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Dissecting Deshaun Watson’s Rookie Year

Jonathan Ferrey-Getty Images

Just how impressive was Deshaun Watson’s rookie year?

Midway through last season, Deshaun Watson was at or near the top in the MVP conversation. After being overlooked in the NFL draft, Watson burst onto the scene with 15 touchdowns in the first seven weeks of the season. What made his success even more impressive was that he didn’t even start week one for Houston. Although their record wasn’t as good as some of the top team’s in the league up to that point, Watson’s individual numbers were good enough to warrant the chatter around his potential MVP season. 

However, Watson’s season was cut short by an ACL tear that put Houston into turmoil. The Texans proceeded to win only one of the last nine games without Watson leading the way.

Watson’s statistics from last year make him look like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but there are several areas of his game in which he will need to improve. Pro Football Focus had his grade ranked as their 28th quarterback, which is astonishingly low given his perceived phenomenal year. They cited four key areas that caused his grade to slip.


ICYMI: @PFF_Steve broke down QB Deshaun Watson’s rookie season - What you aren’t seeinghttps://t.co/HLfBhdHCjZ pic.twitter.com/DOD0GI3RLh

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 27, 2017 


The first area was his accuracy as a whole. His 61.8% completion percentage doesn’t blow anyone away, but that is plenty high for an above-average quarterback in the NFL

However, he had the fourth highest percentage of negatively graded throws, which simply put means he wasn’t throwing the ball where it needed to be on a consistent basis. Watson’s adjusted completion percentage ranked 33rd out of 34 qualified quarterbacks because of his negatively graded throws.

The second area PFF sited was the instances where Watson’s inaccuracy caused him to put the ball in harms way. He had eight interceptions and three fumbles in seven games last year, but according to PFF, these numbers could’ve been much higher had the defense hung onto the ball. 

Watson had the ninth highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays in the seven games he played. PFF cited five different plays within this piece where the defense either dropped an easy interception or the receiver broke up what could have been an interception, including the one below. 

Wrote up Deshaun Watson and why stats/grades aren’t matching right now

One reason: his worst throws have had little consequence this season pic.twitter.com/R7AMdmj75R

— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 24, 2017

Another area PFF cited against Watson was the help he got from his receivers. During the first seven weeks of the season, the receivers for the Texans only had two drops, which was the best in the league. While the Texans do have a very solid receiving corps led by DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, this number in all likelihood would’ve regressed to the mean, causing Watson’s numbers to drop. 

Lastly, PFF said Watson was taking far too many sacks that weren’t because of poor blocking by his offensive line. Watson is very good at extending plays, but that can tend to lead to taking more sacks because he’s trying to get out of trouble. Watson was credited with four sacks that were “his fault.” This was tied for the seventh highest in the league through seven games. 


Many of these issues came as a surprise, specifically the concerns of his accuracy. During his time at Clemson, Watson was considered one of the most accurate passers in the country. Watson posted a 66% completion percentage or better every year as a starter in college. He also had the third highest adjusted completion percentage of any player in the country during his final season with the Tigers.

Additionally, Watson had a completion percentage well above average in both the short and intermediate passing game in college. He was particularly impressive when passing between 21-30 yards downfield, where he was second in the country with a 60% completion percentage. Watson struggled with his down the field accuracy at Clemson, so that is an area where he may struggle in the future. 

While Watson had a lot of success as a rookie, the concerns around his accuracy are very real. He did show he is capable of being a more consistent passer from his days in college, but he will need to prove he can do it in the NFL in order to continue to have the type of success he had last year.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

SQuiz
What pick was Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL draft?
Created 5/8/18
  1. 1st
  2. 8th
  3. 12th
  4. 15th

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