The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist took the Clemson program to another level, resulting in the school's first national championship in more than 30 years. Starting five games as a true freshman and winning four (14 touchdowns against just two interceptions), the 2013 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year immediately showed he belonged, even though he had to have surgery on a torn ACL after the season. In his sophomore season, Watson led his team to the National Championship (4,104 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns; 1,105 rushing yards, including 12 scores) and won the Davey O'Brien and Payton Manning Awards as the nation's top quarterback. Watson didn't take home as much hardware in 2016, but he still led Clemson to a national title while garnering second-team All-American honors (4,593 yards, 41 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.0 completion pct; 629 yards, nine TDs rushing).
Tremendous leader and winner. Good pocket posture with quiet upper body. Good pocket mobility and doesn't show much panic when pocket gets noisy. Sacked just 32 times over his last 1,181 drop-backs. Willing to stand in and deliver the ball against rib-wreckers on a clear path for him. Has history of clutch play in big games and big moments. Averaged 472 yards of total offense with eight total touchdowns and one interception in his two championship appearances against Alabama. Throws with anticipation and touch. Fires hips through throws for improved drive velocity into tight windows. Arm strength currently limited by mechanical issues that are correctable. Big, strong hands to pump fake and manipulate. Keeps ball tucked near his chest when scanning. Has compact, over-the-top release that uncorks a tight, pretty spiral. Throws with adequate accuracy on the move. Has traits to operate out of boot-action attack. Tremendous athlete who has ability to pick up chunks of yardage on ground. Has called running plays could ignite a stagnant offense. Has instant juice out of pocket to make defense pay if rush lanes are vacated. Does a good job of sliding or eluding square collisions in space as a runner. Dual-threat weapon near end zone who will create additional preparation time for coaching staffs looking to limit his effectiveness in the red area. Every meaningful passing stat improved in close-and-late situations in 2016.
Frame is a little more slender than teams typically like. Accuracy runs hot and cold. Tends to over-stride on drive throws, causing release point to drop and balls to sail. Ball placement on crossing routes and slants needs to improve. Will leave throws behind intended targets. Deep-ball accuracy has been scatter-shot over his last two seasons at Clemson, with throws sailing well beyond his target. Design of offense limited his need to make full-field reads. Has to become adept at working through progressions and playing chess against safeties. Needs to let routes develop rather than rushing anticipatory throws. Too many interceptions due to lack of vision, placement or decision-making. Threw interception vs. Troy against bracketed coverage he didn't see. Baited into bad-decision interceptions twice by Florida State cornerbacks. Has issues improvising away from initial, pre-snap plan even when pathway to target becomes muddy. Shotgun quarterback who, like Jared Goff, could take time getting used to huddling, pace of play-calling and drop-backs from under center.
Teams will have to weigh the inconsistent field vision and decision-making against his size, athleticism, leadership and production. While not perfect, teams can add checks to both arm and accuracy boxes for Watson. However, discussions about whether or not his areas of improvement can be corrected will likely determine whether a team will view him as a high-upside prospect or a franchise quarterback. Watson's transition from Clemson's offense to a pro-style attack will obviously take time, but his combination of intangibles and athletic ability make him worth a first-round selection.