not a problem with my work ethic and my bloodlines and stuff like that."

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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QB run will come at NFL Draft, but when it happens matters most for Redskins

QB run will come at NFL Draft, but when it happens matters most for Redskins

Quarterbacks will come off the board in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night. That much is certain. Where those quarterbacks come off the board, however, matters much more for the Redskins. 

Mitchell Trubisky will be the first passer off the board, and depending on the information, he could be drafted as high as the first overall pick, and will certainly go early.

Trubisky, though, seems like the only certainty of a QB going early. Questions plague guys like Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Those guys could all go in the first half of the draft, but they could all slide into the 20s as well. 

For Washington, the earlier quarterbacks get drafted the better. It seems highly unlikely the Redskins make a draft day trade of QB Kirk Cousins, limiting hardly any interest in a first-round passer.

The more passers that go before the 'Skins pick at 17 means the more high-quality players slide down the draft board. Look around the internet at lists of the best prospects available. Hardly any signal callers crack the Top 20, but the positional need at QB demands the position be overdrafted.

Though the Burgundy and Gold continue to slow-play contract talks with Cousins, he is under contract for 2017 and the team holds an option for 2018. That means Bruce Allen can sit in his draft room and potentially be a trade partner for a team that wants to land a QB, or just wait patiently and watch as they come off the board and send other desirable prospects closer to 17.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 25, one day before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 16
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 28
—Training camp starts (7/27) 92
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 137

Wrapping up the Redskins pre-draft presser

We’ve looked at a some of what Redskins college scouting director Scott Campbell said during his pre-draft press conference on Monday, covering possible trades, who makes the final call on those trades, and how the organization handles character issues. Here are a few more bullet points from Campbell’s presser:

—Asked if the Redskins would draft to fill needs or take the best available player, Campbell gave the stock answer. “I guess as you asked the question, you kind of framed it and the way I’m going to frame the answer, and the age-old answer of ‘I’m going to take the best player available,’” he said “And if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus.” So, there you go. That said, don’t be surprised if the best players as defined by the Redskins in the first few also happen have the “bonus” of filling one the team’s top two or three needs.

—The needs could line up well because the strength of the draft as Campbell sees it coincides with side of the ball where the Redskins need the most help. “Well, I’m excited because I think it’s one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ve told the guys upstairs I’m excited because we’re going to get better . . . And several different positions – sometimes it’s just maybe defensive line or outside backers or corners. Across the board on defense, I’m really excited about the class and the guys we’re going to bring in are going to help us.”

—The draft board is still used after the draft ends and the scramble for undrafted free agents starts up. “There’s going to be guys left on the bottom of that board that didn’t get drafted that we had rated as draftable,” said Campbell. “So that’s our No. 1 targets. I assign a scout to all the coaches, and really the coaches talk to the players – once the draft ends, let me be clear, it’s after the draft ends when we start making calls – the scouts are on the phone with the agent finding out what our competition is, how much.” Campbell said that money isn’t much of a factor in recruiting the undrafted players; selling opportunity is the key.

—The draft board was influenced by former GM Scot McCloughan but adjustments have been made since he was fired in early March. “Well, he certainly had influence on it because we all met as we always did the last couple of years and every team does. You meet right after the all-star games before you go to the combine and kind of get an initial ranking of how you like the guys. Of course Scot hadn’t been here since, so just like when he was here before, there’s adjustments being made to the board with the new information.”

—The 2016 draft class did not contribute a lot but does not mean that there is more pressure on the organization to do better this year. The pressure is always there regardless. “Always pressure. Every year’s pressure,” said Campbell. “I grew up in an NFL household. My dad was a coach and a player for 40 years. Pressure every year to perform, that’s what the NFL is. You’ve got to perform every year.” His father was Marion Campbell who played in the NFL for eight years and then coached for 21 seasons including stints as the head coach of the Eagles and Falcons.

—Campbell also asked for a little patience with the 2016 draft class, citing a group from a few years ago. “It takes a couple of years to develop a class,” said Campbell. “People are saying the ‘14 class had some success. Well, if I read articles and see what happened and what was said right after that draft, our grades in the mock drafts were not very good. It takes time. Morgan Moses didn’t start his first year, you know, but he’s come on to be one of the best right tackles in the league. That’s my opinion anyway. It takes time to develop. I still think with time, that class [2016] will be just fine.” I guess I buried the lede here—Campbell reads draft grades.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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