The San Francisco 49ers have many needs to address in the upcoming draft. General Manager John Lynch filled the team with veteran leadership in free agency, but the draft will aid this team for years to come in terms of foundation. Here’s why the 49ers should select T.J. Watt.
He’s a Watt. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Well in short, no it shouldn’t.
Because during a rebuild, the only way to set the foundation right is to select the best of the best.
The franchise needs it to survive, and the fans deserve a roster that will serve them for years to come.
A great offense will light up the scoreboard, but a dominant defense wins championships. Right now, it’s imperative that the 49ers secure some players that know how to stack the box and shut down the opposing offense.
The only way to resurrect a defense that used to be great is to stockpile the roster with players that play heads-up and hard-nosed.
Last year the run defense was abysmal and the pass defense was anything but threatening, but amidst the problems staring this team in the face, there are some players worth building around.
Defensive ends Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner will be manning the front line of a newly changed defensive scheme. All they need is some talent behind them that can get to the quarterback while they set the double team.
With newly hired coordinator Robert Saleh calling the plays, the 4-3 defense figures to be dominant with the right people in place. Here’s why the 49ers should call T.J. Watt’s name on draft day.
Since the departure of troubled linebacker Aldon Smith, the 49ers have been trying to fill the void of pass rushing specialist. Every great defense has one, and all opposing quarterbacks struggle to get away from them.
Aaron Lynch showed promise in his first two years at outside linebacker where he quickly became the starter. The only problem is since that impressive start all he’s given his team is an ankle injury, a four-game suspension and a reason to doubt his ability.
He could bounce back and have a great season in 2017. A comeback player in Lynch, and the addition of Watt could do more than beef up the pass rush, it could make it just as dominant as it was just five years ago.
It would also mean the cutting of ties with linebacker Ahmad Brooks. The 33-year-old Brooks has a cap hit of $6.1 million, and declines in production a little more each year.
However, if he doesn’t, the addition of T.J Watt could be even more imperative to the current depth chart. Regardless of whether or not the rest of the defense falls in line behind him, T.J. Watt is more than starter material.
He’s the missing piece that could truly show just how dominant Buckner and Armstead really are.
When building a championship team there’s no such thing as a half dominant defense. You must be equally skilled in terms of pass rush and run defense if you want to compete with the best. Unfortunately, when you’re the second worst team in the NFL, it’s hard to pinpoint what side of your defense needs help the most.
Last year, the 49ers defense gave up 406 yards-per-game and 480 total points in 16 regular-season games.
So how do you address the problem?
You draft a player that specializes against the pass, knows how to stuff the run and has a motor that doesn’t stop until the play is over.
T.J. Watt is a raging bull from the beginning of the play to the end of the whistle. In the running game he attacks the guard and traps the lead blocker making it seem as though the tailback is alone on the field. This not only minimizes the amount of yards the running back will get before the initial collision, it stops the play before it has a chance to develop.
His 15.5 tackles-for-loss show his ability to break the line of scrimmage and get to the ball carrier in a hurry.
Against the pass, he isn’t the fastest guy around the corner, but he is the hardest worker in the huddle. Where many feel he loses points for not breezing by the offensive tackle, his pursuit of the quarterback is tireless and he will wear everyone down in his way.
With 56 pressures, 30 hurries, 16 hits and 11.5 sacks on the quarterback, T.J. Watt is everything that the 49ers need on the field moving forward.
In 2015, T.J. Watt played in 174 total snaps before seeing his season cut short due to injury. Last season he played in a total of 661 total snaps. Despite having only 14 collegiate starts, he is still pegged as a late first rounder or early second round pick.
If he stayed in college for his senior season, his stock would certainly be on the rise. He could even be a top 10 pick. During the combine he impressed many scouts with his performance. His 137 inch vertical jump tied that of his older brother J.J. Watt. He also bested him in the broad jump by 8 inches.
The only thing more impressive than his hard work ethic is his ability to finish the play. His long arms allow him to get around his competition, and his quick burst off the line gives him the edge in getting to the ball carrier.
Watt has a knack for chasing down runners from the behind. This keeps the offense in check with minimal gains. His ability to actively utilize his hands within his technique gives him the edge when wrapping up the ball carrier. T.J. knows how to clear the garbage by his feet, and is quick to pick up the fumble.
He’s an ascending talent that many feel will continue to grow once he’s on the appropriate roster. If the 49ers pass on a LEO in the first round, Watt would be a steal with the No. 34 pick overall.
With the NFL draft less than a week away, only time will tell where the youngest Watt will end up.