NFL DRAFT 2014: NC State TE Asa Watson trying to overcome heart issues

Asa Watson calls his heart condition a nuisance.

The tight end from North Carolina State has Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which causes the ventricles of the heart to prematurely contract. He underwent two surgeries a few years ago to treat the condition, takes medication to keep it under control, and says he tells the few NFL teams that have bothered to ask about it that "it's a nuisance rather than a hindrance."

Watson, the younger brother of New Orleans Saints tight end Ben Watson, said his first symptoms appeared after his freshman season in 2009 when he felt lightheaded and his heartbeat sped up during a workout.

Once doctors figured out what was wrong, he had surgeries in 2010 and 2011.

"I just wanted to get back as fast as possible," Watson said. "I didn't know if I was going to play football again or if that was the end of my career. ... The doctors explained to me that it was like a nuisance and nothing that was going to be life-threatening."

Watson redshirted in 2011 to recover and came back with his best year at N.C. State in 2012. He caught 24 passes for 282 yards with his only career touchdown in coach Tom O'Brien's pro-style system.

He caught just three passes for 41 yards last year in new coach Dave Doeren's version of the spread.

"It's just something that I'll probably live with for the rest of my life unless I make the decision to have the third surgery," Watson said. "You kind of learn to just deal with it and work through it."

Watson says he figures he will be either a later-round pick or will try to catch on as an undrafted free agent.

"I'm happy with either one because all I'm asking for is a foot in the door, an opportunity to show what I can do, and I'll be grateful for any opportunity I'm given," he said.


AFTER THE DRAFT: For all the time, money and effort NFL teams put into evaluating prospects, then making selections and deals during the draft, their work hardly is over late Saturday afternoon when the proceedings end.

Then comes the mad dash to sign undrafted free agents.

New Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, who had an 84-66 record as head man in Chicago, compares it to what colleges go through with high school players.

"We spend a lot of time on them," Smith says. "Right after the draft it's college recruiting, trying to convince the guys to come on board, and once they get here, first round or free agent, it really doesn't matter. My time as a head football coach I've had tryout guys that ... have come to that minicamp and end up being a starter for us.

"Everyone will get an opportunity."

Bucs general manager Jason Licht says those players are told they have as much of a chance of making the roster as any of the draft picks. He believes Smith creates "an underdog type theme that you always root for."

Smith points to tackle Demar Dotson, who joined Tampa Bay in 2009 as an undrafted player out of Southern Mississippi. Dotson has been a starter the last two seasons for the Bucs.

"It's one thing to say it, but to see a player that's going that route, of course, Demar is a great example of that," Smith says. "It makes players want to come here even more, if they don't get that chance (to be drafted)."


MORE SCOUTING: A record-number of early entrants, 102, are in this year's draft. That causes even more work for the folks evaluating the college crop, because almost two full rosters of underclassmen have become available for selection.

Many of them, from South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney to Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins to Auburn tackle Greg Robinson to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, will go high.

"I'd say the underclassmen are a huge part of it. Obviously the largest number that we've had," Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio says.

Not that the manner in which teams do their scouting changes.

"I think there are a lot of good football players that may not get drafted, which is the case every year, because just from a sheer number standpoint," Caserio adds. "You factor in all those different situations and you're going to evaluate the players the same way. It doesn't really affect the evaluation process. You maybe have to go back a little bit more on some of the underclassmen who have declared, because there's less of a body of work that's available. But ultimately the process is the same.

One major difference is that the early entrants are not eligible for the all-star games in January, particularly the Senior Bowl, when the NFL descends on Mobile, Alabama, to poke, prod and project how the prospects might help.

"You go through it and really the first opportunity you have with those players comes a lot later because you really don't get to them until February, which is the first time that they're actually available," Caserio says. "You sort of have to fast-forward everything and you really have February, March, April to get the information, make sure it's correct and then ultimately make the evaluation of the player.

"I think you've probably spent time evaluating them, but as far as the depth and spending the one-on-one time with them, that's probably the thing that's different relative to the other players who you've had a little bit more opportunity and a little more exposure to."


THINKING AHEAD: By the time he was a junior, Kyle Van Noy treated football like a business.

While he bypassed a chance to enter the NFL draft after three years at BYU, Van Noy started thinking like a professional. Fast forward to spring 2014 and Van Noy is hoping he's prepared for life at the next level, both on and off the field.

"I realized I had to be a CEO of myself," Van Noy said in a phone interview last week during a lunch break while training. "To represent my team and my teammates."

A decorated linebacker with the Cougars, Van Noy finished his career in 2013 with 226 tackles and played 13 games each of his four seasons in Provo. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Van Noy made 26 sacks in college, half coming in a junior season in which he also forced six fumbles.

He could have left early then, but decided to return to school — though he began to take that professional mindset.

"I treated being in college like I was in the NFL," he said. "I was here at BYU, I was treated like a celebrity when I went out in public. I wasn't just representing myself, I was representing the school."

An draft profile listed Van Noy's pass-rushing ability, athleticism and football smarts as strengths, and a lack of "elite length and flexibility" and average motor as weaknesses. He could go as a second-day pick in Rounds 2 through 3.


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Genaro Armas and Joedy McCreary contributed to this story.


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