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2024 NFL Draft

Ryan Watts Stands Out at Rookie Minicamp

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ryan Watts could be the team’s next ‘Avatar’ cornerback with his build out on the field.



Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ryan Watts
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ryan Watts rookie minicamp, May 11, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth-round selection Ryan Watts has a chip on his shoulder after being a late round selection. And he started off his first day with the team on Saturday in impressive fashion.

Watts was back in town after graduating from Texas on Friday. The one thing that sticks out immediately? Wow, he is massive. If you think he does not fit in with the current ‘Avatar cornerbacks,’ well, that would be wrong. On the height scale, Watts will rival Joey Porter Jr., Cory Trice, and Darius Rush. And it seems like he has something to prove, judging by his draft call.

In a video posted on his Instagram, Watts revealed that he told Mike Tomlin after getting drafted that the Steelers got a pissed off player.

“I’m ready to go right now, Coach,” Watts said in the video. “You got a pissed off player.”

At one point, Watts asked someone at his draft party to call his cell phone so he could make sure it was working. The long wait is something that Watts won’t forget.

“The wait went long, but man, I’m thankful, bro,” Watts said. “They said I made it, but I ain’t made it yet.

“I still got a lot more. I ain’t made it yet.”

Ryan Watts is a huge 6-foot-3 cornerback but has some versatility and might have to kick to safety. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash while jumping out of the gym with a 40.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-5-inch broad jump, 4.13 short shuttle, and 6.82 3-cone drills. Watts worked at the Shrine Bowl and around the formation, including outside cornerback, slot cornerback, and safety. He could work at single-high in some packages, but his versatility and natural athleticism will be the allure of someone like Watts.

He has some real snap coming downhill in his transition. I think there is some hip stiffness, so I understand why the move to safety might have to occur naturally, but Watts has physical tools for the position, which is rare. I’m interested to see if they move him around and keep him slotted in at cornerback throughout the offseason. He could be a fascinating mover around the formation.

Watts said the Steelers loved his versatility and ability to play all around the secondary, from outside cornerback to slot cornerback to safety. That is the type of player he can be in the right spot. But right away, it’s better to let him stay in one spot, specifically with his long arms, so they might prefer him sticking outside. But he is a bit stiff and can be a hazard in man coverage against smaller receivers. Watts could slot him in as a quality tight-end eraser if he develops well.

Where will this pick really be felt? Special teams. With his length and physical tools under the new special teams rules, Watts will be a special teams demon and will play on that unit heavily in the early part of the process. The new rules forced teams to look deeper into what body types they would like, but guys with the physical traits of Watts combined with his athleticism and know-how of special teams will earn him a place on the roster in this era of kickoffs and punt coverage.