We're taking a look at some prospects the Patriots might think about drafting in the upcoming April draft. So far we've looked at a young guard from Baylor. Let's take a look on the other side of the ball where the Patriots certainly need some help and added depth along a front 7 that gave up 108 yards per game and was unable to generate any sort of pass rush against opposing QB's. JJ Watt is a player that can help in both of those areas.
Watt is a player who is of typical NFL 3-4 DE build. He measured 6'5" and weighed in at 292 at the NFL combine and genuinely looks the part of an NFL defensive end. He is also known as a relentless pass rusher, racking up 7 sacks in 2010 and 11 over a two year career as a starter in college. He even picked off one pass in 2010 and returned it for 15 yards-in case he wasn't a nightmare enough for opposing QB's.
As far as how Watt stands against the run, he recorded 21 tackles for a loss last season, leading his team and ranking 6th in school history. Those tackles were for a total loss of 91 yards, meaning on average he got to the runner about 4 yards deep. Additionally, you can take a look at some of the games Wisconsin played against some of the top rushing attacks in college football and how ineffective they were against Wisconsin and get some idea there as well. Ohio State averaged over 220 yards per game on the ground during the regular season, but only managed 155 when they faced Wisconsin. Michigan is another great example, averaging 238 yards per game on the ground throughout the year but managing only 168 against Watt and the fearsome Wisconsin defensive line.
The most important thing about Watt is his versatility. He projects as both a 4-3 DT or a 3-4 DE, and should be a three down tackle in any system he's drafted into. With the Patriots this would be key, as Belichick likes to move guys around as necessary. Vince Wilfork found himself constantly on the move last year, lining up from one side of the line to the other, and while Watt would lock down the RE spot for years to come, he could certainly be able to move inside on passing downs and pressure the QB from the tackle spot alongside Wilfork as well. All in all, Watt would be a great pickup for the Patriots should he last until pick 17 (which is doubtful if you ask me).
There also may be a slight problem with Watts being drafted by the Patriots in the form of his agent, Tom Condon. The Patriots have noticeably stayed away from Condon clients following a problem signing Benjamin Watson several years back when Condon represented him. Watson eventually found a new agent and got signed, but the Patriots haven't drafted a Condon client since. That being said, if Watt is available at 17 I don't see how the Patriots don't take him, regardless of how they feel about his agent.