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Clemson's Watson shows why he's a fast-rising QB prospect

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Joe Skipper / Associated Press
Deshaun Watson's dual-threat talents were too much for Oklahoma to contain.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Clemson's sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson became just the third player in FBS history to throw for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He showed off his dual-threat capabilities in a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, finishing the first half with more rushing attempts and rushing yards than completions and passing yards.

College Football 24/7's panel of scouts are checking out top prospects during the 2015 bowl season.

Needs work
Watson was an accurate short passer during the season, but was spraying the ball all over the field against the Sooners for the better part of the first half. I'm sure rust had something to do with that since he looked much sharper in the second half.

What Watson needs to work on next season, and what hounded him at times in the Orange Bowl, was his intermediate accuracy and decision making. Watson had issues with ball placement and interceptions on his intermediate throws during the season and we saw those issues at times again tonight.

Checking the boxes
While Watson might be able to add a little more beef on his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, he's pretty cut-up and might not have room for too much more. Regardless, he's big enough. As far as his release and arm strength go, he is where he needs to be with plenty of arm and and ability to get the ball out quickly.

Anytime you have a quarterback who can elude a rush and extend plays, you have the potential for a quarterback who can hit chunk plays with his feet or arm outside the pocket. That is definitely an advantage that Watson has over the top quarterbacks in this year's draft.

Same Watson next year?
There is no question that Clemson is a better team when Watson is utilized as a running threat, which we saw happen substantially more over the second half of the season. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's job is to win games, and his job was much easier when Watson was carving up the Sooners on the ground when his passes were misfiring.

However, one has to wonder if Swinney will consider Watson's considerable pro potential when deciding how much to run him once he's draft-eligible next season. With pro size, a pro arm, leadership skills and an ability to make plays outside of the pocket, it isn't hard to imagine that Watson will have serious consideration as a top pick when he decides to come out.

Check out the best images from the 2015-16 college football bowl season.

NFL prospect watch


Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson: I walked on the field before the game to get a good look at Kearse because you just don't see 6-foot-5 safeties very often. He was painfully thin with spindly legs, but might be the longest defensive back I've ever seen. Right now, Kearse is more of a novelty than a good safety. He's not much of a playmaker and his effort level is marginal at best. I don't see a prospect who is ready for the NFL draft at this point; Kearse has indicated that he is leaning toward applying for early entry into the 2016 NFL Draft. What I do see is a player with rare traits that could take his game to the next level if a fire was lit under him.

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson: There might not be a better cover corner in college football today than the redshirt sophomore. He's well-built, but on the borderline for height (5-11) that teams usually want from outside cornerbacks and he still has some work to do in terms of tightening up his footwork. Did I mention that Alexander allowed just under 30 percent of the passes his way to be completed? That is serious business. Alexander rekindled his rivalry with Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard with some pushing, shoving and plenty of yapping, and he got the best of Shepard when they matched up. Alexander is a highly confident cornerback who has all the urgency that his teammate, Kearse, seems to be lacking.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: Once he started working from the slot and away from Mackensie Alexander, he started to make some noise. Shepard is one of the most natural pass catchers you will find and is very smooth in his movements. His ability to release cleanly from the line of scrimmage and sink his hips in and out of his breaks should allow him to free himself as a successful slot receiver in the pros.

Eric Striker, OLB, Oklahoma: I don't really see Striker as a linebacker in the pros and I'm not sure he would be fast enough to cover as a safety. Instead, he will likely have to be play for a team that has a plan for him as a hybrid talent who can play in sub-packages around the line and in space. Striker didn't show up much tonight, but there is a place for him in the pros. The thing is ... he might not be as highly drafted as fans and media types think.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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