Amazing how much four or so hours can seemingly change your draft stock if you’re Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, at least in relation to Chicago Bears fans.
Being on Twitter last night throughout the course of the College Football National Championship, I was thoroughly intrigued by the roller-coaster ride many Bears supporters were going through in regards to these two prospects—one of which (Allen) will likely be a top-3 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft in April while the other (Watson) has been struggling to be mentioned among the top-3 quarterback prospects.
Then, yesterday evening happened, and the roller-coaster of public opinion went to work.
I like Solomon Thomas more than Jonathan Allen. There. I said it.
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) January 10, 2017
— Brian Hanks (@HanksBT3) January 10, 2017
— Scott Dryden (@BrownsScout) January 10, 2017
Allen, who posted the second-best overall grade for an interior defense lineman (92.4) according to Pro Football Focus, had what many consider to be a quiet game. Though he registered 7 tackles (4 solo, 1 sack), he didn’t look like the consistently dominant, game-changing destroyer Bears fans were expecting to see.
Sure, Clemson had clearly game-planned to neutralize him by double-teaming him whenever possible and running away from him and his brute strength, but for a player being talked about as having an outside shot at being the #1 overall pick, I can see where people were hoping for a bigger impact from Allen.
And on the other side, after being bludgeoned to death in the first half and looking less than his usually supremely confident self, Watson shook off the pressure and delivered several big plays in the second half, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left.
Now, after seeing only a little such speculation on Watson possibly being the Bears’ pick at #3 overall (or at some point in the second round), the Bears Twitterverse has positively exploded with assessments of whether or not his gutsy performance just made him worthy to be the Bears’ quarterback of the future.
No one asked me, as I’m not a professional scout/NFL executive/former NFL player of course, but can we all chill for a second?
After all, though everyone gets romantic about how people produce on “the big stage” (truthfully, hard to be on a bigger stage than this), this was still only one game. Evaluating someone’s merits solely based on one sample point, especially when there are 30 or more to consider for these two guys in the last two years alone, is poor form.
— SEC Country Alabama (@SECCountryBama) January 5, 2017
Just because Allen didn’t destroy the entire world in yesterday’s game doesn’t mean that he’s any less than a top-5 pick in this year’s draft. He still flashed his strength, ability to pressure the quarterback, and his savvy in reading plays, as evidenced by his immediate diagnosis of a Clemson screen in the 4th quarter during which he likely caused Renfrow’s life to flash before his eyes.
I view him, and have viewed him for weeks, as a very good talent that would undoubtedly improve the Chicago Bears right away if he were taken at #3 overall. But, in my eyes at least, he’s not a franchise-changing talent. He’s not Ndamukong Suh. He’s not J.J. Watt. He might not even be Leonard Williams or Jadaveon Clowney, who are still working on developing their games. But he’s really good.
Grossi on Jonathan Allen's game last night: "He certainly didn't dominate. He wasn't the defensive star."
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) January 10, 2017
Instead of being disappointed that he wasn’t an unstoppable force of nature (again, some of this was due to Clemson keying on him) last night, maybe we need to be more realistic about what he is and not create unreasonable expectations for what he brings to the table.
The same applies to Watson.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s proclamation that Watson is the best player in college football is totally reasonable. And that’s not just about one game against Alabama (or even his incredible performance against them last year, either).
The totality of his film shows a tremendous athlete who can make plays in any variety of ways, is capable of making gutsy throws in big situations, loves letting his receivers go up and make plays on the ball (which would fit well with the current Bears receivers) and, generally, just finds a way to get his team into position to win every game. That’s a big deal.
John Fox said what he looks for in a QB, "One that wins." Deshaun Watson has lost just two games in two years with a national title. #Bears
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) January 10, 2017
He also showed the ability to move within the pocket and step into throws the way an NFL quarterback needs to, which is something that I haven’t always seen consistently from him in the many Clemson games I’ve watched.
But the rigid, mechanical way Watson moves his feet and goes through his progressions at times is still there. He still stares down his receivers too often. He still runs backward in the pocket sometimes instead of stepping up or sliding. And his accuracy still needs some work.
To be fair, all of the things Watson needs to improve can be taught. Fortunately, he seems like an incredibly coachable kid who is dedicated to bettering himself at his craft. When the Bears coaching staff meets him at the Senior Bowl (assuming he still goes), I’m sure his diligent preparation will impress a lot of people.
4 reasons why the Chicago Bears should draft Clemson QB Deshaun Watson in the first round https://t.co/oIxA8RTE7a
— BearsWire (@TheBearsWire) January 10, 2017
That said, one game does not mean that he’s suddenly the elevated himself above Mitch Trubisky or even DeShone Kizer or Pat Mahomes—all of which have now officially declared for the NFL Draft—in terms of NFL talent evaluators.
If you want to go by one-game metrics, Kizer (19/34, 321 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 55 rush yards, 1 rush TD) arguably outplayed Watson (10/21, 84 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 93 rush yards, 1 rush TD) when Notre Dame met Clemson in 2015, though neither of their QBRs (Kizer: 56.8; Watson: 55.5) were terribly impressive in the poor weather conditions.
But that’s not how players are scouted in the NFL.
Who knows what the next few months will bring in terms of players falling or rising on peoples’ draft boards? We could be looking at entirely different rankings for quarterbacks by the time we reach April, though the Myles Garrett/Allen combo among defensive lineman/defensive players generally may not change much.
Long story short: whatever the Bears do with the #3 overall pick—whether it ends up being Allen, Trubisky, Watson, or some other of likely 5-7 candidates the Bears are seriously considering for that slot—we can’t lose our minds about players and their NFL futures over one good or bad football game.
Each player should be evaluated based on the sum of their work, some of which will require some context to interpret. Only by looking at it that way can we truly get an idea of what each player really is and possibly can be at the NFL level, though we’ll never actually know until they get there.
That’s why we don’t make the big bucks, I guess.