May 13, 2014, 11:29 AM EDT
Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.
With the 89th pick in the draft (25th of third round), the San Diego Chargers selected Notre Dame’s fifth player to be called, guard Chris Watt. Watt played 50 games at Notre Dame, often alongside Zack Martin on the left side of the line. When he was selected as the fifth Irish draft selection, no school had more picks in the draft.
I was a little worried Watt’s 2013 injuries (torn PCL and MCL) would hurt his draft stock, but he was actually picked up earlier than I thought in the third round. Many projections had him going in the fourth or fifth rounds.
He will join Manti Te’o in San Diego, but how will he fit with his new team?
2013 offensive line starters: King Dunlap, Chad Rinehart, Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary, D.J. Fluker
The Chargers return all starting offensive linemen, so this was more of a depth pick. Barring injury, it is unlikely San Diego picked Watt with the intention of starting him right away. Rather, they are most likely grooming him to replace their aging interior linemen, especially center Nick Hardwick.
Hardwick has been with the organization since 2004 and will be 33 before the start of the season. Watt played guard at Notre Dame, but he said he’s been getting acclimated to playing center in the offseason.
Turning 31 later this year, Jeromey Clary is no youngster either at right guard. And from what I can gather, he’s not too popular with the fans in San Diego. The Chargers probably want Watt to develop into a viable replacement for either of these interior linemen, especially if he can grow into a center’s role.
Once again, Watt was a pick that bolstered depth more than addressing need, as the Chargers actually had a decent offensive line in 2013 and have it intact for next season. San Diego was fifth in sacks allowed and QB hits and converted a high percentage of short-yardage running third downs (100% to the left, 68% center, 75% right).
However, their running backs only averaged 4.0 yards per rush (21st in NFL), so the Chargers hope Watt can contribute to the run game. In announcing their pick, the Chargers praised his run blocking, versatility, and intelligence.
Even if Watt doesn’t start on day 1, I suspect he will see decent time in 2014 as the first interior lineman off the bench. Both Hardwick and Clary are in contract years, so don’t be surprised if Watt impresses the Chargers enough to solidify himself in a starting role by 2015.
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