2013 NFL Draft: Menelik Watson Scouting Report
Menelik Watson is one of several internationally born and bred prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. The big offensive tackle, who is originally from the United Kingdom, spent most of his life playing basketball. He ended up in New York on a basketball scholarship, then dabbled in boxing a little bit before attending a college football game and deciding he wanted to pursue American football as a career.
He signed on at Saddlebrook Junior College in California, where Kyle Long (son of Howie, and himself a highly-regarded prospect in this draft) lobbied with the coaches to get Watson a starting role on the offensive line. He shone in his one year at the JUCO level, and selected Florida State over Oklahoma, Rutgers, Cal, Auburn, and Oregon. After starting for the whole year at right tackle, he elected to declare for the draft despite only two years of football under his belt. He’s as raw as a prospect can be, but he’s being projected in the top 40 picks because he’s come as far as he has in his limited experience.
Late First-Early Second
Frame: At 6’5” and 310 pounds, he has prototypical offensive tackle size. His arms are a solid 34”, and he has large 10 3/8” hands. He’s a chiseled, polished athlete who carries his weight well. From a physical perspective, he easily projects to the next level.
Quickness/Balance: Beyond his ideal frame, his athleticism is his biggest asset. He didn’t wow at the combine--in fact, his performance was a big disappointment, as he ranked at the bottom of the offensive tackles in nearly every workout. On the field, though, he’s one of the quickest tackles in the draft. As a run blocker, he gets the second level unbelievably quickly, and he has a light, agile kick-step with a wide base as he drops in pass protection.
Strength/Power: One of the first things that stands out on tape, apart from his speed to the second level, is the power he packs in the punch he uses to keep defensive linemen at bay. It’s a quick and subtle pop to the chest that can be lethal in stymying opposing pass rushers. He can sit back in his stance well, bending his knees rather than his waist, which keeps him balanced and helps him win the leverage battle.
Technique: Unfortunately, most of the things I described above are only visible in flashes. His technique is terribly inconsistent. Sometimes he times the snap perfectly and beats everyone off the line. Other times he’s the last one out of his stance, as he panics, reaches, and grabs. When he senses he’s been beaten, he tends to get pretty grabby, which will lead to holding penalties at the next level. When facing elite pass rushers, he would completely stone them on one play, only to be totally overwhelmed on the next. He’ll need extensive work with an offensive line coach to develop consistent, reliable technique.
Experience: Of course, his technique is lacking because he’s only played the sport for two years. While it’s remarkable that he’s made it as far as he has, he’s still extremely raw. He almost assuredly won’t contribute at a high level for at least a year or two. He’ll need to learn an NFL blocking scheme and demonstrate an ability to seamlessly identify his blocking assignments and then sustain his blocks through the whistle.
Every offensive line coach in the NFL is going to salivate over the potential they see in Watson. He has a truly elite ceiling. His tools compare favorably to the best tackles in the draft, and the fact that he’s learned the game as quickly as he has can only increase his perceived value to them. However, the fact that he flitted around a bit before settling on American football may generate some questions about his commitment to being the best he can be. His severely underwhelming combine raised a few eyebrows, as his on-field athleticism told a very different story.
Ultimately, there will be a team that can’t pass on him twice. He’s a gamble, but the upside is an elite dual-threat offensive tackle in a league where quarterbacks and pass rushers (and by extension, offensive tackles) are supremely important. The top three offensive tackles in this class won’t last beyond the top-seven picks, so need may push him into the first round. Some credible rumors have already said he won’t get past the 16-22 range. If he does, though, I can’t see him surviving ten picks on the second day.