ESPN analyst Jon Gruden says he would take Deshaun Watson as the first quarterback in next week’s NFL Draft, and there is a very good reason as to why.
“He has the intangibles everyone craves,” Gruden said during a teleconference call with the media on Wednesday.
Those intangibles are Watson’s winning attitude, his work ethic, his ability to lead and more importantly his thick skin. Gruden was impressed with the way Watson carried himself and how he always bounced back even in games when he did not play his best.
“He has thick skin and he is mentally tough,” Gruden said. “I saw him overcome three interceptions and come back and beat Louisville. I saw him come back on the road and beat Florida State in the two-minute drill.
“I just like his poise. I like his mental toughness.”
It’s those things that have the former NFL and Super Bowl winning coach so high on Watson and not really understanding why there is so much noise about Watson not being a worthy first-round pick. Gruden’s ESPN colleague, Mel Kiper, Jr., said there are too many red flags when it comes to Watson.
However, the former Clemson quarterback is considered to be one of the first four quarterbacks both Gruden and Kiper think will be chosen in the first round of the draft on April 27. The others are North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer.
And though Kiper does not like the fact Watson started off last season so slow and then came back to finish strong, Gruden was impressed with that fact and likes Watson’s ability to always believe he can rally even when no one else does.
“He plays his best football when they are behind and all the chips are on the table,” Gruden said. “He did it in the national championship game.”
Watson rallied the Tigers from two scores down on three different occasions to beat an Alabama team in the national championship game that had never lost under Nick Saban when entering the fourth quarter with a two-score lead.
Watson also threw for a national championship record 420 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers against an Alabama defense that is expected to have seven players taken in next week’s draft. He also went on an impressive two-minute drive at the end of the game which he capped off with the winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second to play.
“What impressed me the most is the fact he was in back-to-back national championship games,” Gruden said. “He beat the best teams in college football. I love the poise that he plays with.
“I like his overall game. He is athletic. He is a dual threat.”
And most importantly, Gruden likes the fact that Watson is an experienced winner that has all the intangibles that coaches crave.