How much does playing at your best when pressure is the hottest matter to NFL people? Apparently, it matters quite a lot based on how Deshaun Watson’s draft stock has reportedly surged in the wake of his phenomenal performance against Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, NFL executives believe Watson has pushed himself into the top half of the first round this upcoming April, if not the top pick overall.
“Cleveland could take him at No. 1 — look who’s coaching them,” one predicted.
Indeed, it’s not crazy to wonder if Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson isn’t licking his chops to get his hands on Watson. He could potentially be coaching him at the Senior Bowl this year if Watson accepts the invitation to play — one full week of evaluation and hands-on teaching for Jackson and his staff. The Browns desperately need to find a franchise passer to help them emerge out of the AFC’s basement.
Even if Cleveland doesn’t take Watson No. 1 overall, he could go to the San Francisco 49ers or Chicago Bears in the next couple of picks. Or, perhaps another quarterback-needy club will make a desperate move to trade loads of draft currency with one of those teams to move up and land him.
Based on his current stock, going high, no matter how it happens, appears to be in Watson’s future.
“All I’m saying is this,” one personnel director said this week, “if [Robert Griffin III] and Vince Young and Marcus Mariota can go in the top couple of picks, there’s no question Deshaun Watson can. He led his team against Alabama, one of the best defenses we’ve seen in a long time. He’s done a ton of winning since he’s been at Clemson. Absolutely do I think someone can take him in the top 10.
“He’s better than Vince Young. He’s a better kid, a better thrower. Would I take him there? No, I would not. But what gives the kid a chance is he’s a tremendous kid, unbelievable competitor with a great skill set. But he’s got inconsistent accuracy and throws a lot of interceptions. But this whole thing is momentum, like stocks. His stock is rising. Everything he does between now and draft, will build. He will look great, test great, interview great. Absolutely he’ll be a top-10 pick.”
A lot can happen between now and the 2017 NFL Draft in late April. But based on Watson’s clean off-field report, his confidence in himself (more on that here) and his ability to lead a team, it seems unlikely he’ll see a precipitous fall.
The currency he’s earned with his resume the past couple of years, capped off by his magnificent game against mighty Alabama for the championship, will likely hold him over through April.
Then again, media perception is often skewed. Furthermore, who knows if the guys speaking out right now are being honest or skewing their responses in order to push another guy down so he’ll fall in the draft. There is much disinformation that comes out in the months leading up to the draft as teams maneuver to land guys they covet.
Many analysts believe Watson has trouble in the pocket and his track record of throwing bad interceptions could also be something teams at the top want to avoid. These aspects of his game could potentially cause him to slide on draft day.
There is also the matter of Mitch Trubisky, who is the show pony of the current draft class and has also been pegged as the top quarterback by many.
It’s going to be fascinating to see if Watson remains hot in the months to come.