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Is Deshaun Watson Currently Playing At A Top Five Level?

The numbers say he is. My heart says he isn’t.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

This season, the Houston Texans are averaging 22.2 points a game, which is the 26th lowest average in the league. It took Houston’s offense three weeks to figure out how to pick up an E-T stunt. They still struggle at picking up the blitz. Every David Johnson carry was a waste of time and space. Nearly every Duke Johnson carry suffers the same fate. The offensive line is mired by the same inconsistency and mental issues that has plagued them since 2016. DeAndre Hopkins has turned into Brandin Cooks, who can’t generate enough space to win downfield and now runs the same route tree as Randall Cobb, who can only play in the slot. Will Fuller V has managed to stay healthy without Hopkins this year; he’s been a perfectly acceptable WR1, but he isn’t the type of player who can carry an entire passing offense on his own. Houston’s offense struggles to create easy yards. The super vertical, super cool, kill em’ all offense has never materialized.

All these statements are depressing, and they are all true. Yet at the heart of this offense, Deshaun Watson still beats. Watson is playing tremendous football.

Although the points scored total is low, the Texans are 15th in offensive DVOA at 0.9%. This is is an improvement from last season, when Houston finished 17th at 0.6%. Watson alone is the reason for this. Houston is 32nd in run offense DVOA; despite this, from a per play efficiency perspective, the Texans’ offense is slightly better because of Watson’s performance. The problem of course is the Texans love to run the football. Because you have to fill the run meter all the way up before you can push the ball downfield, I guess.

Football Outsiders’ efficiency and value numbers have Watson 5th in DVOA at 19.7% and 6th in DYAR at 661. Houston’s entire passing offense DVOA is 25.3%, which is 11th. Watson is the only player this year to not have a Pro Football Focus passing grade below 60, whatever the hell that means.

I get DVOA and DYAR. I understand what they mean and how they work. Pro Football Focus is unamerican; as an ethnocentrist, I hate them. Eerything they seep out into the internet makes zero sense to me, but grades are grades.

My problem is that despite what the numbers say, that Watson has been a top five quarterback in the NFL this year, I’m just not completely sold on it.

I still feel a lot of this offense has been empty, with production coming from playing behind. Watson has had problems on third down. He’s missed crossing routes by throwing behind his receivers. The deep passing game has never gelled. There’s constant tumbling around the backfield because of the blitz, and again, the team has struggled to score points or do enough to make up for its atrocious defense.

This isn’t entirely Watson’s fault. It’s mainly because of the other things that form the offense: the talent, design, play calling, the structure of the offense itself. From a talent and ability perspective, Watson is a top five NFL quarterback. I just don’t think the numbers showing Watson has performed like a top five quarterback match what my eyes and heart are telling me.

I’ve asked this question to friends, family, podcast guests, and whoever else will talk to me. So I ask you loyal reader, has Watson played at a top five level like the numbers say he has?


Is Deshaun Watson playing at a top five level?

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