The 2013 draft class is among the better offensive line classes I’ve ever seen. An offensive tackle will (deservedly) go #1 overall. There are three offensive tackles that on talent deserve to be top ten picks. There are two guards that will probably end up being selected in the top twenty. It’s as crowded a start as any, and only so many teams will consider offensive line a top priority.
In a much weaker environment, Menelik Watson would be the stereotypical draft hype guy that goes way sooner than he should based on his athleticism, as Jason Smith did in 2009. Unfortunately for him, the high volume of superior options pushes Watson’s stock down to it’s rightful place: somewhere between the end of the first round and the end of the second.
Seattle is always looking for players that could improve from coaching and have the athleticism to dominate if they achieve their full potential. They have one of the best talent developers in the business with Tom Cable. Watson fits both about as well as he possibly could.
Watson never played American Football in high school. That’s because he grew up in Manchester, England. He played soccer instead. Wanting to escape the tough streets from where he came, he sought to pursue a professional athletic career. Problem was, he wasn’t sure what that would be. At first he tried his hand at basketball for Marist’s basketball program. He’d later attempt a switch to boxing. People he met often assumed he was an offensive line recruit, and that idea eventually led him to try out for a small school football program, having never played the position. That was in 2011.
Funny enough, the college that gave him a shot was Saddleback college in California, the very same for which Kyle Long (who transferred to Oregon) was the starting left tackle. Long faced Watson during practices and recognizing his talent, urged the staff to start him at right tackle. Watson got the job and caught on in a big way. He would transfer to Florida State the next season.
Watson has a great story, though it highlights the reason why he might conceivably slip into the second round. He never played football before 2011, and he only played one season against high level competition. How high of an investment do you make on a player who very well might not be ready for a year or two to compete in the NFL? Teams that need a tackle bad enough to select him early presumably would want him to start right away.
Seattle is in a fairly unique situation. Breno Giacomini is a good player that was bogged down by penalties for much of the last two seasons. The team might want to plan for life after Giacomini, but I don’t at all sense that they are uncomfortable with him starting. Whichever tackle Seattle does draft, it seems unlikely that he’d play much in 2013. The lack of experience disincentive could be strong for other needy teams, but it is almost non-existent for Seattle, especially considering Tom Cable’s track record with developing lineman who were far less gifted than Watson is.
It’s hard to judge Watson on face value from his game compilations. He’s so new to the game that you can’t be sure which flaws to be fearful of and which to brush off.
What I can say with more certainty is that I love how quick his feet are for a 320 pounder. I also love how he keeps his shoulders back when delivering his punch in pass protection. His arms measured 34 inches, which is basically average for a tackle, but his results in pass protection were as if he had 35 or 36 inch arms. Keeping the shoulders back and delivering a strong punch inside is a compensating factor for arm length. Defenders had no chance when they attempted to bull rush him, and his foot speed allowed him to keep pace when opponents attempted to beat him around the corner. As a pass protector, he reminds me an awful lot of Russell Okung when I scouted him back in 2010.
Watson has obvious power in the running game, but ironically he struggles to maintain his hands during drive blocks despite using his hands very well in pass protection. He’ll often slide off run blocks then stand up and stop, an obvious sign that he’s not sure what to do. He’s fast to the second level despite his size. This coupled with his quick feet led many to speculate that Watson would light up the combine and shoot himself out of mid round obscurity and into the first round.
Except he didn’t. In fact, Watson’s 40 time, 3-cone, and short shuttle were among the worst for the offensive tackle group. This despite shedding ten pounds from his reported 2012 playing weight. He also measured a slightly disappointing 6’5⅛” after being widely reported at 6’6″ or 6’7″ prior to the combine. Of course, height isn’t really a major deal, as John Moffitt, JR Sweezy, James Carpenter, and Russell Okung all stand 6’5″ or less. Tom Cable’s mentor, Alex Gibbs, actually preferred his tackles to be exactly 6’5″. On the whole though, Watson had one of the more disappointing performances at the 2013 combine, especially for a guy that is banking on his athleticism to get drafted.
Funny thing is, I’m not sure GM’s care how he did. All indications from excellent sources compiled at outlets such as Rotoworld.com suggest that Watson’s first round stock has actually solidified post-combine instead of deteriorating. On the other hand, the sourced Tony Pauline only has Watson 67th on his post-combine rankings.
I suspect that Watson is unlikely to reach the #56 pick, and he might not even come that close. But if he does make it, I would be surprised if Seattle didn’t draft him. He would be one of the very best players available, he fits one of the team’s biggest positional draft targets, and he is a great fit for the Seahawks roster situation, Tom Cable’s profile, and the Seahawks’ general draft philosophy. Few players would thrill me more to see at the 56th overall pick. I suspect the Seahawks would be thrilled to have a chance at his talent as well. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Seattle traded up targeting him.