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Wisconsin OLB T.J. Watt declares for 2017 NFL draft

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The redshirt junior leaves UW a year early.

There will be lots of Watts in the NFL starting in 2017.

Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt officially declared for the NFL draft on Tuesday. The redshirt junior announced his decision via Twitter after DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline reported earlier on Tuesday morning that Watt was telling teammates and other people associated with the Badgers that he intended to leave the program with one year of eligibility remaining.

Watt switched from tight end to outside linebacker before the 2015 season and quickly became a force at that position group. Not even a full season into the switch, the youngest Watt brother found playing time on the field in Dave Aranda’s defense a year ago in various subpackages.

Starting off in spring 2016, Watt took over the first-team boundary outside linebacker position opposite Vince Biegel, who moved over to the field-side position. Watt responded by leading the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks while also leading the Badgers’ defense in tackles for loss (15.5) and quarterback hurries (13).

The Pewaukee, Wis., native also recorded 63 tackles, ranking him third on the team this season, and had a spectacular pass tip-interception for a touchdown against Purdue.

His performance led to a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection and first-team All-American selections by ESPN and Sports Illustrated, with second-team honors from the Associated Press and CBSSports.com.

At 6’5, 243 pounds, Watt’s athleticism, body type and work ethic should be appealing to many NFL teams looking to fill holes at outside linebacker. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noted on Tuesday morning that he gave Watt a solid second-round grade after an initial look. According to WalterFootball.com, Watt is the No. 4 ranked outside linebacker and is projected to be a first or second-round pick.

Watt will join his older brothers—Houston Texans defensive end and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J., and San Diego Chargers fullback Derek—in playing on Sundays.