2017 Season Countdown: #35 Brandon Watson

2017 Season Countdown: #35 Brandon Watson


July 29, 2017

Brandon Watson (#28, image via GBMWolverine)

Name: Brandon Watson
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 203 lbs.
High school: Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy
Position: Cornerback
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Watson #56 and said he would be a backup cornerback. He made 12 tackles.
TTB Rating: N/A

Watson has so far been strictly a backup cornerback, and no higher than fourth on the depth chart during his career. He has had a chance to take an open spot the past couple seasons, but he has not taken advantage of those opportunities. In two years of playing time, he has yet to make a play on the ball (no FF, FR, INT, or PBU); however, he made a great interception in the 2015 spring game, and he made a pick-six in this year’s spring game. While not very tall, he has long arms and plays receivers physically. He just lacks the quickness and speed to be an important cog in the defense. In addition to the pick-six, he also got outrun by Ty Isaac for a touchdown in the spring game.

Despite the uncertainty at the cornerback positions going into 2017, Watson isn’t thought to be a contender to start. He will almost certainly play a good deal as a nickel corner or backup safety. Lavert Hill, David Long, and Keith Washington look to be ahead of him, and Benjamin St-Juste (outside corner) and Ambry Thomas (slot corner) have a chance to pass him. Watson has value as a veteran presence, but his lack of athleticism makes him a liability against better passing offenses.

Prediction: Backup cornerback

30 comments

  1. Lanknows
    Comments: 3611
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 29, 2017 at 2:32 PM

    “He will almost certainly play a good deal as a nickel corner or backup safety”

    A top backup at a position of uncertainty and inexperience where the top 6 options all departed and true freshman are contending for playing time by default…

    I don’t know how somebody like this can be ranked so low. He should be in the 20s even if you buy the argument that he’s not a contender to start. A debatable point.

    Thunder and I have debated this kind of veteran before. Thunder sees a guy with a limited talent as replaceable. I see the experience they offer as crucial – insurance if nothing else. I think you need these kind of role players and veterans to win.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 29, 2017 at 2:36 PM

      I also think Washington is getting way too much hype right now. Guys who stand out when the depth chart is depleted in spring but were buried the previous year generally recede back to the background once the season starts. Schonele, Runyan, Peters, Wroboleski, Washington seem like the most likely candidates for spring overreaction of the year. More interesting to me are the freshman who show-out.

    • Comments: 2276
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 29, 2017 at 2:41 PM

      I completely disagree. There are 22 starting positions on O/D, and more if you consider the nickel corner, the slot receiver, the flex tight end, etc. as starters. Toss in punter, kicker, long snapper, etc. and you’re right around 30. If he were a good nickel corner, I might put him in the 20s, but he hasn’t shown that he is a good nickel corner. Furthermore, he might get passed up by someone like Ambry Thomas. He is fairly important, which is why he’s #35 out of about 120 players on the team. There’s always a bit of wiggle room (maybe he should #33 or #37, for example), but he’s not a difference-maker.

      • Comments: 539
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Jul 30, 2017 at 3:46 AM

        Agree. A nickel back is probably more important playing spread teams or against high powered opponents with a good #3 wr. I can’t think of a good reason to have a nickel back above a punt returner. When you are a decent team with depth I am assuming the difference between a #3 or #4 corner is probably neglible actually makes the value of the 1st nickel back not as important especially if you can dip into the safety depth.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 30, 2017 at 10:34 AM

        The role and the player both matter.

        22 starters, sure, but some backups are more important than others and in some cases backups can be even more important than starters (like say FB, or a starter whose backup can do the job equally well). Furthermore some backups have a bigger role than others — backup DL can rotate in enough to be nearly co-starters while Backup LBs barely play any meaningful downs.

        The top backup CB has been a critical player every year. Not only because of injuries but because they are likely in on the critical downs when games are being decided. The role of the nickelback has undoubtedly been diminished by the Viper, making him more like what a dimeback used to be. But uncertainty in the starting positions elevates a top backup at 2 positions at least.

