Steelers’ T.J. Watt Rockets up Board in 2017 NFL Re-Draft

T.J. Watt chasing Patrick Mahomes

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs is chased by T.J. Watt #90 and Alex Highsmith #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 26, 2021.

Hindsight is 20/20, or something close to it. Earlier this week Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report endeavored to re-draft the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, which seems destined to produce at least a few future Pro Football Hall of Famers.

The New No. 1 is Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

There are few who would quibble with Davenport’s decision to name Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes the new No. 1 overall pick, taking the place of actual No. 1 overall selection Myles Garrett, who was chosen by the Cleveland Browns.

Mahomes has already taken his team to two Super Bowls (winning one, Super Bowl LIV); has an NFL MVP award (2018) to his credit; and figures to consistently keep the Chiefs in Super Bowl contention for many years to come.

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But Davenport’s next two picks are debatable, as he has the San Francisco 49ers grabbing Garrett No. 2 overall. (Draft day deals were excluded from this exercise, which explains why the Niners keep the pick instead of trading it to the Chicago Bears.) Then he has the Bears choosing quarterback Deshaun Watson No. 3 overall.

Only then does the Bleacher Report writer have the Jaguars taking outside linebacker T.J. Watt at No. 4, in favor of running back Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville’s actual selection.

Myles Garrett Ahead of T.J. Watt?

One can easily make the argument that Watt, 27, should have been the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. He has outperformed Garrett by virtually any measure, having generated 72 career sacks in only 77 games, including 22.5 sacks in 2021, which tied Michael Strahan’s NFL single-season record. Never mind the fact that he’s a three-time first-team All-Pro (2019-21) and four-time Pro Bowler.

His non-sack numbers are remarkable too, as he’s already been responsible for 294 tackles (216 solo), including 80 tackles for loss and 150 quarterback hits, plus 22 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, four interceptions and 32 passes defensed, as per Pro Football Reference (PFR).

This as compared to Garrett, 26, who has appeared in 68 games and has 203 total tackles (140 solo), along with 58.5 sacks, 59 tackles for loss, 116 quarterback hits, 11 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and nine passes defensed, all according to PFR. Excellent numbers but not in T.J. Watt territory.

As for Watson, his quarterback talent is self-evident, but his off-the-field baggage alone ought to disqualify him from being re-drafted ahead of T.J. Watt.

The Steelers Draft a Cornerback No. 30 Overall

In Davenport’s exercise, the Steelers end up selecting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who was a second-round pick of the Cowboys (No. 60 overall) and played four seasons in Dallas before moving on to Cincinnati in free agency, serving as No. 1 cornerback for a Bengals team that advanced to the Super Bowl last year.

“Chidobe Awuzie hasn’t been a worldbeater. At least not consistently,” offers Davenport, yet he fared well in 2021 with his new team.

“Despite often facing an opponent’s No. 1 receiver, Awuzie allowed just 58.2 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed and posted a highly respectable passer rating against of 75.1, (with) two interceptions and 14 passes defensed,” he notes, referencing PFR.

Still, Awuzie would be quite the letdown as compared to T.J. Watt, who was named AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. In September of last year, the Steelers signed him to a four-year contract extension that made him the highest paid defender in the league.

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