Armani Watts had a knack for providing memorable moments during his college career and now he’ll try to bring that to the Kansas City Chiefs after getting picked in the fourth round.
In September 2017, it was all offense in a game between Texas A&M and Arkansas that needed overtime to break a 43-43 tie. But it was defense that proved to be the difference when Watts made a diving interception in the end zone to seal a 50-43 win for Texas A&M.
It was nothing new for the Aggies safety.
In 2016, he picked off future Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs in double overtime to close the book on a 45-38 win over Tennessee. Earlier in that game, he chased down future NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara after a 50-yard gain and ripped the ball from the running back’s arms.
On a defense that featured 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett and second-rounder Justin Evans, it was Watts who consistently made the biggest plays in the biggest moments.
“It really comes with preparation before the game,” Watts said at the NFL Combine in March. “Lot of film study and good practice habits. Just knowing where to be at the right time and making the play when it comes.”
Watts’ 10 career interceptions and six forced fumbles are decent numbers, but most impressively, he had the tendency to make those big plays when it was most timely.
Now Watts will try to bring that clutch gene to Arrowhead Stadium.
Watts lived by the sword and died by the sword
There’s a danger that comes with being the player who hunts for the turnover. That level of aggressiveness can mean giving up huge chunks when things don’t break just right.
The Tennessee Titans’ All-Pro safety Kevin Byard was an example of that in 2017 when he led the league in interceptions with eight. He was also credited by Pro Football Focus with six touchdowns allowed, the second-highest total in the NFL among safeties.
Watts will look to deliver the same fire to Kansas City, even if the team will probably have to live with a few big plays allowed. In four years at Texas A&M, Watts missed 55 tackles and at least 11 in each season.
Watts’ senior season with the Aggies was also hampered by injury. He played through the pain for five games before sitting out Texas A&M’s appearance in the Belk Bowl.
“I thought it was just a regular bruise,” Watts said. “I ended up playing with it the whole season and it aggravated me, so that’s why I didn’t play in our bowl game. I didn’t really think about tackling differently, I just sucked it up and kept playing.”
Watts suffered a season-ending hamstring tear in 2016 as well, raising potential concerns about his ability to stay healthy at the next level.
Watts does a little bit of everything
At 5’10, 202 pounds, Watts isn’t the ideal build for a safety, but he’s shown the requisite athleticism and willingness to play just about anywhere in the secondary.
“I played box safety, cover safety, been in the post. I think I’m versatile with those and wherever a team needs to put me, I can be there,” Watts said. “Whatever a team needs me to do, that’s what a safety needs to do. I think we’re built for it now a days, so I’m ready for it.”
Where he lines up in the NFL will all depend on how the Chiefs aim to use him. But if he finds play time early, don’t be surprised when Watts quickly makes the kind of plays that make you remember his name.