The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Subscribe to The DC Times
Never miss a post again!

Jonathan Bales

On my initial 2011 Big Board, I ranked Wisconsin defensive tackle/defensive end J.J. Watt at No. 30–far lower than the consensus.  This ranking was based on multiple live and taped games I had watched.  To me, Watt seemed to have a low ceiling.

After watching more of Watt’s games at the request of some readers, my opinion has begun to shift (a bit).  Perhaps I had witnessed some of Watt’s “average” games, but the new film I saw was rather impressive.  On my new Big Board (yet to be published), I have moved Watt up to No. 18 overall, just behind Muhammad Wilkerson but ahead of DaQuan Bowers (in a free fall), Adrian Clayborn and Drake Nevis.  Here is why. . .

Scouting Report

One of my initial concerns about Watt is that, contrary to other reports, he doesn’t seem that stout at the point-of-attack.  I still stand by that statement.  Watt obviously has great size and strength, but when asked to hold ground against the run, he’s an average player.  It’s a bit perplexing, as Watt generally plays with superb leverage.  I think his mindset changes when he’s not asked to get after the quarterback and he becomes more tentative.  That could make him a poor fit in Rob Ryan’s two-gap scheme

At 290 pounds, though, Watt seems to be a natural fit as a five-technique end.  For his size, Watt is incredibly quick and agile.  He finished in the top four among all defensive linemen in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.  Quite impressive.

Watt uses that athleticism on the field in a diverse array of pass rush moves, including what I consider the best swim move in the class.  His rip move and bull rush are also solid, particularly because of his leverage.  Watt’s overall quickness is on display at the 3:25 mark below–this time from the defensive tackle position.

To go with his athleticism, Watt is also a high-motor player with a great work ethic.  This makes his floor rather high–he’s not tremendously likely to be a bust.  For a team that can’t afford to “miss” on its first round pick, that’s a great thing.

Nonetheless, I don’t think Watt is a serious candidate to go to Dallas at No. 9 overall.  In my opinion, his ceiling is still “average”–like my view on Sean Lee last year (who I think I was wrong on, by the way), I’m not sure how much better Watt will become.  He could be a Marcus Spears clone (albeit quicker, but less of a force against the run).  When compared to a player like Tyron Smith or, at his position, Cameron Jordan, Watt’s upside is far lower.

Overall, game tape such as that below made me alter Watt’s rating.  Keep in mind this is by far the best tape on him I could find.  The player the Cowboys would get is a cross between this one and the one I originally saw who is, at times, a second round talent with minimal upside.

Projection

Watt has moved up boards lately.  I now think he’s a late-first round talent who, due to his measurables and work ethic, will get selected in the middle of the first round.  If the Cowboys like Watt enough, they should probably make a move down for him.  There are rumors they like Cameron Jordan quite a bit as well, and one of them will almost certainly be available at, say, New England’s 17th overall pick.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

Like this post? Share it with others:
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Netvibes
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

27 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

  1. Jonny Danger says:

    I have been waiting for this for some time thank you. I’m very intrigued by this prospect. I was not really sure about him at first but he has got something really going for him. I like the way he plays though I to noticed his habits when he is not asked to just straight rush the passer. Though I feel that is just a state of mind and can be coached easily if he is willing to change. I would be thrilled if we traded down and picked him up. Though I’m not sure he is worth the 9 pick as much as I’m starting to like him.

  2. willis says:

    Jonnny – 100% agree. I really like him. His attitude, motor and ability to disrupt the quarterbacks passing lane all intrigue me.

    J-Bales- you seem to have him listed as a guy who doesn’t have as much potential as others, but when drafting for a team with gaping holes rather than all around needs I would rather take a guy who has a better chance of being a good player for 8 years than a guy who can bust and land us back in the “mediocre” pile. IMO, I will draft players who have the work ethic and mentality this guy has over “possible talent” all day.

    Personally I would rather have 11 guys who bust their butt on every down than 11 who have all the talent in the world but don’t use it. I know ‘m skewing the view a little bit, but IMO the mentality this guy has is the definition of “Blue Chip.” (I would consider players such as D-ware, B-James, K-brook,(even w/ limited time), T-new, Doug Free, and Jay Ratliff to be Blue chips.)