        On THIS team Watson is likely more than the top backup. It’s worth not forgetting that he was ahead of Hill, Washington, Long and every other returning CB from last year.

        Watson is a bit like the Nick Perry of the defense. Except Michigan can take WRs of the field in favor of TEs and FBs. They don’t get to dictate personnel on defense. CB is a critical position. Watson’s the only one with any experience and the starters are all highly uncertain.

        Watson’s a good bet to start some games at CB at some point. At a minimum he’ll function as a starter against pass-heavy spread teams and be in on critical downs.

        I appreciate that Thomas could draw in based on talent – CB is a position where that can happen. But Watson would not only be passed by him but also by 2 or 3 other freshman or sophomores to be anything less than a critical backup.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 30, 2017 at 10:48 AM

          There’s a tendency to favor shiny new things and the potential of the unknown. Ironically Watson was just that a couple years ago when people (including Thunder) thought he was going to surpass more experienced player thanks to his ability to play man-press at the line. The thinking was that those guys ahead of him (like Stribling) had limitations that made them likely to get passed over. Now it’s Watson’s turn.

          The shine on his potential has come off (we’re talking about a 4th year player now, not an up-and-comer) but he’s still the same guy he was then. I do admit it’s a bad sign that Watson didn’t play as much as Metellus and Hill against FSU but ultimately that is outweighed by the rest of the season. Watson played CB in nearly every game, he played meaningful downs with a loaded secondary.

          The secondary is not loaded anymore and Watson’s role is almost certainly going to grow dramatically. Michigan is likely to want a veteran in the mix on an otherwise young defense. I don’t expect Watson to be the #1 CB because it’s likely that at least one of the kids breaks out enough to pass Watson. It’s far less likely that 3 of them do.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 30, 2017 at 10:54 AM

            As far as CB rankings go. I would put Hill #1 somewhere in the mid teens and then bunch Long and Watson side-by-side in the low 20s. Washington seems like a long-shot to me – I’d only put him a couple spots ahead of St.Juste and Thomas. Harris would be way way back.

          • Comments: 762
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Jul 30, 2017 at 1:26 PM

            Why not? After a month of Bowl practice, isn’t it safe to assume he got passed up?

            ” I do admit it’s a bad sign that Watson didn’t play as much as Metellus and Hill against FSU but ultimately that is outweighed by the rest of the season”

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 30, 2017 at 3:30 PM

              No. Watson played CB against FSU. He wasn’t alone though and Hill got more snaps. That could have been situational. Moreover, Hill got burnt that game and hasn’t locked down either of the open spots through Spring and has come in for some tisking from the staff.

              The competition at CB seems authentic. If Watson was locking down a starting spot he’d be a top 10 player. That’s he busy trying to fend off younger players drops his value – but not, IMO, to the mid 30s.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3611
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 30, 2017 at 3:32 PM

                I’m not even sure HIll got more snaps – maybe he was just more noticeable because of mistakes. To Watson’s credit he’s played a lot of corner without being noticed much. The “boring safety” meme could be extended to corners too. (like Stribling in 2015).

        • Comments: 539
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          michymich
          Jul 30, 2017 at 2:32 PM

          Some solid points. I go could with a theory that a backup is extremely valuable when the starter has a history of injury or play is inconsistent, etc.

          Here is where I disagree with one of your points. If Watson is good and has experience then why isn’t he the starter. Why are essentially rookies leap frogging him? It’s not like Charles Woodson has just been recruited.

          Next point is a nickel back is very important but is it more important than the backup qb, rb, TE or sam or some other positions depending on the style of the offense/defense?

          I agree with Thunder that this ranking is about right unless they are playing Drew Brees and Purdue back in the day.

          Can you give me the last nickel back from UM who you would consider a top 25 player on a UM team? Somebody who was like a starter and irreplaceable? I know there was but just can’t remember.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 30, 2017 at 3:38 PM

            I wouldn’t assume he’s not the starter but for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that’s true.

