With the NFL Draft approaching on Thursday, Clemson fans should prepare to see several former stars fly off the board during all three days of coverage. For Tiger fans, seeing familiar names earlier is better, but an early selection doesn’t always mean a better situation.
Deshaun Watson could be drafted before you put your kids to bed, or he could still be available on Friday. The opinions on him are wide-ranging, and some landing spots are better than others. Here are the three best fits for the former Clemson quarterback:
- Cleveland Browns (1, 12)
We all love to bash the Browns, but they actually aren’t in a bad situation right now on offense. The idea is for the organization to shed salary, which makes current quarterback Brock Osweiler’s massive contract expendable. The skill positions are solid if unspectacular, while Cleveland has put together a good offensive line.
Cleveland is set up well to have a successful early draft haul, too—if it stewards its picks correctly. The Browns currently possess five of the first 65 picks, meaning Watson could be part of a nice young core of talent for the next couple of seasons. They also might trade some of those picks to move up in the draft and take advantage of depth at other positions down the board.
- Arizona Cardinals (13)
The Cardinals’ franchise ran into some hard times last season. Age caught up with Arizona, and regression struck at some key spots. As the team strives to get younger, it faces a dilemma with its current quarterback—veteran Carson Palmer. The 37-year-old Palmer has two years remaining on his current contract, but he can be bought out (for a substantial sum) after the 2017 season.
The Cardinals are already thinking about what the future might look like, and Watson just may fit into their plans. Bruce Arians is an exceptionally bright offensive mind that has a history of quarterback development and has built a winning culture in Arizona. Watson could do worse than sitting under his tutelage for a year while Palmer plays out what could be his final professional season.
- Houston Texans (25)
The Texans are the franchise seeking a quarterback that is in the best position to win immediately in 2017 after winning nine games and earning a playoff berth last season. The defense is stacked with front-line talent. Former Tiger DeAndre Hopkins is a star at wide receiver that hasn’t yet been blessed with a passer capable of properly utilizing his talents.
Tom Savage is the incumbent starter, but he’s merely a placeholder. The Texans will be addressing the quarterback position in this draft, whether with Watson or with someone else. Bill O’Brien has a solid pedigree with quarterbacks, and this could be his first chance to work with one that has the capability to be molded into a franchise cornerstone.
New York Jets—The Jets aren’t far removed from a playoff run and need a rebirth on offense. Watson could shake some life into that side of the ball.
New York Giants—Apparently Eli Manning is old now. The Giants seem likely to take a quarterback, but it’ll probably be in the second round or later.
New Orleans Saints/Pittsburgh Steelers—Both franchises have aging quarterbacks and might jump at the chance to stash Watson until retirement leaves a void. If he slips past the Texans, either of these could be sleeper destinations at the back of the first round.