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Column | Texans should name Deshaun Watson starting QB on Day 1

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) during the team's organized team activity at its NFL football training facility Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
AP Photo/Bob Levey

When Houston moved up 12 spots in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and surrendered 2018’s first-round selection to select quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans made him the quarterback of the future.

He should also be the quarterback of the present.

There is no sense in wasting any time in training camp with Watson not taking first-team reps and thereby conceding them to Tom Savage. It’s hard enough to play quarterback in the NFL, especially in a rookie season. By committing to Watson as the starter, the Texans will give him every opportunity to get familiar with the ones. Establishing timing with his receivers will be a particularly important part of that process.

Unless Watson doesn’t have the necessary grasp of the playbook or is egregious in practice, there is no upside in having him compete with Tom Savage.  A fourth-round pick in 2014, Savage is 27 years old and ideally suited for backup duty.

Deshaun Watson is the best quarterback on a team that won its division with Brock Osweiler as the starting quarterback for much of 2016. Osweiler had a dreadful season, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and averaging only 5.8 yards per attempt. His 72.2 passer rating was 29th in the league. Star defensive lineman J.J. Watt played in only three games and the team still (somehow) won enough games to take the division title.

Watson is an upgrade over Osweiler and J.J. Watt is healthy again. If any rookie quarterback should be ready to start immediately, it should be Watson.

His resume and accolades are among the all-time most impressive to enter the NFL. The Clemson Tigers boasted a 35-3 (92.1%) record when Deshaun Watson was their starting quarterback and won consecutive ACC championships while winning three out of four College Football Playoff games, playing in back-to-back national championship games, and finishing this year as the College Football Playoff national champions. Watson repeatedly led his team to the biggest stages college football has to offer. He proved to be a clutch performer when his team needed it most.

Watson’s performance in this year’s national championship game was nothing short of heroic. From taking continuous big hits with no impact to his demeanor, to making the big plays that caused his team to triumph over a historically great Alabama defense, Watson will be remembered for an all-time-great performance en route to Clemson’s first national championship in 35 years.

Watson has been recognized with numerous individual awards throughout his career. In 2015 Watson was honored as a Consensus All-American, ACC Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, First Team All-ACC Selection, Manning Award winner, Archie Griffin Award winner, Davey O’Brien Award winner, and he became Clemson’s first-ever Heisman Trophy Award finalist.

Clemson's Deshaun Watson holds up the championship trophy after the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Clemson won 35-31. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In 2016, Watson was recognized as a Second-Team All-ACC selection, Manning Award winner, Davey O’Brien Award winner, Chic Harley Award winner, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, and he repeated as a Heisman Trophy Award finalist. Watson is a two-time ACC Championship Game MVP and was also named MVP of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Watson is accomplished, battle-tested and a proven performer with high degrees of success.

The infrastructure around Watson on the Texans’ roster sets him up for immediate success. Top receiver DeAndre Hopkins is among the league’s best and 2016 first-round pick Will Fuller is a burner with sub-4.30 speed. Braxton Miller is an exciting slot option and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is an emerging talent at tight end. Running back Lamar Miller can take over games and D’Onta Foreman was drafted in the third round to add depth and complement Miller. The weapons at Watson’s disposal just need him to get them the ball.

Watson checks several boxes when it comes to on-field traits needed in an NFL quarterback. The aspect of his game that excites me most is his ability to identify leverage mismatches in man coverage and work the football into favorable one-on-one matchups. This is a throw most quarterbacks are not willing to make. Pairing Watson with a number one receiver like Hopkins — who has the ball skills and ability to secure contested catches — makes a lethal duo.

While many college passers are labeled as one-read quarterbacks, the same is not true for Watson. He has demonstrated the ability to work his progression and confidently deliver the football.  His command of the offense in college was impressive and should be in the pros.

Pocket competence is another area where Watson excels. Able to shift, climb and move within the pocket, he keeps his eyes down the field and finds throwing windows to complete passes even when facing pressure. His quickness and mobility allow him to work outside the pocket to extend plays to pick up yards as a passer or runner. The first college quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (2015) provides evidence of his outstanding dual-threat ability.

In all, Watson is a dynamic playmaker with his arm and legs, possessing an all-around skill set that offers his scheme multiple dimensions that mesh perfectly with the Texans’ supporting cast.

The Texans are primed to compete for another AFC South championship with the opportunity to upgrade their quarterback play. All they need to do is commit to Watson as the starter and do so on day one of training camp.

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