In the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, CardinalsSource will profile 30 draft prospects who could end up making their way to Arizona this offseason.
Player: Deshaun Watson
Weight: 221 pounds
Arm length: 33 inches
Hand size: 9 3/4 inches
College stats: 2014: 93-for-137, 67.9 percent, 1,466 yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions, 200 rushing yards, five touchdowns, 2015: 333-for-491, 67.8 percent, 4,109 yards, 35 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 1,105 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 2016: 388-for-579, 67.0 percent, 4,593 yards, 41 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 629 rushing yards, nine touchdowns
Strengths: If NFL teams are looking for a winner, they need look no further than Clemson's Watson, who is the only draft-eligible quarterback this season that experienced tremendous success at the highest level of college football. Watson is a gamer, a play-maker and a proven operator in crunch-time, and no quarterback in this year's draft boasts more meaningful experience than Watson. In terms of Watson's skill set, of all the quarterbacks in this year's draft, he might possess the best touch on his passes. While he sometimes has a tendency to short arm the ball, when Watson is feeling it, he can be precise and surgical with throws from the pocket to the perimeter of the field and up the seams. Watson does an excellent job clearing heads at the linebacker level and dropping the ball into tight windows, which is a skill required of a quarterback in a Bruce Arians-led offense. Additionally, Watson also has a really strong feel for the pocket and impressive escapability skills. Watson has an innate sense of how to make plays when the pocket breaks down, and he isn't afraid to sling the ball into tight quarters on the run when he feels as though his offense has a chance to move the chains. Lastly, Watson is exactly the type of quarterback teams look for who could thrive in the red zone, because he's not afraid to stress defenses with his speed and has a great nose for the end zone when he's carrying the football.
Weaknesses: Though Watson's arm strength isn't overpowering, he has a tendency to trust his arm too much and isn't the best decision-maker when it comes to throwing toward covered receivers. At Clemson, Watson had a slew of receivers including Mike Williams who were excellent at corralling jump balls and 50-50 passes, but this led Watson to try to throw too many of these passes when he had other options he could have turned to during his progressions. The primary question mark facing Watson, though, is his accuracy, as far too often he would miss on throws to backs leaking out or receivers running crossing patterns or slant routes. While Watson was generally more accurate on throws to the perimeter of the field, it appears as though he sometimes had a difficult time gauging the speed of his receivers and where he needed to place the football on particular throws. One of the chief concerns facing Watson --and it's one that most college quarterbacks face nowadays-- is how he'll respond when he's asked to go under center and play in an offense that uses more pro-style concepts than the one he thrived in at Clemson. Though Watson is quick and nimble, it's unclear how well he'll adjust his footwork in the NFL because he was so comfortable in his college offense.
Watson's fit: There's no doubt Watson is a bit of a project and probably won't be ready to start from day one, but of all the draft-eligible quarterbacks in this year's class, we think he and Mahomes from Texas Tech would benefit the most from learning under Arians and starter Carson Palmer. Watson is a student of the game, a winner and a natural playmaker with a desire to improve, and those are all traits that lend themselves to Arians' teaching style. Sure, Arians will tinker with Watson's mechanics, but that would happen in any system he enters. What Arians talks about most is finding a quarterback who can lead with his head and his heart, and based on Watson's track record, it's clear he fits that bill. A quarterback who is certain to draw rave reviews from his college coaches and teammates, if Watson picks up the coaching points offered to him, he has the makeup to succeed at the next level.