Deshaun Watson attheCombine cemented himself as one of thetop quarterback prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft, among the likes of Mitch Trubisky andDeShone Kizer.
Watson, fresh offpassing, running andleadingClemson to a nationalchampionship, is much higher on the boards of some scouts, evaluators and analyststhan others. He is one of the bigger wlld cards early in the draft, but he should end up going within the top 33 picks.
Here the five teams best suited to landWatson's impressive skill set at the end of April.
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Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch haven't hid anything about the team's desperate desire for quarterback.Given with the imminent release of Colin Kaepernick, itwill have no QBs under contract. If the Niners aren'taggressive enough to trade for Kirk Cousins or JImmy Garoppolo,they wouldneed to draft a quarterbackhigh. It's more likely they do that with No. 2 than No. 34.
Watson needs a little bit of work with his mechanics, footwork and accuracy to turn all of his natural athletic talent into something special. His upside, with Shanahan, is tremendous. With a little patience on San Francisco's part he can get there.In playing matchmaker right at the top of the draft with the three QB-needy teams, the Niners are a better situation forWatsonthan eitherChicago orCleveland, and they are in better position to work with himthan either Trubisky or Kizer.
The Jets have selected non first-round QBs in each of the past four drafts: Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Based on the mess of all that, including another Clemson product in Boyd, that shouldn't stop them from going after a more legitimate franchise QB option early. The safe side would have New York going for a cornerback or safety. The wild side would yield Leonard Fournette.
There's Watson in the sweet spot, as the Jets can't take offanytime soon if they don't find a promising young passer to groom in '17. With Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the picture, neither what they have nor what they can get veteran-wise (ugh, Jay Cutler) would signal a commitment to real transition at the game's most important position. Watson meshes nicely with the scheme of new offensive coordinator John Morton and the mindset of head coach Todd Bowles. As the Jets areblowing up their once agingroster, Watson makes for ayoungcenterpiece at No. 6.
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They're still debating whetherTyrod Taylor is worth keeping and trying to take to next level with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who worked with him well in Baltimore. If the Bills choose to move on from Taylor, then it wouldprobably be a combination of a cheap veteran stopgap plus a rookie QB. Buffalo then doesn't represent an immediate starting spotfor Watson, but that also makes it a comfortable situation where he's not rushed into action.
With new head coach Sean McDermott coming over from Carolina and Cam Newton, he can appreciate the value of a mobile passer who got to the highest level of winning in college. There's no direct Clemson connection like there was with Rex Ryan, but GM Doug Whaley has shown an affinity for Tigers in the past three drafts, including first-rounders Sammy Watkins and Shaq Lawson. Overall, the Bills have picked a Clemson player in five of the past six drafts. No. 10is a pretty good spot for Watson.
Finding a potential successor to Carson Palmer, now 37, and coming off an up-and-down season,is critical in this draft. Sure, they have needs at cornerback and linebacker, but they will be ready to pull the trigger in the quarterback with the right player. Arizona officials have had their eye on Watson for a while because of his makeup and strengths that would make him effective in Bruce Arians' offense. Palmer is a willing mentor, and can help Watson grow quickly as a pocket passer for a full-time starting gig in '18. That lines up for a lucky No. 13.
They are sitting on two first-round picks. The Browns'best player available mode will make adefensive stud such as Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen the likely choice at No. 1. No. 12 becomes a little more interesting for a quarterback, but there's a good chance their (for now) preferred early choice, Trubisky, is gone by then. In that scenario,Fournette or a cornerback are more in the wheelhouse of that second pick.
If Watson is still around fortop of the second round where the Browns are already picking,that seems more like striking distance. They could also trade up a little back into the first if they sense Watson is falling and know both Trubisky and Kizer are off the board. Although Shanahan is the best offensive mind for Watson, Hue Jackson would be pretty good for him, too.