The quarterback shaming of Deshaun Watson is real.
Despite a decorated career and a national championship, NFL scouts are skeptical that Watson, who played at Gainesville High and Clemson, has what it takes to be a successful pro quarterback.
“All the coaches that I’ve heard from want to know if I can change the protections, run the offense and recognize defensive coverages,” Watson said Friday at the scouting combine. “Every team that I went to asked me those questions.
“I answered their questions, and they were very impressed. They know I’m not just another quarterback running the spread offense. I’m a guy who can operate and make good decisions and recognized what the defense is trying to do.”
Recent spread quarterbacks such as Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III made those same pronouncements, but have struggled in the NFL.
Watson’s interceptions also are alarming to NFL scouts. He sometimes threw passes into coverage and didn’t recognized when a defender was baiting him into a throw.
“I understand that was going to come up,” Watson said. “It happened. It’s something where they are obviously going to poke holes. If I was in their shoes, I’d poke holes, too.
“But I take full responsibility in all of that. Sometimes I make a bad throw and on one, two or three, it was a bad decision. Those are lessons that I learned and mistakes that I’ve corrected. I plan to move forward.”
Watson has been through his medical exams with the 32 teams and has starting interviewing with teams. He measured just under 6-foot-3 and weighed 221 pounds. More important, he passed the hands test when his hands were measured at 9 3/4 inches.
“The first thing I look at in recruiting (a quarterback) is what size hands does he have?,” Gil Brandt said, the former NFL executive turned broadcaster. “I don’t want to have a quarterback that has eight- or seven-inch hands. I want a quarterback that had 9 and 3/4-inch or 10-inch hands.”
Watson and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky are considered the top quarterbacks at the combine. Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman and California’s Davis Webb are considered solid prospects.
“I tell you, Watson, from my perspective, I’m fascinated with the kid,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I’m not bullish on the quarterbacks this year because I don’t think any of them are ready Day 1. I think they all have different issues. But when you look at Deshaun Watson, I see a kid that went 28-2 in his last two years as a starter.”
Watson also played his best at Clemson in the big games.
“His two games of ‘15 and ‘16 against Alabama, put the tape on and watch the kid play,” Mayock said. “He’s a competitor. When the game’s on the line, he gets better. He does not shrink.”
Watson finished his storied career with a 32-3 record as a starter. He finished third in ACC history in total offense (12,094), behind only N.C. State’s Philip Rivers and former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. He passed for 10,163 yards and 90 career touchdowns and finished first in Clemson history in career completion percentage (.674), passing efficiency (157.5) and total offense per game (318.3).
Watson believes he’ll be just fine making the transition to the NFL.
“It depends on what the team wants,” Watson said. “That’s not really the goal, to be the No. 1 pick. I just want to be drafted. Hear my name called, pack up and go play.”
He’s heard the shaming of the rest of this quarterback class, too.
“If you ask the other quarterbacks in this draft class, it just going to make the documentary and stories in five to years even better when they start talking good about it,” Watson said. “It’s a motivation. It’s humbling. They can say what they want to say. That’s just opinion. It’s not fact. We haven’t step foot on a NFL field yet so they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
MEASUREMENTS OF THE QUARTERBACKS
Player | School | Height | Weight | Hand
C.J. Beathard, Iowa, 6-3, 219, 9 3/8
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee, 6-3, 216, 9 1/4
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech, 6-3, 232, 9 3/8
Brad Kaaya, Miami, 6-4, 214, 9 3/4
Deshone Kizer, Notre Dame, 6-4, 233, 9 7/8
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M, 6-1, 219, 9 7/8
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota, 6-3, 226, 10
Sefo Liufau, Colorado, 6-3, 232, 10 3/4
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech, 6-2, 225, 9 1/4
Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh, 6-3, 226, 9 7/8
Cooper Rush, Central Michigan, 6-3, 228, 9 1/8
Seth Russell, Baylor, 6-3, 213, 9 5/8
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina, 6-2, 222, 9 1/2
Greg Ward, Houston, 5-11, 186, 9 7/8
Deshaun Watson, Clemson, 6-3, 221, 9 3/4
Davis Webb, California, 6-5, 229, 9 1/4