With the NFL Draft less than a month away, we look at the Dallas Cowboys potential first round selection of Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt as a possible pass rusher.
Back in February, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones famousy told the mediaf that he and his team were on the lookout for a “war daddy” this offseason. The Cowboys have been in need of a premier pass rusher for several years, so the announcement wasn’t a surprise.
And the fact the Cowboys have done little in free agency to find that player isn’t a shock either, as they value building their roster through the draft rather than overpaying for veteran players. Although free agent signee Damontre Moore could potentially turn into a quality add at defensive end this season.
It appears the Cowboys are once again going to try to land a premier pass rusher in the NFL Draft later this month. Unfortunately, their attempts to do so the past few years haven’t yielded any consistent results.
Back in 2014, Dallas traded up in the second round of the draft to select DeMarcus Lawrence out of Boise State. After a rookie season hindered by a foot injury, Lawrence led the Cowboys in sacks in 2015 with 8.0.
But a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy stunted the 24-year old’s progress last year as he recorded just 11 total tackles and 1.0 sack in nine games. And the fact Lawrence had back surgery for the second consecutive offseason doesn’t exactly bode well for his overall future.
In 2015, Dallas used their second round selection to pick yet another pass rusher. This one was Nebraska’s Randy Gregory. Tumbling down draft boards after failing a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Cowboys counted themselves lucky when they landed the top-ten level talent with the 60th overall selection.
Unfortunately, the 24-year old’s drug issues and injuries have resulted in him playing in just 14 total games in Dallas the past two seasons. Gregory is currently suspended through the entire 2017 regular season and possibly longer due to multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Finally, Dallas used an early fourth round selection in last year’s draft to select Oklahoma pass rusher Charles Tapper. But a back injury robbed the young prospect of his entire rookie season in 2016. It’s unknown what kind of impact Tapper will have in Dallas this season.
That all being said, the Cowboys appear to be ready to spend another one of their top selections in the upcoming draft on a pass rusher. This time hoping to find a legitimate war daddy who can make an immediate impact along their defense line.
According to NFL.com, one prospect the Cowboys are looking very closely at is Wisconsin edge rusher T.J. Watt, brother of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Houston Texans’ superstar J.J. Watt.
“[T.J.] Watt told NFL.com that in the past week he has worked out for the Cowboys, Lions and Patriots and is scheduled to work out for the Panthers,” reported Jeremy Bergman on the league’s official website.. “The Wisconsin linebacker said that he has also scheduled visits in the coming weeks to meet with the Cowboys and the Redskins at their respective facilities.”
A former tight end, Watt played as a linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme last season at Wisconsin. But the Cowboys likely believe the 22-year old could be an effective edge rusher for them in their 4-3 defense as well. Based on the below highlights, their probably right.
The biggest concern with Watt outside of a possible position shift, is the fact the bulk of his production came all in one season. Prior to racking up 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks last year for the Badgers as a junior, injuries to both his right and left knee in back-to-back years limited Watt’s play at Wisconsin his first two seasons.
But CBS Sports Draft expert and co-host of The Draft Show on DallasCowboys.com Dane Brugler believes Watt’s positives far outweigh the negatives.
“Watt’s initial quickness and play speed pop off the screen, using his violent hands and long arms to work off contact,” wrote Brugler. “His aggressiveness is a double-edged sword, leading to both positive and negative plays, but his determination, work habits and competitive drive mirror his older brother and will win over a NFL coaching staff. As long as the medicals check out, Watt projects as a starting rush end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.”
Brugler does give Watt a first round grade and ranks him as the fourth best edge rusher in this draft class. The Cowboys currently possess the 28th overall selection in the first round of this month’s NFL Draft. And many believe Watt will be available in that range if Dallas truly believes he is the war daddy they’ve been long searching for.