ESPN has been ranking the NFL’s top players at each position heading into 2020 NFL training camps. Earlier this week, they published the top interior defensive linemen. They had J.J. Watt ranked fifth. This is the analysis:
Age: 31 | Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: 9
Durability is the only thing holding back Watt, who’s still performing at a high level despite missing a combined 32 games since 2016.
Watt, who has the ability to play inside and off the edge, led all 3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles with a 23.8 pass rush win rate.
This is not a rep thing for the three-time defensive player of the year. He still brings heat in 2020.
“Still a dynamic football player, run or pass,” an NFL defensive coach said. “No drop-off when healthy. I think the injuries are more bad luck than debilitating for his future. He can still be really good.”
Watt hasn’t played on the interior of the defensive line much since he soared around the sun playing every snap of every game for the first four seasons of his career. Since then, he’s managed one healthy season, in 2018, when he and Jadeveon Clowney led an all-time great Houston run defense and above average pass rush. Last season, Watt lasted eight games before tearing his pec against Indianapolis; he somehow ended up returning for the 2019 NFL postseason.
Watt is incredible. He’s still a top ten player at his position. He just doesn’t play along the interior like he used to.