    Point being this is the most likelyD-lineman so far other trhan Dareus who has the least chance of busting in the top 15. (not including Phil T… JB, I also think he is a stud.) The motor/ability to disrupt the passing lane makes the difference for me, and although I think we should trade down, I think doing that and drafting him would be a possible scenario. Then we might also be able to get Big phil Taylor……
    Hey, a guy can dream, right?

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    This guy looks much better than I expected…

    My only question is – does he look like he is (not can become within 3 years) an EVERY down DE as a rookie? If he’s just a run stopper or pass rusher only, then he’s more valuable as a 4-3 DE or 5 technique DT for some other team. Marcus Spears was a 1st rd pick a few years ago and Dallas is contemplating mot resigning him due to his one dimensional play. Top 10 draft picks haven’t happened that often for Dallas, so when they’re saddled with one, they need to be smart. And, it makes more sense to me to use that top 10 draft pick on a guy who’s going to be playing more often than 1 or 2 downs his 1st year. Any part time player that Dallas needs should be a 3rd round pick at best.

    Right now, Dallas has 6 defensive linemen on contract – Ratliff, Olshansky, Brent, Geathers, LaDouceur and Lissemore, DE is only a position of need for the Boys if they DON’T resign Bowens and/or Hatcher and/or Spears and they cut Olshansky. If you consider that only Josh Brent is good enough next year to crack the starting lineup, then you have 3 starters. Resigning Bowen will give Dallas the pass rush option from either DE position (I think that Dallas’ priority of resigning vets starts w/ Bowen). Money wise, Olshansky’s due to make 3.35 million so maybe cutting him and drafting a DE makes more economical sense but for what Olshansky was doing, matching his production could probably be gained by a 3rd round pick.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m of the opinion that Watt seems to be an improvement over everyone but Ratliff at this point. However, I think there is better VALUE in drafting a true NT (Power or Ellis) in the 3rd round who plays on passing downs only and playing Jay Ratliff at NT on running downs and DE on obvious passing downs opposite Bowen.

    That would allow the use of that #9 pick to be available for trading down, picking up an extra pick and drafting a OT (a position of MUCH greater need) in the process. This course of action rates about a 5 out of 10 on my DESIREABLE actions whereas staying at #9 and drafting a DE rates about a 1 out of 10 (moving up to draft PP for use as a FS only rates a 4 out of 10).

  4. Willis–You bring up a good point about risk/reward. I’d agree that, with the first two picks in a draft, maximizing a prospect’s floor is more important than maximizing his ceiling. You just can’t afford to miss. Having said that, I do think a player like Cameron Jordan has just as high of a floor with far greater upside. Sometimes I think we confuse having a low ceiling with automatically being a “safe” pick, or on the other hand, possessing a ton of upside as being “risky.” That’s not necessarily the case.

    I’d disagree on Dareus. I actually think he’s one of the safer picks in this class. He’s an example of how huge upside doesn’t necessitate being risky. You obviously disagree…tell me why.

  5. Ooopss!! Read your post incorrectly Willis…I see you called Dareus a safe pick. Agreed! And you know how much I love Taylor.

    Tyrone–I like your thoughts on the NT/DE dilemma. I’m a big proponent of securing a guy like Taylor or Ellis. I DON’T think Brent is ready to start at all. He did a nice job last year, but he’d be a poor starter at this point. Love his upside, but he wasn’t even an average player last season (I think the fact that he was so “cheap” made people think he was better than what was the case).

  6. valmont says:

    Jonathan,

    If you aren’t familiar with Football Outsiders SackSEER you might find it interesting.

    http://www.footballoutsiders.com/nfl-draft/2010/introducing-sackseer

    Football Outsiders hasn’t done their projection yet but on the physical measurables (vertical & short shuttle) Watt is in rare company. Not just tops this year … one of the best combinations of the last couple years … Mario Williams territory.

