Clemson University

Why isn’t Watson a consensus top draft pick?

Deshaun Watson discusses NFL Draft process, Clemson QB race at football camp

About 180 kids showed for a football camp held by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday at River Bluff High School.
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About 180 kids showed for a football camp held by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday at River Bluff High School.

Deshaun Watson isn’t a consensus top prospect for this year’s NFL draft.

Despite his laundry-list of achievements that include winning a national championship and two Davey O’Brien Awards, opinions remain varied on where the Clemson quarterback should and will be selected.

There certainly has appeared to be a significant level of interest in Watson in the weeks leading up to the draft. He reportedly has had team visits or private workouts with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.

Three out of five NFL executives surveyed by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said they believe Watson will be the first quarterback drafted on Thursday.

“Watson is the most experienced, and he has more good tape than the other quarterbacks,” one of the executives told Jeremiah. “None of these guys are franchise-type, no-brainer picks, but he’s the closest to what you’d want at the position.”

There are others, however, who believe Watson shouldn’t even be selected in the first round. DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline surveyed two NFL teams about the top 32 players on their draft boards, and neither one of them included Watson.

What’s not to like about Watson, a dual-threat quarterback who rewrote the Clemson record books and was the best player in college football over the past two years?

The belief among many evaluators isn’t that Watson is a bad quarterback prospect but that there are flaws in his game that could be problematic at the next level.

The Ringer’s Danny Kelly lists Watson as one of “the nine riskiest prospects in the NFL draft.”

“While dynamic as a runner, Watson’s simply not as physically gifted as the other quarterbacks in this class; his velocity and hot-and-cold accuracy don’t match up with that of (North Carolina quarterback Mitchell) Trubisky, (Texas Tech’s) Patrick Mahomes II or (Notre Dame’s) DeShone Kizer, and his 30 interceptions over the past two seasons call into question his decision-making and ability to read defenses,” Kelly said. “It’s not going to get any easier going against faster, more complex NFL defenses.”

Jon Ledyard, an NFL draft analyst for FanRag Sports and Inside the Pylon, said Watson’s interception totals at Clemson are a concern but that he should be able to improve in that regard.

“He’ll certainly need to be smarter with the football, but I didn’t think any of his turnovers stemmed from an unfixable issue,” Ledyard said.

Ledyard believes Watson is likely to be selected between the 20th and 32nd picks of the first round. He grades Watson as the draft’s best quarterback and believes the Chicago Bears, who hold the No. 3 overall pick, are “a wild card at the top of the draft.”

Jeff Risdon, an NFL draft analyst for RealGM.com, believes questionable arm strength is the most legitimate concern with Watson.

Risdon also believes Watson could land with the Bears at the third pick but also identifies the New Orleans Saints (11th pick) and Texans (25th pick) as possible landing spots.

“Given how many teams have current or near-future needs at quarterback, he probably should go in the first half of the first round,” Risdon said.

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