Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players in 2017 takes a look at veteran special teams ace, linebacker Dekoda Watson.
One of the first moves San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch made earlier this offseason was to bring in some special teams help, signing former Denver Broncos linebacker Dekoda Watson on a three-year deal.
Watson, 29 years old, broke into the league back in 2010 as a seventh-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He spent four years there before stints with the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Broncos.
|4 yr||4 yr||TAM||60||6||1||4||2||4||7||1||3.0||65||16||9|
|1 yr||1 yr||DAL||1||0||1||0||0|
|1 yr||1 yr||DEN||16||0||1||0||0||0||1.0||5||1||1|
|1 yr||1 yr||JAX||9||1||9||5||1|
|1 yr||1 yr||NWE||3||0||0|
The journeyman linebacker has never been much of a starter. Instead, Lynch and Co. look to make Watson a notable special teams contributor this season and beyond.
This ability plays a vital role in Watson’s ability to make the 53-man roster.
But how else can Watson increase his stock, and what would be the reasons why he fails to make the cut?
Let’s take a look.
Why He’ll Improve
It’s hard to view Watson as anything more than just a depth option and special teams contributor.
Watson’s 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame makes him a backup candidate for San Francisco’s SAM linebacker, according to Chris Biderman of Niners Wire, behind Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold.
2013 marked Watson’s best year, according to Pro Football Focus, where he registered a 76.1 overall grade — starting three games for the Bucs in the process. Last year, though, that number fell to 57.7.
A new defensive scheme could see Watson assume a larger role, although he doesn’t appear close to the top of the depth chart.
Why He’ll Regress
Watson probably has a few more years in his body, and special teamers rarely see the number of snaps first-team units do. So the mileage shouldn’t be too much a concern, but NFL careers can be cut short, as any fan knows.
On one hand, it’s good Watson seems to regularly find work. But the fact he hasn’t had a steady home since his days in Tampa Bay might raise eyebrows, considering the Niners gave him a three-year deal.
For special teams, though, it’s not a bad move if he’s able to make some noteworthy efforts in this specific role.
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What to Expect in 2017
Barring injuries, Watson shouldn’t see too much of the field at linebacker. He’s already buried behind both Brooks and Harold for the SAM spot, and the Niners have a logjam over at both the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots too.
But Watson is worth keeping around for depth and special teams, as noted.
The latter is likely what San Francisco envisioned when he was signed. While respectable last year — ranking 17th, per Football Outsiders — the Niners want to ensure field position winds up being in their favor during this year of transition.
Watson, who led the Broncos with 11 special teams tackles last year, should go a long way in doing this.
It’s too early to guarantee Watson a roster spot in 2017. The 49ers may look at one of their younger players, with more promise and upside, to take the slot now occupied by Watson.
Yet there’s a good chance the veteran winds up sticking around into the regular season, simply based on what he’s accomplished on special teams in recent years.