BTB NFL Draft Mailbag: How Does Danny Watkins Stack Up?

Last week, we premiered our new mailbag feature, which runs like this: BTB members send in draft-related questions and Drafttek's Longball dispenses knowledge on the players, positions and rounds. We'll be running this feature up until the draft, so be sure to send your questions in to BTBmailbag@gmail.com--don't forget to include your username--and I'll send them along the proper channels.

For this edition, Longball addresses questions about a guy who has been on Cowboys Nation's draft radar for a time now--in no small part because he's a local boy with an extraordinary story. Yep, I'm talking about Danny Watkins, the Baylor OT (who may kick in to guard in the pros), a Canadian and former fireman wannabe who was talked into playing football when he was attending Butte Commnuity College to pursue a Fire Science degree (I know, right?). Here, Longball discusses the grade he assigned to Watkins, and why he assigned it. He also compares his game to other potential second-round OL candidates.

Remember, Longball is Drafttek's resident offensive line guru. Check out his mantra after the break...

O.C.C.: Wes Bunting has Danny Watkins mocked as the 28th pick. Nawrocki has him 30th. CBSsports has him ranked as the top guard, Mayock as the number two guard. On the other side there's scout.com, who have him as the 9th ranked guard, and don't have him in their top 100, and then there's Drafttek, where Watkins is ranked 89th on the big board and you write that there are "a couple of major flaws in his fundamental techniques". What do the others see in Watkins that you don't, and vice versa?

Checker37: Do you see Danny Watkins as a player that fits well in Dallas' scheme? Do you think he will be available at the Cowboys 2nd round pick (40th overall)?  How do you compare him as a prospect for the Cowboys in comparison to Marcus Cannon and Ben Ijalana? Those three are seen as...guards, but which of those would be best suited to play RT if necessary?

Longball: Fair question -- requires a "multi-answer" that addresses the following fronts:

  1. There are no Mike Iupati's in this year's draft -- OG is historically addressed in the mid-to-late rounds.
  2. There are always "tackle-conversion kits", solid OT prospects that either need to "cut their teeth" inside at the next level or just operate better in a phone booth.

Let's take a look at my OG rankings: Jason Pinkston (#1) played LOT at Pitt (#37 overall), Marcus Cannon (#2) played LOT at TCU, will play either OG or ROT in the pros (#40 overall), Mike Pouncey (#3) of Florida is everyone's #1 OG -- that is, those lazy services you mentioned who only project a player at one position (#49 overall), Stefen Wisniewski (#4) of Penn State who is the #1 OC and ranked #27 overall (the only 1st round grade, and that's due to being the best center and a 3-position player), Benjamin Ijalana (#5) of Villanova, who may have the wingspan and footwork to eventually play LOT at the next level, but definitely has the strength and power to play OG (#69 overall), Rodney Hudson (#6) of Florida State, everyone's pre-season #1 OG and may play OC at the next level (#73 overall) and then Danny Watkins of Baylor (#7) who was an above average OT at Baylor, is 27 years old, played football for only 4 years and has flaws in his technique...because he has a great story!  Quite frankly, #89 overall is a 3rd round grade and may be high, but someone will take him--my concession to "the other guys" was ranking him above John Moffitt of Wisconsin (#8 and #97 overall) who has much better technique and can play 3 positions. I will be surprised if Danny Watkins is a better pro than Moffitt.

Don't get me wrong, I love Danny Watkins' story (out of Baylor), not to mention the attitude and tenacity he brings to the game--it's just that there are a couple of major flaws in his fundamental techniques.  One, while he sets a solid base, his feet are entirely too wide apart - this takes away an ability to re-set with short, choppy steps and he gets off-balance. Second, he arches his back in a "reverse C" during pass protection and that will not only make him lose the leverage battle but could lead to significant back problems. At the Senior Bowl, Watkins was able to handle bull-rushes standing straight up off the snap, which is a compliment to his strength but not his technique--this will not work against NFL defensive linemen. He is limited in getting to the second level and while I understand he has only been playing football for 4 years, coming into the league at 27 allows less time to be "coached up".

Marcus Cannon of TCU is a road-grader deluxe at 6'5" and 358 lbs--this young man carries his weight where a good road-grader should, in the lower half of his body.  His rear-end and thighs allow him to maintain a low center of gravity on his blocks and maintain leverage (if not just totally engulf) his opponents. Cannon played LOT for the Horned Frogs this last year (has played both OT positions) and their most effective running plays went to that side. His footwork and technique would make him acceptable on the left side in the pros, but he could be dominating on the right side--if he struggles with pass-rushers in space, he could move inside and excel at OG as well.

Cannon is relatively nimble for his size, but there are concerns about his ability to handle speed on the edge; however, it has been difficult (if not downright impossible) for college strong-side ends to get around him, especially when his technique is sound. Well-coached, as he takes short choppy steps off the line (as every good lineman should) and can backpedal when necessary to cut off blitzing linebackers.  Exhibits enough lateral movement to jar defensive ends with one hand while blocking down to double-team defensive tackles. Cannon is stout and has a strong first and second punch (takes some time to land the second), but needs to extend his arms better in the lockout position to keep defenders from progressing too far into his body. Has a tendency to push off when opponent tries to disengage, instead of keeping his feet moving to sustain.

Cannon has the prototypical size to drive defenders off the line--uses his size to seal the edge and wall off inside rushing lanes, but does not consistently get his hands up to manhandle smaller players he should dominate. Maintains a strong enough anchor against the bull rush from bigger defensive linemen and turns them out of the hole. Needs to get out of three-point stance more quickly, but might be more explosive when lined up closer to the ball inside.

Benjamin Ijalana's opportunity to prove he could handle speed rushers disappeared when he wasn't able to participate in the Senior Bowl due to a sports hernia; as a result, I am grading him as a guard where his toughness, athleticism and strong hands (former high school wrestler who checks in at 6'4" and 317 lbs) should be a benefit. He was an excellent pass blocker at the FCS level, dominating the opposition with length, strength and foot quickness. His kick-slide was inconsistent at times--he crosses his legs instead of sliding, allowing the defender to beat him outside.  He will also need to be coached up on blitz pick-up, as the NFL packages will be far more disguised than what he faced at Villanova.

Ijalana is an effective run-blocker, gets out of his stance well and agile when moving behind the line and into the hole to negate linebackers. He still gets a little too high for my taste but building up his lower body in an NFL weight room should eliminate that short-coming. Needs to keep moving, as he gets distracted or will stand and watch--started all 52 career games, so durability is not a question.

Out of the 3 prospects, I would be most comfortable with Marcus Cannon at ROT.


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