Thanks in part to his heroics this past Monday in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, outgoing Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s draft stock is soaring, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN. After Watson completed 36 of 56 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing) in Clemson’s 35-31 win over Alabama, two NFL personnel directors and one general manager informed Schefter that the 21-year-old will go in the top half of the first round this spring. All regard Watson as a soon-to-be top 10 pick, and it’s possible he’ll go to the Browns at No. 1 overall.
“He struggled some in midseason, so everyone got off him,” said a personnel director. “But these last couple of weeks, he’s skyrocketing up to the top 10 picks, with the two playoff game wins. Now people are going to say, ‘Wait a minutes, he’s played Alabama the past couple of years really well, he won a national championship, he can be a Mariota, he can be a [Dak] Prescott, great character, great kid.’ People will not want to miss him. I think he’s definitely going in the top 10.”
A bit more on Cleveland and the draft:
- While the Browns also own the 12th pick in the draft, odds are they’ll have to take a quarterback at No. 1 – be it Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky or Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer – if they like him enough, several draft experts and talent evaluators told Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “A lot of teams need quarterbacks and they will overvalue them and reach,” an NFL personnel executive said. In assessing the three signal-callers, a talent evaluator opined, “[Watson] was very impressive in that game and has a special skill set. Accuracy is always a concern. His body of work makes him safer than Trubisky, but Trubisky has a big upside. Kizer is solid, but I don’t think he’s ready to play right away. Watson appears to be the only one who could hold his own right now.” The Browns reportedly “love” Trubisky, but taking him, Watson or Kizer would mean passing on Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett – with whom they’re also smitten.
- Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart and cornerback Marlon Humphrey each declared for the draft Friday. CBS Sports ranks Robinson as the 12th-best player in this year’s class and the top tackle in a weak crop. Humphrey isn’t far behind (No. 15), while the outlet projects Stewart to go in the second round.
- Another Alabama product, edge rusher Tim Williams, is likely to slip out of the first round because of Randy Gregory-esque issues with substances (marijuana, to be exact), according to Charlie Champbell of WalterFootball.com. Like Gregory, whom the NFL handed a one-year suspension earlier this month (already the third ban of his two-year career), Williams has several failed drug tests to his name. Williams picked up 18.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss during his final two years at Alabama, but similarly excellent college production wasn’t enough for Gregory (16.5 sacks, 26.5 TFL) to go in Round 1 in 2015. It seems Williams’ case will be a repeat this year.