Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. Each day this week, we'll share some of what NFL and college folks are discussing in their circles when it comes to five of the game's top prospects. We'll continue today with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The scoop: "There is so much talk about Deshaun Watson being a franchise quarterback, but that just tells me that nobody has seen the tape on him. His accuracy is just OK and he's not a great decision-maker. Get him out of that offense and he could get lost for a while." -- AFC executive
The skinny: Watson's performances against both Oklahoma and Alabama in last season's College Football Playoff helped solidify his standing at the forefront of the quarterback position at the college level. The task facing NFL evaluators will revolve around projecting Watson outside of the Clemson offense and determining whether or not he has the skills needed to be a franchise QB. More than one scout has privately scoffed at the notion that Watson is a no-brainer early pick, but he plays quarterback, has size and athleticism, wins and produces at a high level. Those types of quarterbacks often go early.
* * *
The scoop: "Plain and simple, he doesn't ruffle, and truly does expand his game when the stakes are highest. His performance against Alabama in the national-title game was phenomenal, and he gave his team an excellent chance to win. I do expect him to continue to polish his footwork, and increase his accuracy. When I see him miss, it's often doing so high. ... Similar to Marcus Mariota, I do have a concern about just how quiet he is, but I know that's something that he's working on improving. I really like this kid." -- NFC executive
The skinny: Mariota faced questions about whether he was too nice for the NFL when he was a prospect, and that narrative has died off. Watson has improved in the area of vocal leadership, according to his QB coach at Clemson, and all indications are that he has the full respect of his teammates. Evaluations when it comes to leadership ability are always elevated for the quarterback position. If it works the same way it did for Mariota, questions about whether Watson can lead at the next level will fizzle over time.
* * *
The scoop: "He can do it all. If someone's looking for a quarterback at No. 1, there's no reason he can't go that high. That offense has a lot of half-field reads and pre-determinations on where the ball is going before the snap, so he'll have a transition as far as making full-field reads, but he's got every tool." -- NFC West scout
The skinny: Hard as it might be to believe, there is every possibility that Watson could look even better this year than he did in 2015. He's added some size, which should help him shake more arm tackles and withstand more punishment, and he'll add a major weapon in WR Mike Williams, who returns from a neck injury. While concerns about the transition to a pro-style offense will surely follow Watson as a draft prospect, physical skills are what matter most when it comes to draft stock. Just ask Marcus Mariota, who went No. 2 overall in 2015 despite a similar narrative.