As he does every year, ESPN’s Mike Sando chatted with dozens of NFL executives and coaches to see how the 32 quarterbacks projected to start for their respective NFL teams stack up. Sando puts the QBs into four tiers that are defined as follows:
- Tier One: Can carry his team each week. His team wins because of him, and he expertly handles pure passing situations.
- Tier Two: Can carry his team sometimes, but not as consistently. He can handle pure passing situations in doses and/or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him aboveTier Three, but he does have a hole or two in his game.
- Tier Three: A legitimate NFL starter, but needs a heavier running game and/or defense to win. A lower volume passing offense makes a Tier Three QB’s job easier.
- Tier Four: Could be an unproven player with some upside or a veteran who is best suited to be a backup.
As (presumably) a fan of the Houston Texans, you’re likely curious about where Deshaun Watson ended up. Sando has him at No. 14 overall, which happens to be the very last slot in Tier Two. Here’s what Sando wrote, complete with what the anonymous executives and coaches had to say about DW4:
The voting results easily could be interpreted in a manner that would have pushed Garoppolo and Watson into the third tier. They had lower averages than Cousins and Smith, after all. Either way, the excitement over these potentially dynamic young players is real. With Watson, the torn ACL he suffered last season complicates an already tricky evaluation.
”To me, he is like the guy from Philly [Wentz],” an evaluator said. “Let’s just see if he can get through the year healthy. He played like a 1 when he played. These teams are doing a great job doing what guys can do, playing to their strengths. The league has gotten better at that. Whether guys can stay healthy playing that way, that would be my question.”
Watson suffered his injury during practice, without contact, so it’s tough to blame his playing style.
”I give him an optimistic 3,” an offensive coordinator said. “There were a lot of good things, but also a lot of bad things that got glossed over. It was a little bit of his legend. Even the games where they scored a lot of points, he made some horrendous throws that he got away with. Do I think he is talented? Yes. Do I like him? Yes. I just think he is a 3 that could become a 2.”
Watson, paired with a Houston defense that ranked 30th for the season in ESPN’s efficiency metric, went 3-3 in his six starts. He had 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions, a 103.0 passer rating and 81.3 Total QBR overall.
”He is a player, man,” a quarterbacks coach said. “S---, talk about what a team was, night and day with and without him, not just once but twice, before he played and then after he played. And then if you go back to his true freshman year at Clemson, he tore his ACL halfway through that season and that was a totally different team before and after him. Big-time guy.”
For the sake of comparison, Sando’s ranking has Watson behind Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Derek Carr, and Jimmy Garoppolo.
With that, I turn the floor over to you. Do you believe this is a fair analysis of where Watson rates against his peers as he enters his second season in the NFL? Or is he ranked too high? Too low? Discuss as you see fit below.