During the NFL Scouting Combine telecast on Sunday, draft analyst Mike Mayock frequently compared Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt to a notable pass-rusher who has had a stellar career with the Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews. At first, it might seem like a lazy comparison; after all, both players are white pass-rushers who come from strong football families. At first, I suspected that was the bulk of the reason for the comparisons.
And then Watt went through his workout at the Scouting Combine and he showed something remarkable: that he and Matthews ended up nearly identical in terms of their athletic profile. This is notable for Watt, as some draft analysts thought he needed a good showing in Combine drills to keep him in the conversation for the first round. He absolutely got it.
Now, it is important to mention that this does not necessarily mean that they project as similar players; instead, it just means that they possess many of the same physical tools.
Let’s take a look at the workouts for the two players at their respective Combines:
Those workouts are remarkably similar, and it is impressive that Watt posted slightly better numbers in every drill (except for the 40) while carrying an extra 12 pounds.
Again, this does not mean that the two will end up having similar careers, nor does it mean that their playing styles are necessarily similar. For the latter, we’ll need to go to the tape for a breakdown, and for the former we’ll need to wait a few years to judge the youngest Watt brother. Still, the physical traits that made Matthews a feared pass-rusher early on in his career are present in Watt as well.
We’ll see in about six weeks whether that translates into Watt being a first-round pick, and over the next few years if it helps make him All-Pro like his comparison.