With a month to go until the NFL Draft, mock draft after mock draft have been predicting the Atlanta Falcons will select Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt with the 31st overall pick. Watt had an outstanding junior season at Wisconsin and recorded 70 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks. He also has good bloodlines, as he is the brother of All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
Watt will likely be a solid NFL player. That said, he does not fit the Falcons mold of a defensive player. Here are the five reasons why the Falcons will not select T.J. Watt with their first round pick.
Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn talk repeatedly about the importance of speed on their defense. They want the fastest defense in the league that explodes off the snap and flies to the football. Watt simply is not that. He timed fairly well at the combine (4.69 40-yard dash) but he does not play that fast on tape.
Watt’s biggest weakness is he does not have an explosive first step as a pass rusher. The Falcons are looking for a pass rusher similar in athletic ability and explosiveness to Vic Beasley. This part of Watt’s game does not mesh with the athlete the Falcons are scouting.
- Brooks Reed
Watt reminds me of a player already on the Falcons roster in Brooks Reed. Reed is a high effort player who lacks ideal athleticism for the Falcons scheme. Although Watt would likely develop into a better player than Reed in time, the Falcons have no need to upgrade on a player who had a very good playoff stretch.
- Two knee injuries
Watt has a history of knee injuries in his collegiate career at Wisconsin. He missed the entire 2014 season after he injured his right knee in training camp. He later injured his left knee in the spring of 2015. Perhaps the Falcons medical staff will clear Watt, but injuries to both knees is something the team will want be diligent about.
- Better athletes available
The Falcons are heavily scouting other more athletic pass rushers who might be available when they are on the clock. The team has worked out Derek Rivers, Haasan Reddick, and Tanoh Kpassagnon. Dan Quinn personally went and worked out both Rivers and Kpassagnon, showing he has a lot of interest in those two prospects.
Josh Schultz is a staff writer for Pro Football Spot’s Atlanta Falcons Coverage. Follow Josh on Twitter @draftblackboard and on his Facebook page: Josh Schultz, Pro Football Spot.