Before he even threw his first career pass in college, I could tell Deshaun Watson was an All-American.
It was his demeanor. He just looked the part. And then when I saw him throw his first pass, there was no doubt in my mind he was.
I was sitting in the press box in Athens, Georgia on August 30, 2014 when Watson came out for warm ups. Of course, I had seen him in practice several times before that, but it was at that moment I turned to my colleague, and longtime friend, Hale McGranahan and said, “He looks like an All-American.”
Of course, Hale agreed.
Little did I know at that time, Watson was going to throw two passes in the second quarter that would cement my comment. On his first ever career pass he threw a 29-yard pass to Mike Williams going down the near sideline. It was a thing of beauty as it dropped perfectly out of the sky and into Williams’ arms.
His next pass was a laser to Charone Peake, a pass he threw over the linebacker and away from the safety down the middle of the field where only Peake could catch it for a 30-yard touchdown. That was two passes, one with touch and one he had to throw to a spot in a small window that was closing fast.
Both passes display Watson’s accuracy for throwing the football downfield on passes of 10 or more yards.
However, ESPN’s Todd McShay doesn’t see it that way. McShay said on Wednesday while appearing on the Russillo and Kanell Show on ESPN radio that he doesn’t have a first-round NFL Draft grade on Watson.
“He’s an awesome college player. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He is really accurate with shorter throws, leading receivers to yards after catch. He’s clutch, big-time in big games and I love his competitiveness. And the ‘it’ factor and intelligence and everything that you look for at that position, he’s got it,” McShay said.
“I just worry because guys that aren’t consistent with their accuracy beyond ten yards down the field, there’s not a great track record of having success in the NFL because you’ve got to be able to make those throws,” McShay said.
Not accurate 10 yards down the field? What tape has he been watching?
I understand McShay played quarterback and he watches a lot of players each and every week compared to just the one quarterback I watch, but I don’t see the inaccuracy.
“Now, in his defense,” McShay said, “they throw fewer balls down the field, especially in the intermediate zone.”
Okay, that’s fair. So let’s look at those intermediate throws that he says Watson is inaccurate with.
This year, Watson is 47-of-75 for 902 yards with seven touchdowns on passes of 11 to 20 yards down the field. Now he has thrown five interceptions, but one of those is charged to Williams. However, his completion percentage is 62.7 percent.
Now that is not great, but it’s not inconsistent either.
Also, Watson has completed 10-of-20 passes on third down and 10 or longer, the hardest down and distance to complete a pass in football. He has completed 50 percent of those passes for 210 yards and two scores and no interceptions.
Compare that to Lamar Jackson, everyone’s favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, he is just 11-of-26 on third down and long (42.3) for 181 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky is 12-of-26 (46.2) on third and long for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
If anything, Watson has improved on his accuracy this year. He was just 9-of-22 last season on third and long.
“I just don’t see it. And you know what, you can think I’m the biggest idiot in the world, and that’s fine — I’ve talked to three different scouts in the last two weeks who have grades on him that equate to third round or a little bit later,” McShay said.
Well, they don’t get it either. They need to go back and turn on the film and watch the Louisville game. Go to the game-winning drive and look at that pressure-throw on third and long that Watson makes to Deon Cain when he had a small window to throw the ball in and the game was on the line.
They need to go watch the NC State game when Watson first put the ball where only Jordan Leggett could get it at the one-yard line in overtime, and then two plays later came back and threw a perfect pass to Artavis Scott with a defender hanging over his back for the game-winning touchdown. That throw had to be on the money.
Also, they need to go back and watch the Syracuse game from last week when he threw a dart to a spot where Williams turned into what was occupied by five Orange players. In that same game, watch the 65-yard touchdown pass and how he accurately throws the ball to the spot and allowed his receiver, Deon Cain, to run under it.
And then if none of that convinces you or them, go turn on the tape against Alabama in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game. In particular, go watch the three touchdown passes, two to Hunter Renfrow and one to Jordan Leggett, and look at the coverage. Look at the small windows he had to throw the ball into. Look how accurate he was.
Granted, Watson is not perfect. He has to improve on some things. He has to get a little better with his footwork and things like that. I think he will tell you that, and he probably did a few weeks ago when you came to his house and watched him play and complete 70 percent of his 52 passes against NC State.
McShay, you need to go and watch the film for yourself and stop relying on the scouts so much. Have you ever thought to yourself that they have a reason for feeding you this information? Maybe they want you to hurt his draft position so he can fall into their laps. It would not be the first time that has happened.