            The answer is that his talent isn’t quite up to that level. But does that mean he’s easy to replace? Not if you don’t have the replacements. We saw Michigan’s defense implode in 2010 because it was throwing a bunch of freshman corners and safeties. They had no choice that year and would have killed for a competent option like Watson.

            Sometimes an capable veteran is like duct tape – not ideal but the difference between disaster and getting by.

            An optimist can look at the young talent and assume they’ll all improve. A pessimist sees 3 guys that were behind Watson last year and a couple of true freshman.

            That Drake Harris was shifted to CB is some circumstantial evidence that the staff isn’t fully confident in their options there. Thankfully they know what they have in Watson.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 30, 2017 at 3:45 PM

            Jeremy Clark 2015. He rotated with Stribling and replaced him when he got hurt. Started the bowl game when Peppers went down, with Lewis shifting inside.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 30, 2017 at 3:49 PM

            I think Jeremy Clark 2016 is another answer. Had he not gotten hurt I think the FSU game ends differently, because he gets a lot of the snaps that Metellus/Watson/Furbush/Kinnel saw.

      • JC
        Comments: 148
        Joined: 8/17/2015
        JC
        Jul 30, 2017 at 3:26 PM

        Thunder I have to mirror your sentiments. If Watson showed he was an above average big ten starter, I think throwing him at the tail end of the 20s might be the right spot. But right now, I personally feel hes ranked a few spots too high. Just because he’s going into his 4th year at a position in need doesn’t mean he’s not a liability in the game.

        At safety, Kinnel, Metellus, and Glasgow are the first three in. At CB, Hill Long, Washington are the first three in. I imagine Watson will be the 4th in at the start of the season, but because of the athletic limitations, at least one of Thomas, St.Juste, or Harris will overtake him by the end of the season as fourth in.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3611
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 30, 2017 at 3:41 PM

          I agree that Watson might be a liability, but he’s the safest bet on the roster to not be.

          • JC
            Comments: 148
            Joined: 8/17/2015
            JC
            Jul 31, 2017 at 3:00 PM

            To reiterate, just because he’s going into his 4th year at a position in need doesn’t mean he’s not a liability in the game. If you’re agreeing that he might be a liability, that means he’s not incredibly valuable. He’s ranked about the middle of the backups.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3611
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 31, 2017 at 3:53 PM

            “If you’re agreeing that he might be a liability, that means he’s not incredibly valuable.”

            This is bad logic. Every CB on the roster might be a liability – that doesn’t mean they lack for value.

            Again, Watson is the safest bet to NOT be a liability. That makes him very very valuable on a team looking to rebuild it’s entire secondary with mostly inexperienced underclassmen. Even if you want to take away his ability to improve (but not his competition’s) – he’s at worst an insurance policy — on a unit that is very likely to need it.

            Watson’s one of the most important backups on the team. And a good bet to be a starter at some point this year.

            Watson has played

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3611
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 31, 2017 at 4:06 PM

              Watson has played, so we know he’s probably not a liability unless he’s lined up against superior talents regularly. OSU didn’t manage to exploit him and neither have the other teams. That might be because strategizing for a marginal backup probably isn’t wise. It might be because he’s a good enough player waiting to step up behind departed NFL players.

              It’s funny to me that people spent a lot of time criticizing Channing Stribling on run defense yet they have no concerns about assuming untested options hovering around 170 pounds like Washington, Long, Hill and Ambry Thomas are going to be able to contain in Don Brown’s defense.

              Watson’s been around the block. He’s a good bet, maybe the best bet, to not screw up his assignments. Michigan might live with the (hypothetical) increase in getting beat on a 50 yard bomb if the tradeoff is consistent tackling in run defense — as just one example of the reliability Watson (at 200 pounds plus) might offer.

            • JC
              Comments: 148
              Joined: 8/17/2015
              JC
              Jul 31, 2017 at 4:13 PM

              Well then we disagree. At this point I think Watson’s floor is slightly below average. I would be happy to eat those words at the end of the season. But right now I’d rather have a EE freshman in the game.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3611
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 31, 2017 at 6:37 PM

                I agree that Watson’s floor is slightly below average. For most freshman that is a ceiling.

