INDIANAPOLIS – T.J. Watt is used to being J.J. Watt’s little brother.
That’s sort of what NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock expected when he put on some of Watt’s tape in preparation for this year’s draft.
“When you put the tape in, you’re like, ‘C’mon, little brother, he can’t be that good,’” Mayock said on Saturday evening. “And then he starts running around and he’s got the same effort that his older brother has and he’s a freakier athlete than I expected.”
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The motor isn’t the only similarity between these brothers from Pewaukee, Wis. T.J. Watt also is taking a similar path to the NFL as his brother, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. J.J. Watt was the 11th pick of the 2011 draft by the Houston Texans. T.J. won’t go that early but he’s got a chance to be a first-round selection – possibly to the Green Bay Packers, who need an outside linebacker and were scheduled to have a formal interview with Watt on Saturday night.
J.J. Watt was a tight end at Central Michigan before transferring to Wisconsin as a walk-on. T.J. Watt didn’t walk on at Wisconsin but he did arrive as a tight end. He redshirted in 2013 and missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. In July 2015, first-year coach Paul Chryst asked T.J. about moving to outside linebacker in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Much like big brother J.J., T.J.’s career has flourished since making the move. A role player in 2015, Watt was a terror as a junior in 2016 with 11.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for losses, 13 hurries, two forced fumbles, one interception and four passes broken up. J.J., for the record, had seven sacks, 20.5 tackles for losses, 10 hurries, three forced fumbles, one interception and seven passes broken up as a senior.
“He’s one of the best players to ever do it, why not take that comparison?” T.J. Watt said. “The No. 1 thing I love about my brother’s play is how he does it. He’s 100 percent all out every single play. You’re not going to catch him loafing. He’s a game-changer. That’s how I want to be viewed.”
Having the Watt genes certainly helps – middle brother Derek is a fullback for the San Diego Chargers. That nonstop motor comes with backyard brotherly battles.
“Have I ever beat him (J.J.) in any competition? Yes, yes. He’ll admit it, too,” T.J. said. “We competed all the time growing up. I beat both my brothers in many things. They beat me in many things, as well. You’re not always going to win, you’re not always going to lose in that house. Pickup basketball, flag football, eating, it really doesn’t matter.”
Watt’s not hung up on where he goes in the draft. “Wherever I go, I’m going to keep my mouth shut and work as hard as I can.” It’s a good thing things like mock drafts aren’t on his mind, because this is an incredibly deep draft, in general, and an incredibly deep draft class of edge rushers, in particular. Depending on how Watt tests alongside the likes of Alabama’s Tim Williams, Clemson’s Derek Barnett, UCLA’s Takk McKinley, Missouri’s Charles Harris, Auburn’s Carl Lawson and Michigan’s Taco Charlton will determine Watt’s spot in the edge-rushing pecking order.
What can’t be measured in 40-yard dashes, bench-press reps and three-cone drills is Watt’s intensity. DNA can’t be measured, either. In Watt’s case, those two intangibles are inseparable.
Ultimately, Watt’s biggest weakness could be his biggest asset. Watt’s barely played the position. Is he as polished as lifelong linebackers? No, but that only means he hasn’t touched his career ceiling.
“The No. 1 thing that I tell teams is I’m only scratching the surface,” he said. “I’ve only played defense for 18 or 20 months. If I can do all the things I did this past year, then what can I do when I’m under the tutelage of an NFL coach? Obviously, lack of film, lack of experience, is a point that’s come across, but I feel like it’s not a problem at all with my work ethic and my bloodlines and stuff like that.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.