Clemson's Deshaun Watson declines invitation to Senior Bowl

Deshaun Watson has declined an invitation to play in the Reese's Senior Bowl, instead allowing his spectacular performance in the College Football Playoff title game against Alabama to stand as his final game action before the 2017 NFL Draft.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage confirmed Watson's decision on Wednesday. The QB will shift his focus to preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine, his agent told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

"I don't think anyone in the NFL will have a problem with Watson's decision," said NFL.com analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah. "He's coming off a long season and he took a physical pounding against Alabama. I think he could've really stood out and helped himself, but I understand his decision."

Watson is only a junior, but because he has already earned a degree from Clemson, he was granted eligibility for an invitation. The annual all-star game in Mobile, Ala., includes 110 players on two 55-man rosters. NFL executives, coaches and scouts flock to the Senior Bowl each year to watch practices, interview players and record physical measurements. The coaching staffs of the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns will coach this year's Senior Bowl squads. Watson would've played for the team coached by the Browns. Cleveland holds the draft's No. 1 pick.

A player of Watson's stature has plenty of factors to weigh in deciding whether to participate in the Senior Bowl, and top prospects sometimes pass on the chance for fear of injury or because they don't believe their draft value can be enhanced by it.

Jeremiah wrote last week that the upside for Watson participating at the Senior Bowl was greater than the risk. Analyst Bucky Brooks was impressed enough by Watson's College Football Playoff title game performance against Alabama (36 of 56, 420 yards, 3 TDs) that he believes it could change the way NFL scouts view him. Three NFL executives recently projected Watson to be selected in the top half of the first round.

Watson's next formal chance to impress NFL clubs will be at the week-long combine in Indianapolis, which begins Feb. 28 (quarterbacks arrive March 1).

Watson completed 388 of 579 passes for 4,593 yards, 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 15 games for CU this season. Quarterbacks who have accepted Senior Bowl invitations include C.J. Beathard, Josh Dobbs, Chad Kelly, Seth Russell, Sefo Liufau, Nathan Peterman, Antonio Pipkin and Davis Webb. Kelly and Russell, however, will be unable to play due to injuries.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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