  7. Mark Sands says:

    JB-Most of the mocks ive seen lately have Fairley and Peterson slipping to #7 and #8, with the Cowboys taking Tyrone Smith OT at #9.Trade ups have us trading with Cleveland #1s and us giving a #2. Also Cincinnati trade #1s and giving a #3. Trade down is still best scenario with us giving a #9 and #110 for NE #17 and #33. –Which way would you go?

  8. Mark Sands says:

    JB– Best Im able to project in new Cowboy draft order,with compensory picks. Round and overall #—-1-#9, 2-#40, 3-#71, 4-#110, 5-#143,6-#173,7-#213,7-#251(this last pick is non-tradeable)

  9. Valmont–I have seen SackSEER before but haven’t studied it too in-depth. I have trouble using a guy’s measurables as a sole predictor of NFL success. It seems like that has worked after the fact in the past, but each case still needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. Nonetheless, interesting numbers.

    Mark–Personally, I’d move up to 7 in a heartbeat if PP fell there. I wouldn’t move up for Fairley..actually I probably wouldn’t take him at No. 9 either. I think he has a low floor and doesn’t fit a 3-4 particularly well. And I’d love to trade down and still grab Smith, but I don’t think that can happen. Right now, I’m leaning toward selecting Smith at No. 9 or moving down a bit and “settling” on Castonzo or Ijalana (unlikely). I am hearing if the ‘Boys move down, though, it will be for Carimi.

  10. valmont says:

    “I have trouble using a guy’s measurables as a sole predictor of NFL success”

    I never get this. Do you have a problem with baseball scouts using a radar gun? I understand what you’re saying, it’s the same as with the radar gun, you can’t just pick pitchers based solely on the radar gun number. OTOH, everyone understands the radar gun number is valuable because it has a direct relationship to performance. So the key question is do the measurables have a direct relationship to performance. The SackSEER regression is pretty strong evidence that short shuttle and vertical in fact do. Also its not the ‘sole’ predictor in the model.

    “It seems like that has worked after the fact in the past, but each case still needs to be evaluated on an individual basis”

    In plain english you think SackSEER is data mining.

    You might want to spring the $8 for the discounted FO Alamanc which has more detail on SackSEER. The short story is the analyst actually tested for data mining. He used 1st & 2nd round pick data to calculate the regression and then tested it on all players rounds 1-7.

  11. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Ya know, there actually is a “solution” or at least an optimizing formula for predicting future success for a football player (or any player in any sport for that matter)… That formula hasn’t been developed as far as I can tell however.

    If it were,it would be position dependent and would include a vast majority of all the tell-tale measurables that could be included. The SackSEER is a start in that direction. The formula for pass rushers, specifically, would probably include about 25-30 variables (depending on who develops it) and would be EXTREMELY difficult to manage w/o several assumptions. For instance:

    Pass rusher productivity (PRP) = short shuttle time (SST) x some arbitrary weighting factor + 1 / vertical jump (vj) x some arbitrary factor + 1 / weighted sacks per yr in college (WSC) x some arbitrary factor . . .

    For example: PRP = 4.15 x .3 + 1 / 34 x .3 + 1 / 12.5 x .2 + …

    Lowest # would be best score.

    Of course, I don’t have all the individual factors but the fun part is DEBATING what those factors would be, how to weight them and the associated assumptions (like playing on grass vs. turf, weather, outside air temperature, etc.). Once a “universal” or at least widely accepted grouping of factors is determined, regression analysis can be accomplished on past superstars for validation of the formula.

    Jonathan, when you gonna get around to that?

    BTW, once you’ve got a vector on the pash rusher formula, we’ll be looking for the pass blockers, the interceptors, the punt returners, the passers, the pash cathers and the rushers.

    (this was just a joke JB, don’t kick me off the site…)

  12. Valmont…No doubt numbers CAN be important. I don’t think a 40 time or a short shuttle is useless by any means. But I do kind of see those tests as a sort of plateau…once a prospect crosses a baseline of NFL-required athleticism, I’m not sure the numbers becoming increasingly important. Sure, you’d love to have the best numbers possible, but I’ll take a 4.55 CB who is intelligent and has no character concerns over a 4.35 dumbass. OTOH, I’ll gamble on the 4.35 dumbass over a 4.7 CB who has produced in the past.

