Chiefs should not draft Deshaun Watson
By Britt Zank
The Kansas City Chiefs have not drafted a quarterback in the first or second round of the NFL Draft since 1992. Heading into the 2017 draft, there seems to be a consensus among fans that it’s time for that streak to come to an end.
The current fan favorite to end that streak is Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. It’s not a surprise that he’s the hot name coming off his performance in the National Championship game victory over Alabama. It was the second of back-to-back National Championship game appearances for Watson and the Clemson Tigers. During his three year career at Clemson, he also led them to two ACC conference titles and 31-2 record as a starter.
With team success came individual success for Watson. He was a two time Heisman Trophy finalist and two time Manning Award winner as the nation’s best quarterback. Mix into that a handful of game MVP trophies and he already has a full trophy case at home. Watson is a winner; there is no doubt about that. Unfortunately there is more to playing quarterback than being a winner, ask Tim Tebow.
Watson played in an offense like the one the Chiefs use. The vast majority of his throws are one-read, quick throws. I watched over 125 pass plays of Watson and 85 percent of them were single-read throws. The other 15% of the time was usually spent with happy feet abandoning the pocket. I only counted seven plays where he stood in the pocket and went through a progression. It’s this inability he has to stay in the pocket to progress when the one read isn’t there that worries me.
Even if spread quick offenses I like to see a quarterback stand in the pocket and give the receivers time to get open. The guys who can do that don’t miss Tyreek Hill streaking wide open. It also keeps you from throwing blind passes into double coverage in the end zone because that was the play call. Like Smith, Watson did that many times this season.
His ability to make reads and go through a progression is a major issue with Watson, but not his only one. His accuracy is also a red flag many scouts have highlighted. There were only a handful of times I saw him throw a receiver open. Even on his completions he didn’t seem to be consistent with hitting the receiver in stride allowing for yards after the catch.
The receiver had to often make adjustments to catch the ball that broke stride or led him to a defender. Watson was bailed out a lot of times by the number one receiver prospect in the draft, Mike Williams. At times Watson treated him like Randy Moss where he’d throw it up into double or even triple coverage. If you have someone like that, it’s not a bad play. Problem is the Chiefs have never had anyone like that, so how does Watson react when he doesn’t have that safety net?
The third strike on Watson comes with his arm strength. Again Watson reminds me a lot of Alex Smith. He can throw the ball 60 yards if he needs to, but he can’t throw it on a rope. This means when he throws deep he can’t rifle it in with pin point accuracy, he has to rainbow a throw and hope he hits the right yardage. This results in lots of over throws on fly patterns.
Watson’s lack of arm strength hurts him more on the short tough throws. He seems afraid to throw a fastball because he knows he has to throw it so hard that he loses accuracy. This leads him to throw off speed balls into tight coverage which either gives defenders time to break on the ball for easy interceptions or be able to react in time to make instant tackles.
I went through and watched all 17 of Watson’s interceptions this past season. Two were drops by receivers that had nothing to do with Watson. Another three were great defensive plays that you tip your cap to. That left 12 interceptions by Watson that were all on him, and most were ugly. He stared down guys that led to corners jumping routes before Watson even let go of the ball.
Other interceptions where ugly throws to open wide receivers. The worst two though, two end zone picks where he didn’t even look at the defense. Both plays he got the snap, took one step, and threw into waiting defensive hands. Alex Smith did that twice this season too, and the Chiefs lost both games. You can get away with those mistakes in college; they are game killers in the NFL.
Like Tebow, nobody can question Watson’s heart and leadership. He played his best football in the biggest games, especially the biggest moments. If you want proof of this, watch the final drive against Alabama a month ago. He’s also one of the toughest quarterbacks I’ve seen in a while. He took some major shots in his senior season but never missed a play. For a 210-pound quarterback that’s a good sign that he can be durable.
After all my film watching I’ve come to the conclusion that the best current comparison for Watson is Alex Smith. From what I’ve seen I’d call him a system quarterback. Put him in a one read and throw quick system he can be a solid game manager. If you try to put him in a progression, find the open man type of offense then I think he fails. Give him a year or two to sit and watch, maybe he can learn. He is intelligent and young, so time in an NFL classroom could change him.
When I’m looking at a franchise quarterback, I don’t like the knocks on him to be weak arm, inaccurate, and a one read guy. I would look elsewhere for the Chiefs quarterback of the future.