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DeShaun Watson Proving He Belongs in the NFL

Posted on September 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl
DeShaun Watson has already proven that he belongs on the field with the Houston Texans.

DeShaun Watson has already proven that he belongs on the field with the Houston Texans.

Sometimes the decisions made by teams in the NFL Draft can be very strange. Generally, the NFL is a performance-based league, however, when it comes to draft picks, and most especially quarterbacks, choices are often made based on projected ability, instead of how someone has actually performed on the football field.

That was certainly the case in the 2017 NFL Draft when two quarterbacks with relatively average college pedigrees were chosen ahead of one of the most successful quarterbacks in recent college football history. Something that can be confusing and frustrating for those who follow US Sportsbooks.

While DeShaun Watson was leading the Clemson Tigers to back-to-back National Championship Games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina and Pat Mahaomes at Texas Tech were playing on mediocre teams.

Trubisky spent two seasons as a backup quarterback at UNC before he finally earned the starting spot for the 2016 season. Though he was a solid quarterback in his 13 stats, his performance on an 8-5 team hardly give the impression he was the next great NFL player.

While Trubisky tossed 30 touchdowns on the season with only six interceptions, in the five UNC losses, he threw only eight touchdowns while suffering all six of his interceptions. His worst performance of the season was against Virginia Tech when he completed only 39.4% of his passes for 58 yards and two interceptions.

Yet, the Chicago Bears thought enough of Trubisky to trade up to pick him with the second pick in the 2017 Draft.

The son of a former Major League Baseball pitcher, Mahomes had significantly more experience than Trubisky during his three college seasons.

Playing on a Texas Tech team that had only one winning year in his three seasons, Mahomes saw significant action as a freshman before starting the last two seasons.

The Red Raiders posted a 12-13 record during those two years while making one bowl appearance. Mahomes racked up huge numbers over the last two seasons tossing 77 touchdowns with 25 interception and compiling over 9,700 yards through the air. For his career, Mahomes completed 63.5% of his passes for 11,252 yards, 93 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

Perhaps Mahomes most impressive performance came during a 66-59 loss to Oklahoma during the 2016 season when Mahomes passed for 734 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for 85 yards and two scores.

Given that defense has not been a strength in the Big 12, it is very easy to somewhat dismiss the huge numbers produced by Mahomes as more a product of the system and league than necessarily something that could easily translate into NFL success.

However, that caveat did not keep veteran coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs from choosing Mahomes with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Similar to Mahomes, Watson saw extended playing time as a freshman, but unlike Mahomes, Watson was on a team that was playing meaningful games during a 10-win season that culminated with a bowl victory.

Watson became the clear starter for the 2015 season and led the Tigers to 14 straight victories and a spot in the National Championship Game. Though he completed 63.8% of his passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns, Clemson fell just short against Alabama in a 45-40 loss.

After finishing third in the Heisman voting in 2015, Watson led the Tigers back to the National Championship Game in 2016 and finished second to Lamar Jackson.

Watson made big plays to lead Alabama to the 2016 National Championship.

Watson made big plays to lead Alabama to the 2016 National Championship.

Though Watson’s team was better and his overall statistics ultimately greater, what seemed to hurt Watson in the Heisman voting was that while he had many great moments, he was also susceptible to throwing interceptions at key moments, especially in the red zone. Over the last two seasons, he threw at least one interception in 20 of 30 games.

One game in which he did not toss an interception was the 2016 National Championship Game when Watson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Tigers avenged their previous defeat with a 35-31 victory.

Watson led the Tigers to three touchdowns in the final quarter, including the game winner in the final seconds to secure the championship.

However, when the discussion turned from the college season to the 2017 NFL Draft, Watson suddenly went from being the class of college football to the third wheel.

You would think the opportunity to see how Watson performed in critical moments in big games would have been a benefit for him, but instead draft experts seemed to focus on the flaws that are visible when someone plays 30 high-pressure games in two years (28 of which his team won).

Some experts felt that Watson was already close to as good as he could become, while Trubisky and Mahomes had greater potential. However, it seems in that argument that the “experts” failed to notice that Watson’s performance was already at the highest level.

So, while Trubisky and Mahomes were drafted high on potential, Watson stayed on the draft board until the Houston Texans selected him with the 13th pick in the draft.

Supporters of Watson insisted that Watson was the most NFL ready and that has proven to be the case so far in 2017. It took less than a game before Watson found his way onto the field. Though Houston is only 1-2, Watson nearly pulled off a victory last week over defending Super Bowl Champion New England.

He passed for 301 yards and two scores against New England, but also had two interceptions. In three games, Watson has been solid both passing and running the football. As he did at Clemson, Watson has already asserted himself as the clear offensive leaders for the Texans. On a team that has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs, Watson’s experience playing in meaningful games every week will certainly help him navigate his first NFL season.

With the Bears struggling with a 1-3 record, it may not be long before Trubisky gets his chance to prove if he was worth the second pick. The Chiefs are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with a veteran quarterback, so unless there is an injury, Mahomes will probably have to wait to prove that he belongs.

It is certainly possible that both Trubisky and Mahomes could someday become great NFL quarterbacks, but DeShaun Watson was the best of the group in college and so far has proven to be the best pro as well.

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