Menelik Watson: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Florida State OT
The focus of this piece is to give you some background and interesting information on former Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson.
The Seminoles had a great 2012 season, winning the ACC's Atlantic Division and compiling a 10-2 regular-season record. They also beat Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, 21-15, earning a spot in the January 1 Orange Bowl against MAC champion Northern Illinois.
They were able to walk away champions of a BCS bowl game following the 2012 season due in large part to its stifling No. 6-ranked defense. However, the offense was every bit as good, finishing No. 10 in the nation in points scored.
They did it both with the passing and running game, and the offensive line held up well all season. The unit was led by its starting right tackle, and this is his story.
Combine results courtesy of NFL.com. College stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.
Watson played Division-I college basketball at Marist University. (Photo courtesy OrlandoSentinal.com)
Full Name: Menelik Watson
Birthday: December 22, 1988
Hometown: Manchester, England
High School: Burnage High School
Watson had a rough upbringing in Manchester, and he left Florida State with a year of college football eligibility left to help his family back home. Everyone needs to read his story, written by Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports. Watson's road to the NFL draft is a remarkable one and is unlike any you will read this year.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Florida State's offensive production was drastically altered with the addition of Watson in 2012:
2011: 30.6 points/game, 112.2 rush yards/game, 369.2 total yards/game, 5.9 yards/play, 3.3 yards/rush, 20 rushing touchdowns, 40 sacks allowed
2012: 39.3 points/game, 205.9 rush yards/game, 470.8 total yards/game, 7.0 yards/play, 5.6 yards/rush, 40 rushing touchdowns, 26 sacks allowed
The improvement Florida State’s offense enjoyed from 2011 to 2012 may not be solely on Watson’s broad shoulders, but there is no doubt he had a hand in it.
He allowed just one sack in his only season in Tallahassee. For a young man new to the game of football, that is incredible. No one could have foreseen his brilliance from the right tackle position.
Arm Length: 34 inches
Hand Size: 10 3/8 inches
Combine Results (NFL.com)
40-Yard Dash: 5.29 seconds
Vertical Jump: 24.5 inches
Broad Jump: 8 feet, 7 inches
3-Cone Drill: 8.31 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 5.01 seconds
Watson had a decent showing at the combine. He is a good athlete who moves well and has quick feet. With so little football experience, one cannot rule out any of four positions along the line at which he could play.
He played right tackle at Florida State, but he has the potential to end up at left tackle or at either guard spot. It really just depends upon how a team wants to develop him.
Watson (second from right, No. 54) hangs out with other linemen at the NFL combine.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Every player has a story to tell of how they arrived at the NFL draft. You have heard Watson's story, and there is a good chance no other prospect at this year's rookie selection meeting has as interesting a story as he.
Here are some interesting facts about the English native:
Watson has been playing American football for less than two years. That is incredible considering he is about to be an NFL player.
He comes from a Rastafarian upbringing. Both his father and mother practice the religion, though he does not consider himself a practitioner.
Sports served as a way for Watson to avoid local Manchester gangs. His three older brothers were not so lucky, as they all ended up on the streets. Two are now in prison.
Watson has a daughter, whom he named Orellana, after his basketball academy coach. He is the one who helped him get to the United States on a basketball scholarship, and he's the same one who got Watson to the birth of his baby girl by flying him from the Canary Islands to England.
There have been 24 players born in England in NFL history. Watson will be No. 25. He also will be the 16th Florida State offensive tackle drafted into the league.
He and fellow NFL draft hopeful Kyle Long were teammates for one season at Saddleback Community College. Watson went on to FSU; Long played his final college season at Oregon. Both are fringe Day 1 or Day 2 picks.
In watching Watson play at Florida State, a few things are evident from the first handful of plays seen.
First, he is a natural on the football field. It looks as though he has been playing his entire life; he just fits on the gridiron.
Secondly, his initial punch is as hard and violent as any offensive tackle in the 2013 draft class. His teammate and another potential first-round pick, defensive end Cornellius Carradine, said it best in a preseason interview with Emory Parker of the Orlando Sentinel:
Yeah, I feel it. It hurts. So that’s why I put my arm out. I have to either get my arm out, or bull [rush] him so that he won’t grab me. Because if he grabs you or punches you, it’s kind of impossible (to get by).
That was after Watson played eight games at Saddleback and before stepping onto Bobby Bowden Field for a live game.
Thirdly, Watson’s basketball background is the reason he fits in so well at tackle. His footwork is so quick and clean when slide-stepping. It greatly resembles that of a basketball player on defense, trying to keep a ball-handler from the basket.
All that said, there are a couple issues to note on Watson’s game.
He sometimes gives up on a block too early in the run game. He is a great athlete and finishes blocks regularly, but he will stop mid-play more often than is acceptable.
When a linebacker or defensive back blitzes off his edge along with a defensive lineman, he is slow to react to the edge-rusher. He hesitates, assumedly trying to decide which player to block—the defensive lineman in front of him or the edge-rusher.
This often resulted in the defensive end initially being double-teamed by him and right guard Tre’ Jackson before Watson realized he should be blocking the edge-rusher; he then would kick out and block said edge-rusher.
He got away with it in college, but at the next level, all edge-rushers are superior athletes and will burn him en route to blowing up his quarterback.
The good news about those two issues?
They are minor and require only coaching and repetition to fix—both of which he will get plenty of in an NFL camp.