Player Spotlight: Notre Dame Safety Xavier Watts

USC v Notre Dame
USC v Notre Dame / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

College: Notre Dame

Position: Safety

Age: 22

Height: 5'10''

Weight: 204lbs

40 yard dash time: 4.50


Xavier Watts, a former 4-star wide receiver recruit from Omaha, Nebraska, carved an unexpected path to becoming the best safety in college football. After initially entering Notre Dame as a wideout, he shifted his focus to linebacker before ultimately finding his true calling at safety during his senior year. This remarkable transformation culminated in him winning the prestigious Bronco Nagurski Award, recognizing him as the nation's top defensive player. Leading all of FBS with 7 interceptions, Watts' journey is a testament to his dedication, adaptability, and raw talent.


Playermaker: Watts led the entire country in interceptions with seven, he has shown that he is an absolute ballhawk. He has a knack for making huge plays and is the type of player that offenses have to account for on every snap.

Elite Physicality: As a former linebacker, he looks to punish players every time they touch the ball. He is built like a tank and tries to inflict as much punishment as possible on crossers and runners when he has the chance.

Play Recognition: Despite being new to the position, Watts has fantastic eyes and can read what the offense is running extremely fast. This is extremely rare for someone who is just learning the position.


Lack of experience for the position: While he has obviously picked up playing Safety very quickly, some NFL evaluators might view him as a one-hit-wonder, similar to Malik Hooker coming out of Ohio State. He has to prove that he can build off of his success at the NFL level.

Over Aggressive: While he proved that he is one of the best players in all of college football, at times, he can be over-aggressive, and wants to make a play on every snap. He could struggle with teams trying to expose him in coverage with double moves at the next level.

NFL Comparison: Bob Sanders

Keep in mind, that this comparison is extremely lofty, and is comparing him to Sanders coming out of Iowa, and not the All-Pro that Sanders became in the NFL. While he isn't as fast as Sanders (who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash time), he has a similar build and playmaking instincts of that of Sanders as a prospect. Time will tell if he can live up to this high praise.

NFL Draft Projection: Top 50 Pick

While Watts has not yet declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, but he absolutely should. It would be very hard to repeat the success that he has had this season. His draft stock might never be as high as it is right now. He has everything that teams are looking for in a modern safety and can be deployed in various roles in a defensive system in the NFL. Overall, Watts is a fantastic prospect that needs to show that he isn't just an opportunistic player maker, but one of the more intriguing players in the 2024 NFL draft, if he decides to declare.