By: Justin Holden
As the 2017 NFL Draft approaches, I want to be on record with my “biggest bust” for this year. With no doubt in my mind, the most obvious bust candidate of the 2017 NFL Draft class is Deshaun Watson, quarterback from Clemson. I’m going to explain why soon enough. But first, let’s set the stage with a backstory.
Deshaun Watson finished the 2016 NCAA football season with a 67% completion percentage, 4,593 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 629 yards and 9 touchdowns. Watson passed the eye test for many analysts that reviewed his film, most of whom touted his ability to produce well against top defenses like Alabama. In fact, Watson posted a college QBR that ranks 90th percentile when compared historically to all other college quarterbacks. I have seen mock drafts having Deshaun Watson go anywhere from #12 overall to #30 overall in the first round of the draft. Watson seems to be the consensus second best quarterback of this year’s draft class, behind North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.
Walterfootball.com is the website that has Deshaun Watson going #30 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their mock draft. The reasoning behind this is that the Steelers would be able to groom a young quarterback behind an aging Ben Roethlisberger, reminiscent of what the Green Bay Packers did with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. However, Walterfootball.com<http://Walterfootball.com> also notes that no team they have spoken with placed a first round grade on DeShaun Watson, making it conceivable that he actually ends up being a second or third round selection on draft day given the apparent disconnect between analysts, the media, and NFL franchises.
Now, since the draft has not even happened yet as of the writing of this article, I do not ultimately know where Deshaun Watson gets drafted. I have no crystal ball at my disposal. But, I will confidently tell you that Deshaun Watson is automatically the biggest bust of the 2017 draft if selected anywhere from early first round to mid second round. If he gets drafted later than that, he is still a bust, but perhaps not the biggest. Because as we all know, the earlier a bad player is drafted, the bigger a mistake it is.
So having said all this, I am now ready to tell you why Deshaun Watson is the player I am projecting to be biggest bust of the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite his solid college production and mobile ability, Watson simply lacks the requisite arm strength to play at the NFL level. The speed of the game at the NFL level is significantly quicker than the college level. This fact holds true even when we limit the comparison to top college conferences only, such as the SEC. So when you throw the ball downfield, NFL linebackers and defensive backs react much quicker to make plays on the ball.
While you do not need to be a strong armed quarterback to have success in the NFL (Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Tyrod Tayor, etc.), you still need to put enough velocity on your throws to complete passes downfield before the defense can react. All the weak armed quarterbacks I just mentioned in parentheses throw the ball at a velocity of 50mph or higher. Deshaun Watson throws the ball at a velocity of 45mph, as obtained from his pro day workout metrics. This is a putrid 1st percentile when compared to all other NFL quarterback prospects on record.
Some of you may call me silly for pointing to one single metric as an indication that Watson is a bust, but I assure you the throw velocity metric in this case represents a major red flag. It is one thing to be a quarterback with a relatively weak arm. It is another to have one of the weakest arms ever on record. By having a throw velocity that is 1st percentile, that means at least 99% of NFL quarterbacks throw the ball faster than Watson does. Now, as someone that doesn’t hold the “eye test” in the highest regard to evaluate prospects, I can tell you that when watching film on Watson, it is clear he appears to throw the ball slow even on bullet passes. Seeing Watson throw the ball on film clearly matches up with the throw velocity metric he posted on his pro day. While throwing the ball 45mph is good enough to make plays against NCAA defenders, it simply is not good enough to make plays against NFL defenders unless it is a quick pass route, such as a slant or flat.
All this to say, what often separates high-end starting caliber quarterbacks from replacement level quarterbacks at the NFL level is the ability to throw the ball deep downfield with accuracy. Deshaun Watson lacks the arm strength to throw deep passes. Heck, I’d even go as far to say he lacks the arm strength to throw intermediate passes! Some of you will mock me for this article and my analysis, but I will have the last laugh. Because Deshaun Watson won’t be able to consistently complete comeback routes, streak routes, post routes, corner routes, or any other intermediate to long routes at the NFL level. He will be picked off constantly if he tries to go deep. Mark my words. So, in conclusion, Watson is- in my mind- a mobile gadget player, not worthy of being drafted. Yet, he is likely to be drafted early and viewed as a franchise quarterback. Go ahead, try to explain his upcoming poor rookie season by blaming the team that drafted him, or the coaches, or the excuse that all rookies struggle. I’ll just be sitting here, ready to throw this article back in your face when Watson is out of the league before reaching age 30. Never being able to clear himself of the big word “BUST” permanently labeled next to his name.