Clemson head coach, Dabo Sweeny, on Deshaun Watson: “If they pass on Deshaun Watson, they are passing on Michael Jordan.” This quote was taken from an interview before the 2017 NFL draft where Sweeny was advocating for quarterback Deshaun Watson to be taken as the No.1 overall selection. The Houston Texans moved up in the draft to take Watson with the No.12 overall pick. In response to falling to the 12th selection, Watson told ESPN “it’s like a slap in the face, to be honest.” This was the exact motivation Watson needed to set the league on fire.
The NFL found out quickly the Michael Jordan comparisons were not so farfetched. In his rookie year, Watson posted 1,699 passing yards, 269 rushing yards, and 21 total touchdowns in only seven games. His season was cut short due to suffering an ACL injury. Watson had a 61.8% completion percentage, 8 interceptions, and a 9.3% touchdown rate. Per Fantasy Pros, from Week 1-Week 6 in 2017, he was the QB1. In 2018, Watson finished as the QB4 and in 2019, he finished as the QB5.
Credit: Pro-Football- Reference
Watson is no stranger to overcoming overwhelming obstacles. Once again, Texans general manager and head coach, Bill O’Brien, engaged in an inexplicable trade, leaving NFL fans scratching their heads. During the off season, the Texans traded Watson’s number-one target, wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals. In return, the Texans received running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round draft pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. The trade is significant because Hopkins was the unquestioned target leader in the offense. In his first full season with Watson in 2018, Hopkins had 115 receptions (on 163 targets) totaling 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2019, Hopkins had a down year, but still was able to total 104 receptions (on 150 targets) for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. Hopkins had about 45% of all the Texans’ wide receiver targets and about 30% of the team’s targets.
The Hopkin’s trade was not the only major change. The Texans traded their 2020 second-round pick to the Rams in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a 2022 fourth-round pick. The Texans also signed former Packers and Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb, to a three-year, $27 million deal. With Hopkin’s departure, a massive void is left in the offense and his target share will be dispersed amongst the other receiving options.
Cooks, and wide receiver Will Fuller are going to battle for the number-one receiver job. Prior to last season, Cooks averaged over 1,000 yards from 2015-2018 with the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Los Angeles Rams. In two seasons with the Rams, Cooks totaled 122 catches (on 189 targets) for 1,787 yards and seven touchdowns per Rotowire. From 2017-2019, Fuller posted 109 receptions (on 166 targets) for 1,596 yards and 14 touchdowns. Fuller averaged 91.5 air yards per game and received 13.8% of the team’s targets in 2019. Fuller may have the slight edge given his established relationship with Watson.
Cobb will occupy the slot receiver role. Last year with the Cowboys, Cobb posted 55 receptions for 828 yards and three touchdowns. David Johnson will be the starting running back and will be utilized in the passing game coming out of the backfield. Johnson’s best season was in 2016 where he rushed for 1,239 yards with 16 touchdowns and added 879 receiving yards with four receiving touchdowns. All the receiving options are question marks as most are known for their recent injury history. This will truly be “the battle of the healthiest.”
This season, Watson is going to have to put the team on his back more than ever before. Watson will continue to utilize his scrambling and rushing ability to make plays for his receivers. This is inevitable since he does not have his big-bodied safety blanket to help him escape trouble. With the Texans’ 20th ranked offensive line according to Pro-Football Focus, it would not be surprising if he sets a career high in rushing yards this season.
These obstacles do not make Watson any less of a playmaker. He has proven time and time again he is up for the challenge and will exceed expectations. Go buy low on Watson while you can before he reminds fans of his greatness.
Bold prediction: Watson finishes as QB 3 in 2020.
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