Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has the potential to be the No. 1 choice in the 2017 NFL Draft, according to an NFL quarterbacks coach who was especially impressed with the Watson's performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game Monday night.
Watson passed for 405 yards and rushed for another 73, despite getting virtually no help from a running game, in a 45-40 loss to the Crimson Tide. Alabama's defense rated No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense and total defense. He completed 30 of 47 passes and threw some of them into the tightest of windows, including his first touchdown throw to Hunter Renfrow that split an Alabama cornerback and safety in the back of the end zone.
"Those are NFL players he was going against. He threw with anticipation. He was very accurate. He responded well to adversity. He's a smooth athlete, and he showed he's tough," the NFL quarterbacks coach told FOX Sports, adding "and, it's not like he has the talent around him like (former Clemson star) Tajh Boyd had. Boyd was playing with Pro Bowlers."
Of course, Watson is a long way from even having to decide whether he'll be draft-available in 2017. As a sophomore, he is too young to enter the 2016 draft. He could be eligible in 2017 if he chooses to apply for early draft eligibility, or 2018 if he completes his NCAA eligibility at Clemson.
Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2015 and figures to be a Heisman frontrunner this fall. One of his top receiving weapons, tight end Jordan Leggett, has announced he will return to Clemson in 2016 rather than enter the draft.