                Watson’s ceiling is probably only slight above average. There are younger players with higher ceilings – but probably not happening in 2017.

                Remember Stribling and Lewis as freshman costing us games like PSU? Those are arguably the 2 best corners we’ve had in a decade. Evan Woodson had some struggles and the “next Woodson” just walked out the door.

                The best case scenario for Michigan is probably Long and Hill making sophomore year leaps towards being average. The odds of both doing it are low.

                * (if assuming by average you mean an average big ten starter.)

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3611
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 31, 2017 at 6:40 PM

                I think we’ll have a rotation for a while but I think the coaches will lean on Watson more heavily than the Hill/Long/Washington group simply because of experience (against the run especially) and the fact that getting beat deep won’t be too much of a worry in the early schedule.

                CB and WR roles are very hard to predict this year. The stabilizing vets (Perry/Watson) will be critical players even if some of the sophomores under them surge ahead — because some of the sophomores under them will not.

    • Comments: 762
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Jul 29, 2017 at 9:52 PM

      I don’t know if Washington will start, but he was glued to the Receiver’s hip throughout the spring game. If he’s not ready to contribute in man-coverage, then our guys need to really improve their route-running

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3611
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 30, 2017 at 3:42 PM

        He was behind Hill and Watson the last time Michigan played. Maybe the light turned on but defending the inexperienced and depleted UM WR corps wouldn’t necessarily be a great indicator.

  2. Comments: 25
    Joined: 1/10/2017
    Julio
    Jul 29, 2017 at 2:41 PM

    For some reason I still have 35 guys on my list. I must’ve missed one. In case anyone is curious, here’s how the rest break down by class:

    ’13: 6
    ’14: 5
    ’15: 4
    ’16: 14
    ’17: 6

    Young team …

  3. Comments: 978
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jul 30, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    I don’t know how you would go about even beginning to rank our cornerbacks pre-camp, this year. Only Watson has any minutes, I wouldn’t call them quality. We have guys with big HS ratings coming into their second fall camp. That’s a good thing, but they haven’t had any meaningful snaps at the college level. We have another kid with a lot of size, athletic ability and is a proven winner at the HS level, but he’s a converted QB and he hasn’t been thrown at in a game either. We have two other plus athletes who have yet to even take a fall camp rep.

    I belive our corners whoever they turn out to be will be plus athletes, but beyond any shadow of a doubt will be making mistakes. The hope is that the mistakes come early, end quickly and don’t happen at crunch time.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 31, 2017 at 6:50 PM

      I think you can start based on what we’ve seen from the players and what history tells us.

      -Watson has played already, mostly in the slot, and done fine. It does not appear that the coaches see him as an heir to Stribling or Lewis though.
      -Hill played last year and struggled, but for a freshman to play against FSU spoke to his practice performance and ability. He failed to keep the momentum going in spring, unfortunately, but still a loose favorite to start.
      -Long didn’t play as a freshman but was supposedly banged up and came in for praise this spring. Firmly in the mix.
      -Washington drew praise this spring (but it was more fan-driven than from coaches IMO) but has hardly played the last 2 years.
      -Thomas and St.Juste are freshman. They early enrolled and did fine this spring but did not emerge for the kind raving that it would take to expect an immediate starting gig. If they play meaningful downs it means the others options have failed.
      -Drake Harris changed positions and isn’t likely to factor into meaningful snaps unless we’re in it deep.

  4. Comments: 762
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 31, 2017 at 8:54 PM

    Lank, you win every thread by volume and relentless push!

    Go Blue

    • Comments: 2276
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 31, 2017 at 8:58 PM

      If only the rest of you were so dedicated… :o)

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3611
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 01, 2017 at 12:14 AM

      Like Don Brown I solve my problems with a mass of words that like 2 or 3 people read tops.

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