The Badgers have put a quite a few players in the NFL over the last number of years, and out of all of them, J.J. Watt is the one that stands out. Watt has quickly become possibly the league's best defensive player in short order topped off by winning the 2012 NFL defensive player of the year award. Watt is a monster of a football player, standing 6'5”, and 295 pounds, so it easy to see how he could become what he has become. However, before you expect even bigger things from Watt in 2013, I may some bad news for you. History does not favor Watt at the moment.
If you look throughout recent NFL history, plenty of players have had a big breakout season, 2-4 seasons or so into their NFL careers. This gets everyone all excited about their limitless potential, possibly even expecting bigger things from that player the following season, which even places somewhat of unrealistic expectations on that player. History shows us that very few players ever replicate success the following season after their big “breakout” year, especially defensive players. In fact, we need to look no further than our own Green Bay Packers as an example of this.
Injuries Slow Down The Pass Rusher Every Time
In 2010 Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, and B.J. Raji all had huge breakout seasons. Matthews was a force off the edge all season that year, recording 13.5 sacks and being named to his second Pro Bowl. Tramon Williams had raised the depth chart to become the Packers cover corner opposite the now departed Charles Woodson. Williams started all 16 games, recorded six interceptions, and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Raji had a breakout year, not in terms of numbers, but in terms of performance, and was named to the Pro Bowl as well. Oh yeah, these three, along with Woodson, anchored the Packers defense on their way to their Super Bowl victory that season. As a result of these performances, all three had very high expectations placed on them for the following season, and none of them replicated their 2010 performances. Matthews recorded just six sacks in 2011, Raji played too many snaps, and Williams began to deal with injury problems.
What does this tell us about J.J. Watt? Well, it's very simple; before you expect even bigger things, remember that history does not favor J.J. Watt in terms of duplicating his 2012 success next season.