NFL Draft Scouting Report: Deshaun Watson

Clemson
Quarterback #4
Junior, 6’3″ 218

Strengths:

  • Incredibly mechanically sound and consistent
  • Fluid in his drops, staying in rhythm with the concept
  • Shows the ability to zip the ball into tight windows on level one throws
  • Timing and rhythm passer who can throw guys open and keep them on their routes
  • Developed pocket maneuverability, climbing and sliding with clean footwork while keeping his eyes down field
  • Sound ability to reset his feet in the pocket, maintaining the connection with his eyes
  • Heavy-handed ball comes out smoothly; adds desired touch on vertical shots
  • Impeccable arm talent that will challenge the defense vertically
  • Throws out-breaking routes and back shoulder fades to the requisite spots
  • Scans the field and goes through progression in a hurry
  • Pocket poise allows him to remain accurate in a refined pocket
  • Great athlete who can extend plays with his feet and deliver from an unbalanced base
  • The moment never seems too big for him, stepping up and delivering as the game gets bigger
  • Short memory that comes back from a turnover and is ready to test the defender
  • Praised for his leadership and work in the community
  • Graduated in three years and displays ideal maturity both on and off the field

Weaknesses:

  • Will bird dog targets and lose his field vision, opting for tougher windows over easier throws
  • Inconsistent weight transfer and come-to-balance causes vertical throws to lose velocity on the back-end
  • 2016 rise in interceptions were primarily a cause of his struggles to identify pre-snap disguises and rolls
  • Accuracy tightens down the middle of the field, but ermains inconsistent
  • There were some occurrences of his front leg locking as he’s delivering, causing the ball to come out high
  • Propensity to rush his feet as the pocket shrinks
  • Has escaped clean pockets, breaking the integrity of the play
  • Lean lower-half and will likely be asked to add more weight

Watson and Co. entered the 2016 with heightened expectations and it was evident in their first two games of the season in which they were pressing far too much (Watson included) in close wins against Auburn and Troy. Nevertheless, Watson and the Tigers quickly found their grove and rolled to a 12-1 regular season capped by their second-straight ACC Title. The junior quarterback posted another banner year by completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns against 15 interceptions; he also added another 524 and six on the ground en route to his second straight Heisman Trophy nomination.

Much was made about Watson’s interception total this season, but I doubt it will deter scouts and it shouldn’t: while he has thrown two more than than last season, Watson nearly matched his 2015 completion percentage (67.8) while throwing four fewer passes in two less games. Case in point, the Tiger have relied on Watson to beat teams through the air and should they make it to the National Championship, he will likely surpass 550 attempts. Watson possesses arguably the best mechanics in this year’s class, properly keeping the ball high on the shelf with his elbow more down  than out to create a tight, over-the-top release while executing a six-inch step and the ability to drive his hips through the release point for extra zip and torque. He is also an intelligent player who has made the proper pre-snap reads based on leverage. What truly sets Watson apart is his performances when the lights are shining the brightest, particularly in last year’s National Championship game against Alabama as he has yet to appear rattled in his three seasons. One little nugget that impressed me was a Triple In-Flood read that Watson missed in the Auburn game that he rectified later at the goal line against Louisville, resulting in a touchdown.

While Clemson featured many man and zone beaters and Hi-Lo concepts that required Watson to make the correct pre- and post-snap read, far too often did he stare his read down and elect to make a more difficult throw than what was required; while he flashed the ability to stare safeties down and manipulate them, he will need to do so with more regularity. As for those struggles on his verticals throws, Watson remained consistent when adjusting his shoulder plane for optimal trajectory but failed to put the requisite weight transfer behind such throws to put the ball out in front. He has displayed the ability to drop those throws in the bucket, but Mike Williams often bailed Watson out on those vertical throws with his leaping ability and strength at the catch point. Rushing his feet also caused Watson to misplace easy throws at the underneath level.

Pro comp: Marcus Mariota

Mariota was bigger, stronger and the better athlete, but the two are as smart and efficient as they come with the maturity and leadership skills to step in and start from day one

Draft Value: Mid-First

I know everyone has fallen in love with North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, but Watson will likely be my QB1 until the draft. His physical capabilities present serious upside and will undoubtedly translate well to the next level, but he will be tasked with making more full-field reads that will test his field vision and ability to go through his progressions in a hurry. Watson’s poise, footwork in the pocket and sense of pressure will prove to be an integral part of his success at the next level.

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