Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
(percentile rank among all QBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.66 seconds (82nd)
Vertical: 32.5 inches (62nd)
Broad: 119 inches (89th)
3-cone: 6.95 seconds (73rd)
20-yard shuttle: 4.31 seconds (52nd)
A 5-star recruit, Watson delivered big time for the Clemson Tigers.
But the road to stardom wasn’t always smooth — at least as a freshman. He suffered a broken right hand on October 11, 2014, forcing him to miss the next 3 games. Then, in his first game back, Watson sustained a sprained LCL (knee ligament) and a bone bruise.
The following week, Watson tore his ACL in the same knee in practice. Season. Over.
HC Dabo Swinney recounted a particularly telling conversation with his QB (per CBS).
“I’m like, ‘What do you mean you can play? You’ve got a torn ACL. He [Watson] said he didn’t have any pain and he was adamant he could play. Heck, by a day or two later, I couldn’t even tell he had anything wrong. In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it. I thought we were going to need a stretcher to take him off the field. It’s one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen.”
Swinney’s referring to the 269 yards and 4 total TDs that Watson posted vs. South Carolina with a torn ACL. Simply legendary.
Watson wouldn’t participate in Clemson’s bowl game, instead undergoing surgery in mid-December. Come 2015, he showed no signs of rust.
Wearing a brace on that left knee, all Watson did was become the first QB in FBS history with 4,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. Only 2 players in FBS accounted for more than his 47 TDs.
Watson started to develop the “clutch gene,” too. In 2015, he went 53 for 74 with 652 yards and 4 TDs (0 INTs) in the 4th quarter. In his career, he posted just 2 INTs vs. 16 TD passes.
Watson thrived again in 2016. Leaning on stud WR Mike Williams, the junior signal caller finished 3rd nationally in both passing yards and passing scores. But his 17 INTs were a bit of an eyebrow raiser. We’ll review some of his accuracy/decision-making woes in the next section.
Overall, though, Watson flashed big-time ability in college. And he’s credited with the intangibles vital for success at QB: toughness (playing through a torn ACL), leadership (32-3 as a starter) and a desire to win. Watson even drew a Michael Jordan comparison from his old head coach...
Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com
Games watched - Auburn, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, NC State, Alabama (2015), Louisville (2015)
Watson’s movement skills leap out on tape. As draft analyst Lance Zierlein notes, Watson’s taken a sack on just 32 of his last 1,181 drop-backs. It's easy to see why.
He saved some of his best work for Alabama, too. While his production proved lopsided -- especially in the 2nd half of a 2016 meeting with 'Bama -- Watson averaged 472 total yards and scored 8 TDs (1 INT) in 2 meetings.
When nobody's open downfield, Watson often showcased the athleticism to pick up 1st downs. Between scrambles and designed runs, he racked up 1,934 rushing yards for his career.
Watson also impressed with his work under pressure. Pro Football Focus graded him #1 in this QB class both vs. the blitz and under pressure.
Watson didn't make a ton of NFL-level anticipatory throws. That was simply a byproduct of Clemson's offense. Still, Watson flashed that skill set on several occasions. The deep out below is one such example.
Here's another, where Watson really threads the needle...
Flashes of brilliance aside, Watson still showed some awful accuracy at times. Here's a compilation of his worst throws in the games I viewed. (Note that 3 came in 1 game vs. Georgia Tech.)
Watson's the type of guy you really want to succeed. He overcame early-career injuries to enjoy 1 of the best 2-year stretches by a college QB in recent memory. And he's widely considered a high character leader who won't be outworked. But we'll see how he transitions away from Clemson's spread offense. Watson's also slimly built, so he'll need to do a better job protecting his body at the next level. And he'll need to clean up some concerns about consistency of accuracy. Still, with rushing upside helping to boost his floor, Watson carries appeal as a top-2 rookie QB in dynasty.