Denver’s woes on the offensive line and at the left tackle position in particular have been a source of consternation in Broncos Country since 2016. Garrett Bolles has proven unreliable and and sloppy, which has led, in part, to his 5th year option being declined by the team.
So who looks poised to challenge Bolles for the Broncos left tackle position?
Hunter Watts, the 6’8”, 325 lb. undrafted free agent rookie out of of Central Arkansas would like to think that he can.
MHR member “MrBunnyDoodles” wrote up a very good preview of what to expect from Watts back in April.
The UCA offense is a spread offense, as a result Watts has a great amount of experience working in pass pro, but much less work in the run game. As a run blocker, Hunter is more of a positional blocker than a mauler, though once he engages his man he maintains that engagement until the play has passed. Watts is really skilled at getting and keeping his mitts on his target. He also shows good athletic ability in getting to the second level.
In pass protection, Watts is very talented at mirroring his opponent. He displays ample quickness getting out of the blocks and appeared find himself in proper position more often than not. There were points where he would over set, but I think this was more due to technique and not because he was worried about being physically beaten on the edge. Watts plays a bit too tall, and will need to work on playing with a better knee bend to avoid losing leverage battles. His hand punch isn’t jarring, but he uses his massive length to steer defenders clear of the pocket. Powerful bull rushes will be something he needs to work on, he has the size to eat them up IF his feet are in proper position, this is mostly due to how he uses his arms.
His 35” reach and size appear to be his greatest assets and have helped him at the collegiate level in situations where his feet aren’t set or where he plays too tall. While that may have worked at Central Arkansas, pro-level rushers will certainly look to exploit his developing mechanics.
In interviews with Watts, he appears committed to studying film and developing his technique. The Gridiron Crew asked him about film study in this article and this is what he had to say.
Q: When you are studying film, what do you focus on to improve your game?
When looking over film I always look at technique. Technique is extremely important as an offensive linemen so when every anything can be fixed that what I work on at practice. Another important part is looking into what your opponent tendencies are in certain situation on the field.
So how crucial is film study? Draft Diamonds asked Watts to rank film study, strengeth & conditioning, and practice in order of importance and this is what he had to say.
List these three in order of importance and why: Film Study, Strength and Conditioning and Practice?
• 1. Strength and conditioning are the most important because the weight room is where it all starts to get your body physically ready for the season.
2. Film study is second important because it when you get to, develops a game plan for the upcoming opponent.
3. The practice is third important because once the game plan is put into effect it is time to execute.
From this same interview, his response to a question about failure also seems to resonate with his effort to catch on with the Denver Broncos.
Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure?
• In high school I got my position taken and sat on the bench for the upcoming game. This opened my eyes and taught me to work hard every day.
All in all, it would appear that Hunter Watts has all the physical skills to compete for some sort of role with the Denver Broncos, be that rostered rookie or a practice squad contributor. His mindset seems to be on solid footing and has appears to welcome putting in the work to succeed. If he can shore up his fundamentals and play with discipline, Hunter Watts may be someone worth keeping an eye on once training camp opens.