The look at the Vikings draft picks and their road to making the 2014 Vikings roster continues today with the Vikings second to last pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Linebacker Brandon Watts, who recently signed his rookie contract, was described as an “under the radar guy,” by general manager Rick Spielman, because he did not even receive a Combine invitation after his senior season at Georgia Tech. The Vikings brought him in on a “Top 30″ visit though, and apparently liked his athleticism enough to take a flier on him in the seventh round.
Brandon Watts, LB – Georgia Tech
Taken in 7th Round, 223rd overall by Vikings
Age: 23; Height: 6-2; Weight: 225 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.41; Bench: 16; Short Shuffle: 4.21; 3-Cone Drill: 6.89
*Watts was not a Combine invitee so all measurables came from Pro Day workout
2010 Stats – 21 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions
2011 Stats – 12 tackles, 3 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions
2012 Stats – 77 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions
2013 Stats – 66 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 interception
Draft Highlight Reel: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:10913683
Watts is a linebacker whose athleticism stands out, but he is still very raw on the football field. Watts has sideline-to-sideline speed, but he needs to improve his technique and his play recognition to take full advantage of that speed.
Watts has experience as a defensive back, and he plays relatively comfortable as an outside linebacker in pass coverage. His instincts still need improving if he wants to cover consistently at the next level, but there’s no doubt the tools are there.
That’s essentially what the Vikings have with Watts right now. An athletic linebacker who has all the tools to contribute at the next level, but coming out of Georgia Tech he needs a lot of refinement to make the roster.
Spot on the Depth Chart:
Watts has the versatility to play both outside linebacker spots, and it’s possible the team will try him at both spots during OTAs and training camp. But to start, the team indicated he will man the weakside position, behind Chad Greenway and Larry Dean.
Greenway will almost certainly be the week one starter at the position, but Dean has played almost exclusively special teams during his time with the Vikings and may not represent a huge roadblock.
Watts needs a lot of refinement, but if he can digest Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme quickly there’s no question he could push Dean for the backup weakside linebacker spot.
Watts’ speed will also make him a potential asset on special teams almost immediately, and that’s where he’ll be given the most opportunities during training camp.
Odds of Making Roster: Possible
Watts roster chances hinges on two critical factors: how many linebackers the Vikings take and whether he stands out on special teams. Right now the Vikings have ten linebackers on their depth chart, and they had seven on their first 2013 53-man roster.
New head coach Mike Zimmer and the Cincinnati Bengals only kept five linebackers on their first roster last year, however, which would make it a lot tougher for Watts to make the team. One of those linebackers was an undrafted rookie though, so if Watts shows he can fit Zimmer’s scheme this summer he will be given a chance.
The one key thing Watts can do to help his value is become a contributor on special teams. He has the speed to get down the field quickly and make plays, and if he makes a couple of standout tackles in training camp and preseason it could make it a lot tougher for the Vikings to cut him.