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Patriots 2011 Draft Report: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin

J.J Watt would add a new dimension to the Patriots defensive line. (By Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

Despite whether a new CBA is agreed upon, or not, the NFL Draft will still take place 60+ days from now. With free agency on the mend until a deal is made, the 2011 draft is arguably one of the biggest in NFL history.

The New England Patriots, as is always the case, have a lot of draft picks to play with. Bill Belichick and company has five of the first 75 selections. With needs along both sides of the ball, the Patriots could go anywhere on draft day. It’s our job to highlight some of the players that the Patriots may consider.

J.J Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Ironically, the biggest need for the Patriots is that of what they traded away in exchange for the No. 17 overall pick. Since the departure of Richard Seymour the Patriots haven’t found a viable replacement. This past season the defensive front saw a variety of rotation with players such as; Vince Wilfork, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace, Kyle Love and Mike Wright.

Former 2003 first round pick, Ty Warren, started the 2010 season on Injured Reserve and has been a disappointment since signing his 6-year $37 million contract after he posted 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2006. Warren hasn’t played a full season since 2007 and saw a drastic reduction in production in 2008 and 2009. Although part of Warren’s production was made by the presence of Seymour, the Patriots expect more from the former Aggie.

With Warren digressing and no other viable option on the other side, the Patriots will look to upgrade the defensive end position.

J.J. Watt is a perfect fit for the 3-4 system. At an unofficial 6-6, 292, Watt possesses the size to overpower offensive tackles along with deceptive speed to rush the quarterback. Last season, as a junior, Watt recorded 62 tackles — 21 of them for a loss with seven sacks. Watt is a true leader with the winning attitude that Belichick looks for in prospects. Both on and off the field, one of Watt’s strongest attributes is his IQ. Watt was named to the All-Big Ten Academic team in 2010.

In a draft that’s stockpiled with great defensive end prospects, Watt is near the top. Although he isn’t flashy like other top prospects, Robert Quinn and Da’Quan Bowers, Watt’s non-stop motor will make him a viable player in the NFL. A two-year starter for the Badgers, Watt has worked for his success.

Out of Pewaukee, Wisc., Watt was a 2-star defensive end who attended Central Michigan for his freshman year. Following a great season, Watt decided to walk on at Wisconsin — later earning a scholarship.

Depending on how he runs and measures, Watt could find himself falling in the top 10.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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