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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Grades: Ryan Watts is a Freak Show Athlete

Ryan Watts is a freak show athlete and that is part of why the Steelers draft brass pounced on the chance to get him.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Watts

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers draft brass loves some athletes on day three, and Texas’ Ryan Watts is no exception to that rule. He is not only an elite athlete but could be classified as a freak show in the way he did test at the NFL Combine. However, how they view him and where he will play will determine how much stock to put into Watts early in his career.

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 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.

Pittsburgh will throw him in there before figuring out how he can fit into the entire equation as a sub-package piece on the defense. But he continues to make the Steelers’ defense long and athletic, something they have wanted to add on the defense’s back end.

Grade: B-