The Detroit Lions need a linebacker. In fact, it is the Lions’ biggest need according to almost anyone you ask. Many expect Detroit to pick a linebacker early in the draft, and several of the top linebacker prospects have been mocked to the Lions over the past few months.
However, there has been a lot of movement with these top prospects. A player like Haason Reddick, who was once considered a late first-round pick, is being mocked as high as the top six. Reuben Foster, once a sure top five pick, is now tumbling because of blunder after blunder in the pre-draft process.
Still, both of those prospects may be gone by the time the Lions are on the clock at 21, leaving Detroit only with second-tier options.
One of those options that has been shooting up draft boards is Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt. At first, it appeared this was the result of simple name recognition. Watt is the younger brother of current NFL superstar J.J. Watt. However, the closer we get to the draft, the more respect Watt appears to be getting, and now there’s a good chance he goes in the first round.
In fact, there is even a Vegas prop bet on whether Watt will make it out of the first round. Via OddsSharks, odds are even for Watt to be selected in the first round vs. any other round. In other words, the general perception around Watt right now, is that he’s a 50/50 shot to get selected in the opening round.
So that leaves the Lions in a conundrum. There’s a good chance Watt will be there when the Lions are picking 21st overall. Detroit could attempt to grab him in the second round, but if he’s only a coin flip to make it out of the first round, it seems quite unlikely that he’ll be there 21 picks deep into the second. If the Lions like Watt, they should probably take him in the first round, even if he’s a perceived reach that early in the first round.
But is he worth it that early? While Watt has shown tremendous potential and fills the Lions’ biggest needs, we’re talking about a player that only played in two seasons at Wisconsin and only one as a starter. Watt’s 2016 season was wildly impressive—culminating in 15.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles—but is a single year of play worth investing a first-round draft pick in?
That is the question the Lions must answer. This is a deep draft at linebacker, and the Lions would be able to find other options. But if they think Watt is their guy and believe he can parlay one successful college season into a long career in the NFL, they’ll have to take him early.
If you were the Lions, what would you do with T.J. Watt?
This poll is closed
Consider him with a first-round pick
Consider him only if he’s there in the second round
Would not consider him before the third round