Speedy Watts looking to overcome Combine snub

Linebacker Brandon Watts wasn’t invited to the Combine, but his 40 time at his pro day would have topped all linebackers invited and been one of the fastest among linebackers in the last 10 years. He talked about the snub and his focus going forward with the Vikings.

The Vikings drafted Brandon Watts for speed at the linebacker position, but the Georgia Tech product didn’t even get the chance to show the rest of the teams that asset, or any other skills, at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Watts was a Combine snub, for reasons he really can’t explain.

“It was shocking, but I didn’t let it get me down. I knew I would still have my pro day,” Watts said after an offseason practice with the Vikings. “I just wanted to go out there and do what I could do. I can’t control all that.”

Turns out, Watt made the most of his pro day. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. That was better than any linebacker at the Combine.

“They told me I would have been top-eight or top-10 fastest in all groups,” Watts said.

“They” were right. Watts’ 40-yard dash time would have tied for 10th overall with another player the Vikings drafted well before him – third-round running back Jerick McKinnon – and cornerback Jaylen Watkins. Only four other defenders – cornerbacks Justin Gilbert, Philip Gaines, Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby – topped Watts’ time.

In the last 10 years of the NFL Scouting Combine, the only linebacker to run faster among the close to 400 that participated was Stanford’s Jon Alston, who just inched past Watts with a 4.40 timing during the 2006 Combine session, according to NFL Draft Report.

Watts also recorded a 37½-inch vertical jump, sixth-best in the 2014 linebacker class. His 10-foot-2 broad jump would have ranked fifth, while his 20-yard shuttle of 4.21 fell behind eight others. In the three-cone drill, he torched the track at 6.89 seconds, which would have been fourth-best in the 2014 Indianapolis group.

But Watts was relegated to watching the “Underwear Olympics” at the Combine on TV instead of competing against those athletes in person. And don’t think he wasn’t comparing himself and his speed to theirs while it was going on, even if his pro day was after the Combine.

“It was pretty hard watching it because I felt like I was a lot better athlete than a lot of those guys. It all worked out for itself,” Watts said. “I just kept working out and preparing for my pro day.”

That’s where the Vikings’ big exposure to the 6-foot-2, 231-pound linebacker came. They saw him play at the NFLPA Bowl in California, then sent a scout to the Georgia Tech pro day. After his speedy time in the 40-yard dash – the Vikings also timed him at 4.41 – they invited him to be part of their “top-30” visit to Winter Park.

Eventually, they drafted Watts in the seventh round, completing his story of overcoming the odds of being drafted without attending the Combine.

“I wasn’t really surprised. I was surprised that a couple of other teams didn’t draft me because they showed me more love,” he said. “But I wasn’t surprised they did because I had talked to those guys (the Vikings) before and I came up here for a visit.”

Watts started 29 of 48 games for the Yellow Jackets, recording 179 tackles (104 solos) with 7½ sacks for minus-52 yards and 16 tackles for losses of 71 yards. He intercepted one pass and deflected three others, forced four fumbles and recovered one. In his last 26 games, he had 143 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 12 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

That story shows a productive linebacker, so it will be up to Watts to show he has more to offer the Vikings than just raw speed. He will get that opportunity in a little over two weeks when training camp begins and the pads go on.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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