J.J. Watt had one of the most incredible individual seasons in NFL history in 2012. However, it's wasn't the 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, four forced fumbles or the Defensive Player of the Year award that made the season so incredible.
The first thing you must remember is that this is from a scout's perspective. That means that position importance doesn't play a factor into deciding the best player in the NFL. Rather, what a scout is looking for is a player who exemplifies everything a player's specific position is supposed to.
Watt not only fulfills every desire a scout could want in a defensive end, but he has made people re-think what a defensive end is capable of doing on a field. For example, Watt finished tied for ninth in passes defended last year with 16. That's simply an unheard of number for a defensive end.
This is why Watt is the NFL's best player, and today we'll guide you through the reasons why.
Watt's greatest asset is his athleticism. Rarely do you hear about a 6'5", 295 pound defensive lineman chase down running backs with ease, but that is what Watt is capable of.
During the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Watt ran a 4.84 40-yard dash with a 37" vertical. However, Watt's elite athleticism doesn't just happen in a gym.
No, Watt's athleticism shows up on every single play. He consistently uses it to make plays in both the pass and run game. He'll catch a player like Chris Johnson from behind and then drop into coverage against Maurice Jones-Drew the next week.
He also uses his athleticism to constantly bat down balls at the line of scrimmage and close a quarterback's throwing lane. Simply put, Watt's athleticism allows him to do things that shouldn't be humanly possible for a player of his size.
Not only is Watt an incredible athlete, but he also combines that great athleticism with unbelievable strength. At the combine, Watt posted the fourth-highest total amongst defensive lineman in the bench press with 34 reps.
In the video above, Watt uses his strength to completely run over Denver Broncos' offensive tackle Orlando Franklin to pick up the sack. He can also take on double teams and shed blockers with ease to make plays.
The incredible thing about Watt's strength is that it doesn't affect his speed, agility or quickness at all. In fact, he combines his strength with his other natural abilities to be nearly unstoppable at the point of attack.
One thing that separates Watt from a number of other defensive ends is his versatility. He has the unique ability to play either defensive end or defensive tackle for the Texans.
On run plays, Watt will generally lineup at defensive end. However, when he's asked to rush the quarterback, Watt will often bounce inside where he can use his quickness to beat slower guards and centers.
Watt also has scheme versatility. While he thrived in the 3-4 defense the Texans have run the past few seasons, he would also be extremely successful in a 4-3 defense. Heck, Watt even lined up at wide receiver during the Pro Bowl this past season.
It's this versatility that just adds to Watt's status as the best player in the NFL.
Scouts don't simply look at production to determine the best player, but a player's abilities on the field have to create some type of production. In terms of Watt, his overall abilities easily show up in his statistics.
As you can see in the chart above from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Watt's 76 pressures while pass-rushing were easily the most for a 3-4 defensive end. He consistently finds a way to get to the quarterback, despite offenses specifically making a game plan to stop him.
The same is true for Watt's production against the run. According to the chart below from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), his 17.1 stop percentage is nearly double the second-best 3-4 defensive end.
So, not only does Watt have all the physical tools that a scout loves in a defensive end, but he uses those tools to make play after play.
It's hard to call an NFL player perfect, but Watt is as close as any player in the league to truly being the perfect football player. He's the best player in the NFL right now, and the scary part is that he's only going to get better.
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