Decoding Deshaun: why Watson is destined to be a draft day disappointment

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April 25, 2017 by 978eaton

Deshaun Watson finished second in Heisman Trophy voting each of the past two seasons. (Courtesy of Brynn Anderson/AP Photos)

Written by Troy Eaton

Born and raised in Gainesville, you would think Deshaun Watson was destined to be a Florida Gator. But as a USA Today high school All-American, it is Gainesville, Ga. where Watson spawns from. He has been highly recruited at every stage of his career and is on the fast-track to NFL stardom.

Watson has entered the NFL Draft and is touted by experts to be a can’t miss talent. His draft stock puts him among the best young prospects, as he is expected to be scooped up in the first round. There is even a possibility that he could be the first quarterback off the board instead of North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.

But while consensus is jumping aboard the Watson train, I’m waving goodbye from the station. It’s time to zig while everybody else zags.

All of the hype is seemingly reasonable for such a promising young athlete. He has been the recipient of nearly every award in the book, ranging from the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (2016) and ACC-Player of the year (2015) to leading his underdog Clemson Tigers to a national championship victory over perennial powerhouse Alabama.

He has even been a finalist to receive Heisman Trophy in consecutive campaigns. But when NFL franchises consider adding such a cornerstone piece it is important to put these credentials into perspective. We are here to decode Deshaun and peer through the charade we have been witnessing.

Watson’s success at the collegiate level is largely due to his running ability. The threat of scrambling from the pocket has kept defenses on their toes. Defensive schemes would use a linebacker as a spy defender, ultimately opening lanes for Watson to pick them apart downfield.

This style of quarterback play fails to translate at next level, however. Every year we watch mobile QB’s get drafted and fizzle out against the speed of NFL defenders. Even players such as Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor and Jameis Winston struggle rushing in the NFL and have had to adjust their style of play to become pocket-passer oriented. This was most evident with the rise and fall of Cam Newton over the past few years as he gains a feel for pocket presence.

It is known that Watson has top-tier running ability…that’s cool and all, but the passing game is more prominent than ever in the big league. And with that comes the importance of efficiency and ball protection. So let’s cross examine his legs with his arm.

Every year that Watson has been in college his passing efficiency has decreased in nearly every category. Statistics such as completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating, touchdown/interception ratio and the beloved QBR have all taken hits with every season that Watson has been behind center at Clemson.

He managed to throw 17 interceptions in 15 games his senior season…17. This included multiple-interception games against the underwhelming defenses of opponents like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Troy.

Now, let’s expose these statistics for what they really are. For his duration in college, Watson had the privilege of targeting Mike Williams who will all-but-assuredly be the first wide receiver off the board in Philadelphia for this year’s Draft.

Standing at 6-4, 218 lbs, Williams is a quarterback’s dream. He is the size and speed monster that acts as a safety valve when a play breaks down; the type of receiver where you can throw it up in the air and you know he is coming down with it. And not only did the Tigers offense feature the nations top wide receiver, they paired it with a talented running back.

Former Clemson back Wayne Gallman is projected as a 4th round pick in this years NFL draft and supported his quarterback with superior pass blocking ability paired with a valuable set of hands in the passing game.

Deshuan Watson was surrounded by arguably the strongest WR/RB combination in the nation. So how in the world did Watson struggle in efficiency? Why did he prove prone to turning the ball over?

The last indicator of Watson’s fraudulence is the most concrete. Every year professional scouts stay awe-struck over the metrics measured at the NFL combine. Watson chose to participate at this years combine where he displayed his gifted quickness. Except, he wasn’t so quick after all…with his arm, that is.

Watson’s arm strength was, cough cough, embarrassing. Tight window throws are a key to success at the NFL level, requiring the ball to be delivered with velocity. This makes arm strength essential for the position, but Watson only clocked in with a ball speed of 48.5 mph. Of all 32 NFL quarterbacks expected to start this upcoming season, there is one that has an arm speed below 50mph. That would be Mike Glennon. Enough said.

On draft day, you will hear Deshaun Watson’s name and watch the camera repeatedly glance in his direction. But draft day will be the peak of Watson’s career. You heard it here first, at The Nosebleeds.

 

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