With Matt Light's contract up and Logan Mankins having held out last year and being verbally displeased this off-season with the franchise tag, the Patriots' once solid line now has some very disturbing questions. For years now the left side has remained solid, from the center spot (Dan Koppen) to the left tackle (Matt Light), Brady has always had talented big men in front of him he could rely on. Part of what makes Tom Brady so effective is the fact that the line has kept him on his feet, so I don't expect the coaches to stand idly by and watch it fall apart this off-season. They may just be looking to fill those holes in the draft, so let's take a look at some possible prospects over the next few posts and days.
Today we'll look at Danny Watkins. He's a guard prospect from Baylor who is considered by many to be the top guard prospect in this draft. What sets Watkins apart from other guard prospects-or prospects in general-in this or any other draft is his age and path to the draft. Assuming he is drafted this year, (and that football is played next year) Watkins will be a 27 year old rookie who has only four years of experience playing organized football.
Watkins was attending a community college (the same one Aaron Rodgers attended) to learn to be a firefighter. While there, the football coach met him and recruited him to the football team where he excelled as a 22 year old freshman. He spent two years there and the past two years at Baylor where he picked up where top draft pick of two years ago Jason Smith left off at left tackle. He'll play guard in the NFL, but he was able to play an efficient tackle at the collegiate level.
While Watkins' age might lead to concern for some, but his inexperience also may represent less tread on the tires than your average 26 year old football player, and therefore might lead to a career extended further than the average offensive lineman, as well as expanded potential for growth in his game.
While Watkins never played football growing up, he did play sports like hockey and rugby. He has been quoted as saying that he was a nasty hockey player. His parents even told one reporter they stopped going to his games because they were sick of watching him sit in the penalty box. That kind of mean streak can go a long way on the offensive line in the NFL. In fact, it kind of reminds me of someone already on the Pats' offensive line...can you say Logan Mankins? Mankins is widely regarded as one of the meanest linemen in the league, with a nasty streak that runs wide. This is part of what makes him so successful in the league.
It's being reported that many teams are looking into drafting Watkins, including the Seahawks (who have the 25th overall pick) and the Vikings (who probably would not use their first pick, but have the 12th overall pick in the draft). Most draft experts give him a late first to second round grade, and I think that if he is still on the board early in the second round he'd be a great value pick then.
Keep an eye out later tonight and in the days to come for more profiles on more draft prospects.