Menelik Watson, former Marist basketball player, shoots to be first-round pick in NFL Draft
A former Marist athlete could very well be selected in the first round of this week's NFL Draft.
Ironically, he never played football for the Red Foxes.
Instead, Menelik Watson, a native of Manchester, England, spent two years on Marist's basketball team. After being redshirted his first season and then averaging just 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds the next year, he decided against returning to the Poughkeepsie school. Meanwhile, a passion for football, a sport that was literally foreign to him as a child, was burning inside him.
A year later, Watson found himself on a football field for the first time, playing for Saddlebrook, a junior college in Mission Viejo, Calif. Coaches were wowed by his size and athleticism, but he was so raw that he didn't even know how to line up in a three-point stance.
Watson, now 24, picked things up quickly, earning a starting job at right tackle and then parlaying his opportunity into a football scholarship at Florida State. For the Seminoles last season, he started 12 games and allowed just one sack.
Watson, who is 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, is projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. Some draft analysts believe he has the size, strength and quick feet needed to play the highly coveted left tackle position at the next level.
“It's mind-boggling to me how much upside this kid has,” NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock told Sports Illustrated. “Every line coach in the NFL, I believe, either is or should be salivating at the opportunity to work with this kid.”
Although not everyone agrees Watson is destined for stardom.
“He's got some ability, but he scares the hell out of me,” a scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He's not as athletic as people think. I don’t think he's very tough. He doesn’t play hard all the time.”
Watson is among a wave of foreign-born prospects who are expected to be drafted in the early rounds, led by BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah of Ghana, Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner of Germany, SMU defensive end Margus Hunt of Estonia and Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams of Australia.