Deshaun Watson has an invitation to play in this month's Reese's Senior Bowl, and I've gone on record with my belief that he could help himself by attending the annual all-star game in Mobile, Alabama. Some folks on Twitter strongly disagreed with my opinion. I get it. I can make an argument both for and against his participation in the game, which will be broadcast exclusively by NFL Network (Jan. 28, 2:30 p.m. ET). However, based on my scouting experiences, I think the game offers more upside than risk for him.
The biggest argument in favor of him not playing in the game stems from the potential for him to get injured. I think this could be easily solved. He could work out an agreement with the Senior Bowl that would allow him to participate in the non-contact practices and sit out of the game. If they want him to play in the game, he could agree to hand the ball off for the first series of the game before shutting it down. I've heard the argument about Teddy Bridgewater's injury occurring in a non-contact practice. That was such a unique situation. I've never heard of another quarterback suffering a serious injury in that type of setting. Watson would be under the same risk while training for the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day in the spring.
Another argument against Watson playing in the game is the fact that he ended the season on an incredibly high note, torching the best defense in college football for the second year in a row. This is a valid point. I studied that tape on Friday morning -- he displayed incredible toughness and made a handful of big-time throws. In fact, I moved him up in my rankings based on his performance, and it sounds like some NFL evaluators did the same.
However, this game doesn't completely erase some concerns with his accuracy and touch down the field, as well as some poor decision making. Ole Miss' Chad Kelly put up monster numbers against the Alabama defense in each of the last two seasons (762 yards, 6 TDs total), as well, but that doesn't make him worthy of a top-10 pick. I'm not comparing these two players. I'm just pointing out the need to evaluate an entire body of work instead of focusing solely on 2 big games.
Here's why I believe he can help himself at the Senior Bowl: Every evaluator that has visited Clemson this fall has raved about Watson's character, intelligence and leadership. He would have an opportunity to display all three traits in meetings and on the practice field in front of the team that holds the No. 1 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns, who will coach the South team that Watson will play for if he accepts the invitation. I'm sure the Browns brass trusts what they've been told by Clemson's coaching staff, but it's even more powerful when you can see it for yourself. The Chargers fell in love with Philip Rivers when they coached him in the Senior Bowl many years ago, and that's believed to be a main reason they set their sights on him in the 2004 draft.
I mentioned earlier that Watson produced a handful of impressive throws in the Alabama game. He has an impressive arm and he can make every throw on the field. I think this forum would provide an opportunity for him to show off his arm talent. In the Clemson offense, he throws a lot of quick hitters and back-shoulder throws. At the Senior Bowl, he'll be asked to make a larger variety of throws and I think that would help answer any concerns about his deep-ball accuracy.
Overall, I don't think Watson's draft stock will soar or plummet based on what he decides to do. I didn't talk to any NFL team evaluators during the fall that had given him a first-round grade, but just about all of them expect him to go in the first round. Teams will always take chances at the quarterback position, and while he has some inconsistencies in his play, Watson is the type of person you'd like to build your team around. That's something that could become obvious to the Browns after spending an entire week with him at the Senior Bowl.