Following a stellar National Championship performance, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson has entered the conversation as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Each quarterback in the top five of this draft class is an underclassmen, which explains the lack of hype at quarterback during the Senior Bowl.
For this quarterback class, the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine will have a large impact in each player’s draft stock, particularly for the top three or four names. Watson belongs in that category and, while he may not have as much to gain, unfavorable measurables and a poor showing could push him down many draft boards.
DeShaun Watson, Clemson (6-2, 215)
Watson is the most decorated quarterback of the 2017 draft class. He spent two years as the starter at Clemson and faced Alabama in the National Championship twice, defeating them this past January.
At Clemson, the 21-year-old put up incredible numbers and finished third and second in the Heisman Trophy voting the past two seasons. Watson wowed the nation with his dual-threat ability and led the Tigers to a 28-2 record as a starter.
He was considered one of the top draft-eligible quarterback heading into 2016 college football season and won a national championship, yet there are still plenty of questions surrounding Watson heading into the combine.
- Athleticism: Watson’s athletic ability is off the charts. His ability to extend plays with his feet is a big attribute if he does it safely at the next level.
- Intangibles: Watson’s ability to create plays, win games and make the impossible happen has been incredible. This is something that is very hard to measure but it’s apparent in his play.
- Pocket Awareness: His awareness and internal clock are already at a pro level. What he must do is learn to stand in the pocket to make throws, instead of using his legs to take off downfield.
- NFL Responsibilities: On film, his ability and willingness to make calls at the line of scrimmage and take control of each play stood out, which demonstrates good football intelligence.
- Leadership: Not only is Watson wise beyond his years on a football level, he’s also been lauded as a great leader and it shows on the field.
- Accuracy On the Run: This is something that works in his advantage, especially with his mobile ability and overall athleticism.
- Eyes: Watson is one of the few quarterbacks in this class that has the ability to move defenders with his eyes and look them off.
- Arm Strength: His arm isn’t anything special but he has enough to make any throw downfield or across the field. Improved footwork could add some zip on his throws.
- Size: Listed at 6-2, 215, Watson’s frame is thin and he does not possess ideal height (he'll likely measure closer to 6-1).
- Field Vision: His ability to read the entire field is very much in question. Too often he is seen cutting the field in half and being too quick through his progressions.
- Footwork: Watson’s feet are not only too active in the pocket but he commonly forgets to set his feet when passing, leading to inconsistent ball placement and weak deep throws.
- Reckless Style: Much like RG3, Watson is reckless as a runner and, with a small frame, that could lead to RG3-like results in terms of injuries. While he has good awareness, he takes too many avoidable hits.
- Simplistic College Offense: Like most collegiate prospects, Watson’s offense at Clemson won’t do him any favors when adjusting to the next level.
- Ball Placement: Due to poor footwork, Watson’s ball placement is not ideal. He too often either misses high or locates the ball erratically.
Watson’s 67.4 career completion percentage looks impressive on paper, as does his 157.5 QB rating, yet his quality receiving options often negated his struggles with ball placement and overall accuracy.
In a class full of signal callers on underachieving teams, Watson’s college success might be clouding his overall evaluation. While the former Tiger doesn’t project as a “high-bust” prospect, his ceiling may not be as high as some of the other top-tier passers in this class.
Much like RG3, Watson must take better care of his body when on the run if he plans on surviving more than a season or two in the NFL. While there are almost as many negatives as positives, his fate will depend on development and scheme fit.
Physically, Watson is not overly impressive but it’s hard to dismiss his ability to take games over and win them, which will bring unmeasurable value to certain QB-needy teams. Couple this with his high level of leadership and athletic ability and he’ll be attractive to a number of teams in the first round, especially if he tests well in Indianapolis.
In Bears GM Ryan Pace’s desirable list of quarterback traits, Watson checks most of the boxes, which could make him a prime target come draft day. The bigger question: is Watson worth the 3rd overall pick?
Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota Vikings)