Florida State Senior
PROS: Has good speed and burst and shows good ability when working in pursuit. Shows quick first step coming off the edge as as pass rusher. Shows decent pass rush moves with a developmental spin. Can also bull rush a bit and knows how to dip the shoulder to turn the corner. Has ability to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield and does his best work attacking the line of scrimmage. Is comfortable moving in space and shows some ability to read the quarterback when working in zone coverage.
CONS: Is undersized and needs to bulk up. Can be a problem when he's asked to tackle bigger backs at the point of attack. Doesn't show ideal instincts when defending the run. Will miss some stops in the open field, since he doesn't break down too well against quicker runners. Needs to do a better job getting off blocks and gets caught up in traffic too often.
OVERVIEW: Watson is an undersized linebacker that you would think from watching him rush the quarterback was a natural defensive end (he did have 29 sacks his final two years of high school). He's had some issues with durability, missing time the past two years due to a groin injury, sore elbow (which required Tommy John surgery at the end of the '08 season) and hamstring injury. He also missed 3 games as a junior due to suspension from Florida States' infamous cheating scandal. This past year, he had career highs with 65 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He was a three-year starter at SAM linebacker.
NFL FORECAST: Watson plays like a natural 3-4 outside linebacker in terms of his pass-rush ability. If he was 245 pounds, I would say he's a guy that could be destined to have double digit sacks because frankly, he's a more polished stand-up pass rusher than a lot of the defensive ends in this class that are being projected to that position. But he's undersized, and I'm not sure he really wants to get bigger. He was 232 at the Senior Bowl, but slimmed down (I'm assuming to get faster) for the Combine. He needs to bulk back up. He reminds me of Demorrio Williams due to his pass rush ability, speed, and small stature. In some schemes, I think he could be a semi-successful SAM linebacker. I don't think he'll ever be a great run stopper, just like Williams. He'll fit best in a scheme that wants it's linebackers to attack the line of scrimmage and will blitz him a lot off the corner. Problem is that he's too small to play in a 3-4 scheme right now, and would probably take him the better part of 2 years to really add the bulk to a degree where he could contribute there. And I don't think his skillset is ideal in a 4-3. He can play the WILL spot there, but he's not going to be an impact playmaker vs. the run or in coverage, although he shouldn't be a liability in either realm. If he was to put on 15-20 pounds, I'd like his chances a lot more to impact on the next level.
ATL FORECAST: Watson would have a shot at competing and replacing Peterson at WILL in the next year or two, but I don't think he's going to really blossom at that position. He could play it for the Falcons, but I think he might have a brighter future sitting for a year or two, bulking up, and then pushing Nicholas as the SAM guy. That way the team would give him more opportunities to blitz and rush the passer rather than dropping him back into coverage. He should develop into a starter eventually in Atlanta at either outside spot, but may not be an impact playmaker for a number of years.
VALUE: For a 3-4 team that plans to be patient while he bulks up, I think he is worth a third round pick. For a 4-3 team, they are probably better served waiting until the fourth round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 2.5
PASS RUSH: 4.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.