In what has been a trend of inconsistency and questionable decision-making all year long, the man many once considered the top overall pick in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft in Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, his luck finally ran out in a 43-42 upset loss at home to unranked Pitt.
Watson, who was the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up to running back Derrick Henry of Alabama after throwing for 4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 1,105 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on the ground, was widely considered to be the No.1 QB on many draft boards and mock drafts.
So far this year, Watson has passed for 3,077 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Currently, Watson has as many interceptions (13) as he has thrown all of last year, and his passing yards are down from his gaudy 4,100-plus that he used to help push current national champion Alabama to the brink in a memorable four-touchdown, 405-yard passing performance College Football Playoff national title game 45-40 loss.
I’m not sure what has happened to Watson since that loss to the Crimson Tide, but something just seems off about him this year.
I know. You are probably asking how—and why—can you ask this question, after he set an ACC—and single-game career—record for single-game passing (580) while completing 52 of 70 pass attempts?
Simple, because it’s my gut feeling to say and report what I see, and visually, this is not the same Watson that tore up college football in 2015.
Throughout the year, and even against a scrappy Pitt team that played with plenty of heart, Watson often times seemed to escape by the narrowest of margins (Louisville, Troy, North Carolina State, Auburn and Florida State) instead of dominating and showing why he was college football’s best player.
Whether it is trying force throws into tight windows or making ill-advised decisions late, Watson seems affected by a lack of arm strength and velocity, as many of his balls have—at times—floated, or lacked the proper air underneath them, giving opposing defensive backs a chance to pick him off.
Again, I’m not calling Watson out on anything, but it just seems that he either peaked way too early last year, or that teams have done a better job of scouting him this year, but he doesn’t have that same game-changing mojo that he had last year.
It’s not like he doesn’t have NFL-quality talent surrounding him in wide receivers Deon Cain, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett, but you would think that Watson would be making a case for being selecting first overall with various NFL scouts in attendance instead of the likes of Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Thanks to Williams—projected as one of the top WR’s in the draft—and Leggett—one of the top TE’s—have bailed Watson out of many ill-advised throws that he has made this season.
At a slim 6’3 and 218 pounds, could Watson just be a by-product of head coach Dabo Swinney’s spread offense, and that he is just surrounded by NFL-like talent, that happens to also have a defense that bails him out from time to time?
With such a slim frame and not as tall as today’s quarterbacks, Watson will likely have to bulk up, especially if he is selected by teams that play in physical and hard-hitting divisions such as Cleveland, San Francisco and Chicago.
Some have said he is the next Russell Wilson due to his mobility and dual-threat ability, while others have compared him to former star Tajh Boyd, Robert Griffin III and E.J. Manuel, while some may see this as piling on and judging Watson based on one game, this column is about his performance this season.
You can call this over-the-top, knee-jerk reactionary op-ed that was based on being a prisoner of the moment, but if I’m not the only one who feels that he hasn’t passed the proverbial eye test at all, then how am I wrong?
To me, Watson is not worthy of being the top overall pick, nor even in the top five. And if others have him going from the mid-to-late first round to the top of the second, then I’ll buy that.
If he somehow manages to snap out of this post-national title game funk he has been in all season long, and turns it up at the NFL Combine, then I reserve the right to change my opinion, but as of now, Watson will be lucky to even be a first round selection.