For whatever reason, Watson did not seem to engender the type of respect in the 2017 draft that one might expect for a player with his credentials. Though he was the MVP of the national championship game against Alabama and won the Davey O’Brien Award and the Manning Award in back-to-back years, Watson was selected after Mitchell Trubisky and Pat Mahomes in the 2017 draft. After trading up to select Watson No. 12 overall, the Texans decided to open the season with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback. That lasted all of 30 minutes of the opener. Watson took over in the second half in Week One against Jacksonville and remained the starter until he suffered a knee injury in practice prior to Week Nine. In seven games (six starts), he threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his final start at Seattle, Watson threw for 402 yards and four TDs. He became the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards, throw four TDs, and rush for 50 or more yards in a single game. Watson threw five touchdown passes in Week Five against Kansas City. He went 3-2 as a starter in his rookie season. The Texans finished 2017 at 4-12. (Some basic math tells us they were 1-10 without Watson.) His 2017 stats projected over a 16-game season: 4,182 yards with 47 passing TDs, 662 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. In fantasy terms, those stats would be enough to warrant the No. 1 overall selection.
Watson is running out of ACLs. He tore his left ACL in 2014. His right was torn in November of last season. As a rookie, Watson showed the ability to use both his arm and his legs. It’s likely that the ACL will have Houston taking a more cautious approach in terms of putting Watson on the run. Six-and-a-half games is a small sample. There is absolutely no guarantee Watson will pick up where he left off. NFL defenses have enough film on him to adequately game plan for his talents.
In 2018, like Carson Wentz, Watson will be coming back from a serious knee injury. Watson does have the advantage of more recovery time and a reportedly less-serious injury than Wentz’s. It would be a major surprise if he could produce for a full season at the same pace he performed in five-plus games in 2017. He did not hit his “rookie wall” in 2017. Don’t be surprised if he endures some rough patches this season. With that in mind, we like Watson. He is riskier than, say, Brees … but he might actually have more upside.