There are now officially lots of Watts in the National Football League. Three, to be exact.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker T.J. Watt with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday.
Watt publicly declared for the draft on Jan. 3, a day after Wisconsin’s 24-16 win over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl.
Despite only playing a couple of seasons at outside linebacker, Watt recorded a breakout year in 2016. He led the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and paced the Badgers’ defense in tackles for loss (15.5) and quarterback hurries (13).
The Pewaukee, Wis., native also recorded 63 tackles last season, placing him third on the team while also showcasing his athleticism week in and week out. That included a crazy, 17-yard pick-six interception return for a touchdown against Purdue in November.
T.J. Watt, the 30th pick in the 2017 NFL draft
Another Watt is about to take the NFL by storm.Posted by Bucky's 5th Quarter on Thursday, April 27, 2017
Watt earned first-team All-American honors by ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated, with second-team All-American selections by the Associated Press, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports. Like offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, he was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick.
The outside linebacker also excelled in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors in both 2015 and 2016.
His contributions last season helped a Badgers defense tied for second in the FBS in total interceptions (22), third in rushing defense (98.8 yards allowed per game), fourth in scoring defense (15.6 points allowed per game), seventh in total defense (301.4 yards allowed per game), and 10th in team passing efficiency defense (106.91).
At the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, Watt tested very well in front of team personnel. B5Q’s Owen Riese was impressed with his showing in Indianapolis:
Watt blew the combine out of the water. Watt ran 4.69, which is good for a long strider. He’s got 11” hands, so you know he’s got big gloves. 21 reps on the bench press isn’t bad for a guy with longer arms, but the jumps are crazy. 37” vertical jump, the same as his oldest brother (who was 290 at the Combine in 2011), and 10’8 shows he’s very explosive. Personally, I didn’t see this type of athleticism on tape—I’ll have to watch more. Also a 4.13 5-10-5 and a 6.79 three-cone are insane for a guy Watt’s size. He made a ton of money in Indy.
Being drafted by the Steelers shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise given their 3-4 scheme, as Steelers assistant and former NFL linebacker Joey Porter worked out both Watt and Vince Biegel during Wisconsin’s Pro Day on March 15.
Here's Watt and Biegel working earlier with Steelers OLBs coach Joey Porter #Badgers pic.twitter.com/cBXNHyyLLw— Jake Kocorowski (@JakeKocoB5Q) March 15, 2017
T.J. Watt breaks down NFL Draft talk at Wisconsin Pro Day (B5Q/YouTube)
A former tight end, Watt transitioned to outside linebacker for the 2015 season and though he was relatively inexperienced at the position, he found his way onto the field in certain subpackages for then-defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
T.J. is the youngest brother of the Watt clan and now joins Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt—the All-Pro and three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year—and Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt in the NFL.
On Christmas, T.J. and J.J. will face each other for the first time—as the Steelers travel to Houston to face the Texans (3:30 p.m. CT, NBC/NFL Network).
All-time, Watt is the 30th Wisconsin Badger selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Homegrown: T.J. Watt (Wisconsin Badgers/YouTube)