Both the interior offensive line and offensive tackle positions appear to be deep ones in the 2022 NFL Draft.
That’s good news for a New York Giants team that needs both depth and starters across their depleted offensive line. While Giants’ fans (and the team itself) would love to have first rounders at all five positions, that isn’t really feasible.
Teams often have to look down the depth charts for potential starters, particularly at positions that don’t quite demand a high athletic premium. The Washington Huskies had a miserable 2021 season, but they have several players who could be good value picks in the middle of the upcoming draft. Center Luke Wattenberg is one of the most experienced players in this year’s draft, and he plays a position at which the Giants could certainly use more answers.
Could he be a diamond in the rough?
Prospect: Luke Wattenberg (No. 76)
Games Watched: vs. Stanford (2020), vs. Michigan (2021) vs. Oregon (2021), vs. UCLA (2021)
Games played (starts): 48
Best: Experience, athleticism, length, football IQ, versatility
Worst: Height, play strength, scheme diversity
Projection: A reserve lineman with starting upside in a scheme that emphasizes athleticism
Washington offensive lineman Luke Wattenberg is an experienced, athletic, and versatile center prospect.
Wattenberg was an iron man for the Huskies, starting 48 games from 2017 to 2021 and is one of the most experienced linemen in this year’s draft. Not only does he have a wealth of starts under his belt, but he has started at three different positions. He started five games at left tackle in 2017, all 27 games at left guard in 2018 and 2019, and all 16 games at center in 2020 and 2021. Wattenberg shows a very high football IQ, not only to understand and execute his responsibilities at three different positions, but as a communicator at center. He is active in the pre-snap phase, routinely identifying pressures and communicating adjustments in protections to the rest of the blockers.
Wattenberg seldom seems surprised by the defense and has a cool, calm play demeanor.
He is also an excellent athlete for the center position. Wattenberg plays with impressive quickness, both in getting into his blocks off the snap and in his movement during the play. He also shows good flexibility in his ankles, knees, and hips, allowing him to get get good leverage to counteract his height.
Wattenberg is a generally reliable pass protector. He shows a wide base and good foot speed to take positioning on defenders and mirror interior speed rushers. He deals well with stunts and twists along the defensive line, easily creating separation and passing defenders off to his teammates. Likewise, he is constantly looking for work and does a good job picking up blitzes and delayed pressure.
Wattenberg is a good zone blocker and his athleticism makes him a capable pulling center. Likewise, he is very quick to the second level and is an effective blocker on screen plays. He works hard to sustain his blocks through the whistle and is able to seal off running lanes when he plays with good leverage.
Wattenberg’s frame is a double-edged sword, in that regard. While his length is an asset in dealing with pass rushers, he is tall for a center and can be vulnerable to bullrushes from stoutly built or powerful defensive tackles. He can seem to bounce off of defensive linemen at times as a run blocker, and struggle to anchor in pass protection when faced with explosive nose tackles. Wattenberg must maintain low hips and good leverage at all times, or he can be overwhelmed.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Wattenberg projects as a utility back-up offensive lineman with the potential to start in the right situation.
He should be considered a scheme-limited center, but could have starting upside for a team that relies on athletic offensive linemen, zone blocking schemes, pulls, and screen passes. He will likely be vulnerable to power rushers at the NFL level and might need to frequently work with his guards on double-teams against particularly powerful defensive tackles.
Teams might be tempted to ask him to add weight and play strength. However, considering his age (24), it’s questionable whether his frame is maxed out and he can add more quality mass without sacrificing his athleticism.
His greatest value would be for teams that run a blocking scheme similar to the Mike Shanahan Broncos.
That said, Wattenberg should still have solid value to most teams. Even if he never becomes a starter, his football IQ and ability to step in at all five positions along the offensive line are a boon on gameday. Quality depth is rare in the NFL, and Wattenberg’s experience and skillset would allow significant flexibility for his future team.