Every season there is no shortage of storylines to follow in the National Football League, and the year ahead is no exception. From the ongoing debate over Colin Kaepernick, to the chances the New England Patriots repeat, to the influx of new talent that has entered the league through the draft, the 2017 season looks to be full of potential stories to watch. But as someone who spends the bulk of his time watching and analyzing quarterbacks, the storyline I’m most interested in seeing unfold is how soon quarterback Deshaun Watson takes over in Houston.
For my money, Watson was my favorite quarterback in the last draft class. He stands out to me as a mix of talented passer, dangerous athlete and proven winner. Throughout the draft process, the following numbers were seared into my brain: 138 of 205 passes (67.3%), 1,615 yards, 16 TDs, 2 INTs. Those were Watson’s fourth quarter numbers while in college. That includes back-to-back national championship games, against an extremely talented and impressive Alabama defense. To post those numbers, to go along with the traits Watson put on display (touch, processing speed, athletic ability and competitive toughness) made Watson the top quarterback in my mind. For him to fall to the Houston Texans is absolutely the ideal situation for him. Houston has a potential bridge starter in Tom Savage – whom they are very high on from all current reports – but this is a team that won a playoff game last season with Brock Osweiler at the helm. In addition, the Texans were without J.J. Watt, and still produced the top defense in the league. For my money, adding Watson to that roster puts Houston a big step closer to becoming a threat to win the AFC.
This is not to say Watson comes into the league wart-free. He threw 17 interceptions his last year in college, a number that many evaluators pointed to as an area of concern. His arm strength became a big question mark when after the Scouting Combine, it was reported that he topped out on the radar gun at only 49 mph, a very low mark and below the generally accepted threshold of 55 mph. Finally, many pointed to the Clemson offensive scheme and dubbed Watson a one-read quarterback, and question how he can operate an offense like Bill O’Brien’s.
So there are question marks. But from where I stand, Watson has answered questions throughout his college career, and his mix of talent, traits and toughness make him a quarterback I’d want to see on my team. I’m confident that he can quickly adjust to life in the NFL and become a top-flight quarterback in due time, and I’m anxious to see it all unfold.
Mark Schofield is a writer for Inside the Pylon (insidethepylon.com). He is a reformed lawyer who graduated from Wesleyan University where he was a four-year letter winner as a quarterback and situational wide receiver. You can follow him on Twitter at @MarkSchofield.
Photo copyright: Sports Illustrated.