Joey Bosa and J.J. Watt are both football players. They are both large, strong men who were outstanding college athletes at their respective Big Ten institutions. They both played defensive end primarily while in school. They also both happen to be white dudes.
Draftniks and pro football analysts of varying qualifications can't seem to quit attempting to tie the two together.
Watt's been one of if not the best individual professional football players of the past several years. Bosa entered the last college football season as presumptive top pick in this year's pro draft.
Both are classified as "twitchy" athletes with great strength and length, and with each versatile enough to be able to play multiple positions on the defensive line, it's easy to want to further the comparisons.
Outside of those similarities, however, the parallels quickly get shortsighted, at best. And yet low-hanging fruit keeps leading to more and more of them:
Joey Bosa's combine results look awfully familiar: pic.twitter.com/0K7b5r9E6l— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 28, 2016
Bad tweets and blog posts aside, Watt isn't the only white guy Bosa's been pegged as the next iteration of. A quick Google search alone will show Bosa's best NFL comparison as being:
- Jared Allen
- Chris Long
- Ryan Kerrigan
You get the picture.
Bosa's certainly a great budding talent and he should be flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as any successful current and former pros. But it's not fair to Bosa or Watt to try to force the two into comparisons. Here's why:
Watt weighed in over 15 pounds heavier than Bosa at his combine
It's certainly fun on paper that the two ends' best 40 times, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle are all remarkably similar. But Watt was able to accomplish those feats at 290 pounds. Bosa, on the other hand, weighed in at just 275 pounds at this past weekend's combine.
Watt's ability to do what he does after growing into a 3-4 defensive end is in no small part due to his freakish athleticism while carrying that kind of weight.
Could Bosa bulk up and keep his numbers similar? It's possible. But taking that as a given seems a tad disrespectful to Watt.
Bosa himself disagrees with the comparison
"When I watch him, I really don't see myself as much," Bosa told ESPN.
"The style, the way I play, I feel like I get the comparisons because I'm a big white dude and he's a big white dude playing defensive line. He has a crazy motor, he's a physical freak and, I don't know, I guess I just look at myself different."
Bosa also tweeted this after the combine's final day:
Acting like I made the J J Watt comparison— Joey Bosa (@jbbigbear) February 29, 2016
The similarities go beyond skin deep but as Bosa himself notes, maybe not that much more.
One Big Ten area NFL scout sees things the same as Bosa
"They both have good motors, but Watt was much bigger and much stronger. Bosa doesn't overwhelm guys with pure strength like Watt does," one Big Ten area scout said to NFL.com.
Having seen every game Bosa played at Ohio State and all but, give or take, two that Watt's played with the Texans, this feels far more in line with how the two actually stack up.
Comparing anyone to Watt seems unfair
Knicks president Phil Jackson drew some social media heat over the weekend when he tweeted that Stephen Curry reminded him of former LSU/Denver Nuggets star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Though Abdul-Rauf certainly was never able to sustain the prolonged excellence Curry has in his still relatively young career, those who saw both play at the peak of their powers can at the very least understand what Jackson was getting at.
But the comparison's still a poor one because no one compares to Curry. What he's doing on the basketball court is so incredible in and of itself because it literally hasn't been done before.
Watt might not be far off in his own right.
If presented with the choice of forcing a J.J. Watt comparison or your own untimely demise, Hall of Famer Bruce Smith might be a name uttered. And Watt's four best seasons as a pro (69 sacks, 15 forced fumbles) still compare really favorably to Smith's of the same (62 sacks, 13 forced fumbles).
With three NFL Defensive Player of the Year trophies to his name by age 26, few have had the kind of stretch as a young player Watt has. Hell, few have had the kind of stretch as a player period Watt has.
Playing extensively different positions renders any and all Lawrence Taylor comparisons moot before they're fully baked, and yet almost no two players have had the kind of impact as individual NFL defenders in the current era outside of those two.
Sure, maybe Joey Bosa can someday do some of the things Watt's excelled at in his five years in the NFL. But even comparing other already successful NFL defensive ends to Watt often feels like an exercise in futility.
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If you really, really, really wanted to labor a Bosa comparison (especially if that person has to be a white defensive end), former Bengals/Niners DE Justin Smith might not be that egregious.
There's a case to be made that Bosa could (or should) bulk up and give the 3-4 defensive end slot Smith occupied for so many seasons a go. Some felt Bosa was always better with the Buckeyes at the three-technique anyways.
Bosa's pass rush is perhaps his biggest red flag heading into being a probable top 10-15 NFL Draft pick. But his attributes in that department as a 3-4 defensive end would be more of a plus.
I know what you're going to say. Watt thrives at the 3-4 defensive end. But he and Smith are about as similar as Watt and Bosa. And the areas Bosa would be best equipped to succeed in at the next level are just far more in line with the kind of things Smith did during an outstanding NFL career than what Watt is doing, which we frankly haven't really seen before.
If you're still hell bent on shoehorning some sort of 4-3 defensive end player comparison for Bosa, you're better off with nearly anyone other than those mentioned already.
SB Nation's Stephen White even argues a realistic comparison might just be former Jets end Quinton Coples. And while that's a pretty modest ceiling for a player once regarded as potentially the best in this coming draft, at least it's not just another dissimilar white guy.
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