Will T.J. Watt Be Available at #29 for the Packers?

Before J.J. Watt’s athleticism rocketed him up draft boards, he was initially connected to the Green Bay Packers. Now, his youngest brother T.J. is doing the same thing.

Here’s the bottom line on T.J. Watt from NFL.com’s scouting report:

A long-limbed effort rusher who posted impressive numbers against the run and pass in just one year as a starter. He is a tireless worker who pursues from snap to whistle and his brother, J.J., will be a tremendous resource for technique and pass-rush plan. While he is unlikely to win a race to the edge, he's a plus run defender who can get to the quarterback with plus hand work and relentless effort.

If he is to be the Packers’ first round pick, T.J. Watt will suffer from the same syndrome that plagued wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in Green Bay. Most fans of the Wisconsin Badgers are also fans of the Packers, and their idea of what Watt could be in Green Bay is likely vastly different than the actual reality of his career.

Watt’s combine performance helps his chances of landing in Green Bay

T.J. Watt is projected as a late first- or early second-round pick. He’s part of a deep, versatile class of pass rushers.

General manager Ted Thompson is a believer in the prospects from Wisconsin’s football program. It’s said he coveted Montee Ball coming out of Madison, and he selected Jared Abbrederis despite wide receiver being a position of strength at the time.

Tex Western from Acme Packing Company pointed out that Watt’s combine performance was eerily similar to the Packers’ star linebacker Clay Matthews. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock made the comparison between the two during the combine this week, too.

Watt’s chances of landing in Green Bay now hinge the most on how the next month of free agency plays out. The Packers will be, barring any developments, replacing linebackers Julius Peppers, Datone Jones and Nick Perry.

If all three return or if the Packers choose to fortify the position with other free agents, general manager Ted Thompson may not have the appetite to select another pass rusher in the first round.

What experts are saying about this year’s pass rushers

“I think it's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen, and I think the defensive edge rusher [group is great], whether it's 4-3 or 3-4,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “There are eight guys that I have potential first-round grades on the edge. So anybody looking for an edge in the first round is going to find them.”

“There are some really good pass rushers in this group,” Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff said. “For most of the league, who happened to be looking for pass rushers, it’s a positive. I think more and more everyone realizes the importance of having one, two and three pass rusher that can affect the quarterback and we are very aware of that.”

“It’s going to be a good year for pass rushers and defensive ends in a 4-3 as well as 3-4 outside linebackers,” said DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline on our podcast, Blue 58.

Will T.J. Watt be available at #29?

Mock drafts are a risky proposition, as most of the information leaked to reporters by teams and players’ agents is inaccurate or speculative. That being said, mock drafts are awfully fun.

On Sunday, CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco predicted Watt will end up in Green Bay. Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times predicted Watt to Green Bay on a mock draft posted Saturday. In early February, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah predicted Watt to the Packers.

NFL.com lists an edge defender, outside linebacker, or pass rusher as a need for nine teams selecting before the Packers. It’s a risky proposition to assume someone with measurables comparable to Clay Matthews and the pedigree of J.J. Watt will be available at the end of the first round.

If the Packers target T.J. Watt and have their heart set on acquiring the linebacker, they will most likely have to trade up in the first round to guarantee he’s available.