Safety is among the positions the Bengals will be looking to upgrade in the 2018 NFL Draft. As starters, George Iloka and Shawn Williams missed upwards of five games last season due to injury. As a result, players like Josh Shaw and Clayton Fejedelem got more playing time and those results weren’t always great. The Bengals have looked at a few safeties this offseason in free agency, but after not signing a player at the position, the team will instead look to add a safety in the draft to supply more depth at the position.
Armani Watts is an NFL Draft prospect who has received a wide array of draft grades, ranging from the first to fifth round. There are a lot of quality safeties entering the draft this year, making it most likely that Watts falls to somewhere around the Round 3-5 range.
There are quite a few question marks for Watts heading into the draft, but could he be a good fit for the Bengals?
Weight: 205 pounds
College: Texas A&M
Projected Round: Rounds 3-5
Bench press: 13 reps
Vertical jump: 35”
Broad jump: 120”
3-cone drill: 7.25 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds
Watts was a four year starter at Texas A&M University, where he stood out during his freshman year along with Myles Garrett. Scouts say that Watts is an instinctive defender and while he does lack some speed, he is around the ball a lot, and makes quite a few clutch plays. Last year Watts collected 87 tackles, 5 passes broken up, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.
Watts is an undersized player who could make a big difference for a team in the special teams game, as well as on the field in a rotational setting. Watts it constantly moving to the ball, and taking good pursuit angles on big plays that give him an opportunity to make a tackle. In looking at his film, he completes a lot of the tackles he starts, making him a strong candidate to play a rotational position. Considering he was a four year starter, he also has a lot of experience that can back up his style of play.
Against Tennessee in 2016, Watts helped the Texas A&M defense to contain Alvin Kamara who had an incredible NFL rookie season in New Orleans. After Kamara broke a screen early in the first half for 50+ yards, Watts took a great pursuit angle, and forced a fumble near the 10-yard line, which turned the momentum of the game. Before the play, A&M was up 7-0, but later in the game, the Aggies were up 21-7 based off the momentum shift after the fumble. In a game against Arkansas last season, Watts had a walk off interception in overtime that won the game for the Aggies. If there’s a clutch player in the later rounds, it’s Armani Watts.
How he fits with the Bengals:
The Bengals could use a guy like Watts as a rotational and depth player who can give them quality special teams plays. Watts needs to improve his man coverage and double moves, but those are coachable things in the NFL. Scouts have said that he seems to jump at the initial move, which would be something else Watts could work on. Size wise, he compares a lot to Earl Thomas. But his speed is projected to be a bit slower then Thomas’. Watts can provide some rotational depth to the safety position for Cincinnati, but most likely would not compete for the starting role right away.