    And you’re right that I should look into SackSEER more intently. I’d be interested in knowing how they tested for data mining and what the exact results were.

  13. Tyrone–That’s it..you’re gone! haha

    I do agree that, in theory, a formula could be developed that could predict the CHANCES of success for a particular prospect, but NEVER the exact amount of success he will have during his career. This might sounds ridiculous, but the reason I believe this is that I’m not a determinist. I think quantum mechanics has proven that random events happen all the time on a microscopic level and do have real implications on the macroscopic level (I’m also a BIG closet theoretical physics fan).

    So, I don’t think it is simply a limitation of our knowledge that makes perfect complex predictions impossible…it is really related to the way in which the world is set up. A “perfect solution” as it relates to NFL prospect success rate would and could only include the percentages a particular prospect succeeds (and how much success he finds). Sort of like radioactive decay…we, in principle, can only predict the CHANCES a particular atom will decay, NEVER exactly when. That isn’t a limitation on our knowledge. . .it is a fundamental way in which the universe operates.

    Using that example, the half-life of a radioactive element would be analogous to the top of the bell-curve of a prospect’s future success. The most likely outcome is at the top of the curve (or the half-life), but the chances of that EXACT amount of success (or time of decay) happening are rather small. Most of the time, the prospect will fall within a standard deviation of that level of success, though. However, SOMETIMES we’ll see a prospect completely fail or wildly exceed expectations, just as we sometimes see an atom instantly decay or outlive its projected lifespan.

    One implication of this is that sometimes great picks turn out to be horrible players. No one wants to claim that a player who was a total bust was STILL a good pick at the time, but I think that can be the case. Similarly, an All-Pro caliber player may have actually been a horrible pick, but he simply randomly fell on the “right” side of the bell curve. Ultimately, it is the job of NFL scouts and GMs to maximize that potential for success. The inherent unpredictability in this process is why I think coaches, GMs, etc sometimes get fired WAY too soon.

    Anyway, feel free to completely ignore this somewhat off-tangent rant.

  14. valmont says:

    “But I do kind of see those tests as a sort of plateau…once a prospect crosses a baseline of NFL-required athleticism, I’m not sure the numbers becoming increasingly important.”

    Why? On what basis. If a pitcher clocks a 110 MPH fastball is that what you think? Once you hit the 90 MPH threshold there’s no marginal benefit between a 90 MPH, a 100 MPH, and a 110 MPH pitch?

    I’m not sure why you believe the benefit reaches a plateau once you hit a certain threshold.

  15. A fastball is completely different from running speed. When a pitcher throws a fastball, his goal is almost always to throw it as fast as he can. A 110mph would ALWAYS be useful. Football players don’t ALWAYS use straight-line speed. In fact, rarely ever does a player run 40 straight yards as fast as he can.

    And it isn’t as if I think extra speed isn’t useful at all..of course you want players to be as fast as possible. I’m saying that the difference between a 4.4 guy and a 4.5 guy, however, isn’t nearly as important as the difference between a smart one and a dumb one. There are certainly more factors that go into assessing a football player than testable numbers.

    In baseball, the stats REALLY matter. The basic game situations are ALWAYS the same (same distance from the mound to the plate, same distance to the bags, same strike zone..in theory), so the numbers can really mean something. Football is so situation-specific that stats can become almost useless. It’s the reason why baseball teams utilize players’ numbers in college, while football teams really couldn’t care less about a player’s college stats.

    This isn’t to say that, in theory, we can’t develop methods by which football players can be universally measured. I’m just saying that right now, with all of the different systems, schemes, team goals, etc, the numbers can be misleading.

    Quick example…the 40 or short-shuttle time for a CB would probably matter far more to a team that runs a lot of man coverage than a Cover 2 team. So you can take the same two players and get drastically different ratings of them from different squads. That doesn’t happen in baseball…the numbers are more universal.

