Tom Gower of Football Outsiders is back once again to answer yet another big question on the minds of Texans fans everywhere - how rare was Deshaun Watson’s rookie season, and can he do it again? Let’s ask him and find out.
Can Deshaun Watson continue his incredible rate of production going into Year Two? What do you expect from his sophomore season, assuming that both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller remain healthy?
In the book, our projected DVOA for him is 3.6%, a figure that would have put him right around 15th-place Russell Wilson among last year’s 35 passers that met our attempts threshold. That’s a pretty average mark, but I think if Watson is an average performer in his second season, that shouldn’t be seen as a “sophomore slump” or “disappointment” or “failure” or whatever.
Watson had a weird statistical profile last year, and it was probably even weirder than you think. He threw interceptions and was sacked at very high rates and was still really productive by metrics that include both sacks and interceptions like DVOA or Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt. That’s historically rare, not just for rookies but for all quarterbacks. As noted, I’m skeptical the sacks figure will change that much. He should throw fewer interceptions in year two, like other first-round picks have done. He probably won’t lead the league in DVOA on short passes (screens, but not just screens). He probably won’t be quite as efficient on deep passes. He wasn’t great on intermediate throws last year, or at least more successful by DVOA than other Texans quarterbacks. Having to spend time this offseason rehabbing the ACL instead of improving his craft should temper your expectations for how much better he’ll be.
That said, I think he’ll still be a good deep passer, and he was a very aggressive deep passer. Hopkins and Fuller are both good fits for him, and good complements to each other. Average offense + defensive improvement = Houston is a playoff contender (and slight favorites in what we project as an extremely competitive AFC South).
While I personally disagree that Watson will be seen as an average quarterback this season (in fact, I think he will be anything but average), I do agree with Gower that the AFC South should be one of the most competitive divisions in football. There is not a single “bad” team in this division, and Houston will need Watson to continue his projected rise to greatness if they want to win the South come December.
Check out more of Tom’s work over on Football Outsiders, and check out the FO Almanac if you want detailed metrics and analysis for every single team going into the 2018 season.