By Chris Emma–
In the second of a three-part look, Chris Emma evaluates how each of the top three quarterback prospects would fit for the Bears. Click here to read about Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer.
(CBS) Of all the next-level comparisons to come in the pre-draft process, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney picked quite the extravagant one for his quarterback, Deshaun Watson.
Any team to skip on Watson is passing on the next Michael Jordan, Swinney said. To his credit, Watson met this one with a laugh.
“I’m no Michael Jordan — I’m Deshaun Watson,” Watson said at the NFL Combine. “My goal is, for one day, to be able to have people talk about me like they do Michael Jordan.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox often speak of their desire to find a quarterback whose leadership translates to victories. In this draft class, one quarterback stands alone.
That’s Watson, who isn’t Jordan but sure is a winner. He led Clemson to the championship game as a sophomore then back for a victory last season. His final record as leader of the Tigers was 32-3.
After losing the championship to Alabama in January 2016, it was Watson who dedicated himself to redemption. He took charge of the program and willed it back. When the Tigers trailed 14-0 to the Crimson Tide, there was Watson leading them back for a victory.
With the Tigers trailing 31-28 in the final seconds, Watson rolled to his right and found receiver Hunter Renfrow on a quick strike to win the championship. It capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive for Clemson to win the national championship, and it wouldn’t have happened without Watson.
His teammates have recognized that leadership well before that drive.
“I feel like the main thing with Deshaun is he’s a better human being and a better man than he is a football player,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “He just happens to be a great man of great character that just happens to be a really good quarterback. I feel like when [a team] gets him, he’s a game-changer.”
When an NFL head coach whose team is set at quarterback was recently asked how he’d assess this year’s crop, there was no hesitation in stating Watson as his top choice. He pointed to the winning pedigree and its ability to translate into this league.
Clemson beat Alabama in large part because Watson didn’t commit a turnover as he made dangerous throws in an effort to lead a comeback, though he did play with fire by forcing some throws into the teeth of the tenacious defense. The biggest concern surrounding Watson is his at-times streaky passing, which lead to costly mistakes.
Last season, Watson completed 67 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,593 yards (306.2 per game), 41 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. It’s the interceptions total that has the NFL concerned.
Like DeShone Kizer and Mitchell Trubisky, Watson could stand to benefit from a year of grooming. The Bears could provide that with Mike Glennon set to be the starter in 2017. Watson could take a step back from the spotlight and improve his mechanics. Tweaking is needed to better his game for the NFL.
“It would be awesome to learn from a veteran guy that’s been there before,” Watson said. “I can just watch how he works and won’t have to be pushed in that pressure or that moment right away. I can sit there, learn, build my game, learn the offense and make myself a better player.”
The Bears are out to find their future at quarterback in this draft, and it very well could be Watson. They had Fox and Pace in attendance at Clemson’s pro day last week, their latest look at Watson. By now, they have conducted plenty of scouting evaluations to pair with Watson’s winning traits.
Watson’s winning ways could potentially bring the Bears victories once again. He may not be Jordan, but the future could be bright.