Hours after the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers bypass adding a defensive back to the fold, the black and gold added a pair of intriguing defensive backs on the undrafted free agent market, attempting to find a diamond in the rough.
According to The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner, one of those UDFA’s in the defensive secondary to watch for the Steelers throughout the summer is Massachusetts cornerback Bryce Watts.
Watts spent time with Massachusetts, Virginia Tech and North Carolina during his time in college, which hurt his draft stock overall, especially after he found himself in a cornerback rotation with UMass in 2021. That said, there’s plenty to like about Watts overall, including his play speed, height, and overall length.
“A guy who got lost in the shuffle after transferring from Virginia Tech to North Carolina in 2019 before opting out in 2020 due to COVID-19. He landed at UMass in 2021 for one final shot,” Baumgardner writes, highlighting Watts as the Steelers’ UDFA to watch. “Watts has great speed and burst with good feet, he just hasn’t played much football over the last three years. Only 12 games and eight starts since 2018.”
Watts was originally slated to be on the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl roster, but was removed after one day in Las Vegas for unknown reasons. That took away an opportunity for the NFL to see him up close and personal for a week in Las Vegas against strong competition top to bottom.
With his height, length, and speed though, he has a chance to be the next Steelers’ UDFA find at the position, joining James Pierre as a Steelers’ UDFA find, along with guys like Arthur Maulet and Levi Wallace on the roster already as former UDFAs in the NFL.
It’s a big hill to climb for Watts though, especially with just 12 games and eight starts in college since 2018. He just simply hasn’t played much football overall in his college career, and is now trying to make the jump to the NFL level.
Steelers Depot’s own Owen Straley profiled Watts for the site following his signing as a UDFA, and compared Watts favorably to a current NFL defensive back.
“Bryce Watts offers some great tools for Teryl Austin and company to work with as a developmental cornerback, as well as the potential to compete for special teams snaps in camp and preseason,” Straley writes. “Currently, he’s shown plenty of ability to disrupt receivers and compete at the catch point in man coverage, but will need to continue developing his vision and technique in zone coverage to become a more complete cornerback.
“In terms of a pro player comp, Watts reminds me a bit of current Los Angeles Charger Michael Davis, a former UDFA out of BYU who has translated a successful high school track career into a productive stint with the chargers. Similarly, Watts is an extremely high level athlete who is continuing to develop as a cornerback, but has put some great reps on tape in multiple stops at the collegiate level.”
We’ll see how Watts’ athleticism and overall skillset translates to the NFL this summer in OTAs, minicamp, and then training camp at St. Vincent College, should he remain on the roster until the Steelers head to training camp. There’s certainly some intrigue there overall with him, though.