Second Round, 42nd Pick
A basketball convert from England, Menelik Watson’s journey to becoming an NFL draft prospect is one of great sacrifice and dedication. Despite playing just one season of major college football, Watson has showed a lot of desirable NFL-caliber skills—especially in terms of his lateral agility and movement. Watson will be in the running to get selected once the initial run of the top-tier tackles ends (Joeckel/Fisher/Johnson), and he has the ability to play either left or right tackle for an NFL team.
+ NFL caliber movement skills
+ Lateral agility to play left tackle
+ Quick progression for an inexperienced player
- Needs to improve aiming points (hand placement and tracking moving targets)
- Will be 24 when drafted and turns 25 in-season
Mid-late first/early second round
Tools ( + )
Prior to the combine, Watson was talked up as a potential workout warrior because his movement ability jumped off the tape. While his workout numbers left something to be desired (was not a top-five performer at his position in any category), his light feet, agility and ability to mirror are all apparent. A natural athlete whose original sport was basketball, Watson’s frame is continuing to fill out, and he can theoretically add some more weight without losing any of his lateral agility.
Watson’s age could very well prove to be advantageous for his career, as he comes across as very mature and dedicated to getting better at his craft. Watson says he hasn’t “been to a club or bar in two years” and that he is “dedicated to football 100 percent.” (h/t CBSSports.com)
Florida State played in a formationally diverse offense. Watson was asked to do a bit of everything— zone-blocking style runs, some pulling, straight drop-back passing, moving pockets and play-action. He started for just one season in college, but played in a system that asked him to do many different things, making him a fairly easy NFL projection.
Pass-Blocking ( + )
Watson shows the foot quickness to gain depth in his deep pass drops without over-setting or getting his shoulders turned to the sidelines. At times, he will get tall and frenetic in his pass set, but for the most part he kick-steps very comfortably and shows good flexibility in his hips and knees. He lacks upper body strength right now and that, coupled with poor hand placement, will make him vulnerable to leverage rushers who can get in his chest.
Run-Blocking ( + )
Watson has an excellent get-off, allowing him to get into defensive linemen quickly off the snap. He works hard to reach on stretch plays, often showing the ability to work his head, hips and feet around to seal off his man. When he fires his hands quickly off the snap and gets inside placement, he shows the capability of driving defensive linemen off the ball. When he doesn’t, he’s prone to getting bullrushed into the backfield and interrupting the flow of run plays.
Blocking in Space/Recovery ( - )
Watson’s inexperience shows up more in his second-level blocking than any other facet of his game. When the defender is directly in his sightline and doesn’t move, Watson is capable of completely engulfing him. Moving targets are a different story, though, and too often Watson gets caught chasing linebackers from behind because he takes a poor initial angle and/or does not adjust to his target moving. He also has a tendency to put his head down, taking his eyes off his target and forcing him to miss.
Handfighting/Technique ( - )
A player with very inconsistent hand usage, Watson may have trouble with defenders getting into his chest and controlling him at the line of scrimmage in his career unless he improves his aiming points. He shoots his hands quickly off the snap, but too often gets them caught outside of the defenders’ frame. When he makes an effort to get inside placement, his punch is impressive and quick, but not overly strong.
Despite being a bit older than most prospects and somewhat raw, Watson’s movement skills and development as a football player in such a short time suggest he’ll be selected fairly early in the NFL draft. He can project to either tackle spot in the NFL and would best fit a team that utilizes a lot of zone blocking, as his ability to reach and combo-block defensive linemen is very impressive. He compares very favorably to Texans left tackle Duane Brown, who has developed into one of the best left tackles in the NFL.