Few 2013 NFL draft prospects can boast the unusual background and journey of Florida State Seminoles right tackle Menelik Watson. Born and raised playing basketball in Manchester, England, Watson saw his athletic prowess land him a spot on a youth basketball team in Spain and with the Marist Red Foxes basketball team before football even became a viable option for the 6'5 Watson.
After transferring from Marist to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., to play football, Watson's name came up on the radar of many top-flight FBS programs. Florida State seemed the fit for Watson, who was integral in protecting quarterback E.J. Manuel as the Seminoles captured an ACC title and an Orange Bowl victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies.
A projected first- or second-round pick, Watson could be one of the draft's best stories.
- Athleticism: Growing up playing basketball has turned Watson into a formidable force on the line, using keen footwork and skill learned in the post to provide strong protection on the right side. Watson was held responsible for just one sack in 2012.
- Conditioning: Also as a result of his basketball background and training, Watson has shown the ability to play all 60 minutes at full speed, despite a listed weight of 320 lb.
- Speed: Watson reportedly clocks in the 4.7 range in the 40-yard dash, meaning he has strong leg drive and is able to move around to shadow rushers no matter their speed around the corner.
- Lack of background: As a player with very limited football experience -- two years at junior college and one season at the FBS level -- some concerns remain about Waton's football instincts and his prowess on the field. Watson also only played eight games with the Seminoles because of injury, bringing his career football total to just 20 games between Juco and FSU.
Who? Well, suffice to say, after just one year at Florida State, scouts know all about Watson, and people in NFL front offices are starting to catch up. This is a kid who has played basketball at the D-I level, can really use his hands to swat away rushers given a track record as an emerging boxing talent, and will go to the combine and run in the 4.8 range at around 320 pounds. ... Watson's ceiling is deserving of this draft range.
Kiper has since moved Watson out of his first round in his latest mock draft.
Rivals.com also had high praise after Watson surprisingly declared for the draft after his junior season at Florida State:
Watson is freakishly-athletic, and not just for someone his size. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound tackle has been clocked in the 4.7 range in the 40-yard dash. He won the starting right tackle job, despite not having the advantage of spring practice like the rest of the candidates. With his frame and strength Watson is the ideal NFL tackle.
According to a recent profile on Watson from FOXSports.com, Watson graded at 76 percent during 2012, allowing just one sack of quarterback EJ Manuel.
2013 NFL Combine performance:
The combine wasn't a poor showing for Watson, who measured in with a big, athletic frame and long arms like everyone expected; however, he wasn't quite as big or as long as most thought. He also didn't perform as well as many thought he would, finishing the 40-yard dash in an underwhelming 5.29 seconds.
He didn't wow in any of the drills and was the slowest offensive lineman in the 3-cone drill. With these struggles, the prospective ceiling of Watson may not be as high as was initially believed and could mean a lesser draft stock for the raw player.
- Indianapolis Colts: Quarterback Andrew Luck was hit often in 2012, and Watson could provide much-needed protection at his natural right tackle spot, or perhaps could move to the blind side to protect the emerging second-year quarterback.
- Seattle Seahawks: With a mobile quarterback like Russell Wilson, Watson's athleticism could prove invaluable in a system that needs good blocking on the move.