  16. valmont says:

    “A 110mph would ALWAYS be useful.”

    Ok, you get that. I would suggest that one day vertical jump and short shuttle may be seen to have as much of a relationship to performance as a fastball for a pitcher … without any plataeus.

    I probably have the opposite assumption which is that because what matters in sports is relative performance you wouldn’t have plateaus where additional performance doesn’t help.

  17. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami | Dallas Cowboys Times

  18. I think our disagreement here (or perhaps there isn’t one) is that I view a fastball’s value as increasing at the same rate (or very close to it) no matter the MPH….thus, a 100mph is to 95 as 105 is to 100. OTOH, I don’t think the difference (as it relates to football performance) between a 4.5 and a 4.4 is the same as that between a 4.4 and a 4.3.

  19. valmont says:

    Yes, that’s where we disagree. I think that when it comes to bullrushing/pancaking an OL the marginal benefit of a 40″ vert over a 35″ vert is the same as the marginal benefit of a 35″ over a 30″. Same for short shuttle.

    And I threw out the fastball to give you an example of a physical measurable that doesn’t plataeu … just something to consider.

    “I don’t think the difference (as it relates to football performance) between a 4.5 and a 4.4 is the same as that between a 4.4 and a 4.3.”

    Let’s take your example: 40 times.

    First, we need to clear some things up because you’re conflating multiple issues.

    First issue is that the measurable has to be related to performance for that position. For example, 40 time may not matter to a zone corner or a DL, but it does matter to a man-to-man corner, WR, or RB. You’re reasoning that because a 40 time doesn’t matter to a zone corner it doesn’t matter to all positions. That conclusion isn’t warranted.

    Having addressed that let’s consider an example where there’s solid research and the 40 time is correlated to future performance: weight adjusted 40 times for RB. The Speed Score for RB has an r-squared of ~0.40 and there isn’t any plateau. In fact, going from 4.4 to 4.3 is probably a bigger deal than going from 4.5 gto 4.4 because a 4.3 forty is so rare. Holding other factors constant the RB with a 4.3 forty is a much better prospect.

  20. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Essentially, since the beginning of sports, we’ve all been trying to characterize and predict the success rate of intangible properties. How a baseball player sees a pitch (whether it be a knuckleball, curve, slider, fastball, etc.), predicts its path and hits it with a bat in a split second is an art form. Same thing with the juke move a RB makes to elude a defender, the basketball shot, golf ball strike, etc. And, through the years, all we’ve proven is that the “science” or study of hand eye coordination is HIGHLY inexact. IMO, simplicity works just as well as teh complex and that the best anyone can hope for is a crude numbering scale (1 – 100 usually suffices) for various areas.

    When I look at an RB, I grade him on a scale of 1-10 in the in terms of elusiveness, speed, durability, pass-catching, play learning capability, power, ball security and blocking. Since that’s only 8 areas, I weight the elusiveness, speed, durability and ball security a little higher (like a weighting of 1.5) for a total of 100 possible points.

    When looking at an OLB, I go with zone coverage, man coverage, tackling, block shedding, hit power, speed, durability and play learning. And so on for other positions…

    As unscientific as that is (and completely subjective), it works more often than not. My greatest limfac is obtaining enough “tape” to properly evaluate…which is why I’m lovin this site so much.

  21. valmont says:

    to clarify why rarity might increase the marginal benefit, there might be 100 players in the NFL who could catch a RB who runs a 4.4 forty … there’s might be 5 players who could catch a RB who runs a 4.3.

  22. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA | Dallas Cowboys Times

  23. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I think Dallas covets running capability more than just flat out speed after their time w/ Tyson Thompson (who was supposedly sub 4.4).

  24. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson | Dallas Cowboys Times

  25. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton | Dallas Cowboys Times

  26. Pingback: Final 2011 Big Board: Position Rankings and Top 100 | Dallas Cowboys Times

  27. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys 2011 NFL Draft Rumors: Latest News, Potential Picks and Trades « Top Sports Hub

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>