Is Deshaun Watson the Clear-Cut QB2 in Fantasy Football?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Deshaun Watson
- Is Deshaun Watson being undervalued in fantasy football drafts?
- Ian Hartitz on where the Houston Texans quarterback should rank.
We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.
The Houston Texans didn’t finish 2018 on the highest of notes, losing their wild-card matchup to the Indianapolis Colts, 21-7, despite hosting the matchup from the friendly confines of NRG Stadium.
The good news for the Texans’ future is that they have enough star power on both sides of the ball to feel confident about their chances to compete with pretty much any team on any given Sunday.
DeAndre Hopkins has a real case as the league’s best wide receiver, while J.J. Watt continues to put together the resume of one of the best defensive linemen ever. And then there’s Deshaun Watson: The 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft has gone 14-8 in 22 regular-season starts, regularly displaying the ability to dissect defenses with both his arm and legs.
It shouldn’t be fair for a quarterback with more than enough ability to win from the pocket to also be able to do this:
What follows is a breakdown of just how special Watson is compared to his peers as well as what his fantasy football value looks like entering 2019.
Deshaun Watson Is the NFL’s Premier Dual-Threat Quarterback
Watson’s electric rookie season put him in elite company from Day 1, as he joined Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Steve Young and George Blanda as the only quarterbacks ever to start at least six games and average more than 24 fantasy points.
Watson’s follow-up campaign was far from underwhelming, as his average of 8.48 adjusted yards per attempt trailed only Jared Goff (8.53), Philip Rivers (8.68), Matt Ryan (8.73), Russell Wilson (8.98), Drew Brees (9.01) and Patrick Mahomes (9.58) last season.
Add the two seasons together and Watson should be anyone’s idea of a top-five quarterback:
Deshaun Watson since entering the NFL:
Completion rate: 66.4% (5th among 39 QBs w/10 starts since 2017)
TD rate: 6.3% (4th)
QB rating: 103.1 (3rd)
Yards per attempt: 8.3 (3rd)
Adjusted yards per attempt: 8.5 (4th)
Rush yards per game: 36 (3rd)
Fantasy points per game: 21.8 (2nd)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 25, 2019
Watson is incredibly efficient as both a passer and rusher. More of the same will have him well on his way to becoming the most complete dual-threat quarterback the league has ever seen.
Watson (36) joins Robert Griffin III (37), Cam Newton (39), Mike Vick (43), Lamar Jackson (43) and Josh Allen (53) as the only quarterbacks who have averaged at least 35 rushing yards per game since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
There have been cases throughout Watson’s career when he’s held the ball too long and taken unnecessary sacks. This was evidenced by him taking a league-high 62 sacks in 2018 while possessing a bottom-five release time in average seconds to attempt (Pro Football Focus).
Still, Watson worked from a clean pocket on a league-low 55.3% of his snaps last season. It’s scary to think what kind of atrocity the Texans offense might’ve looked like without such a mobile quarterback under center.
Imagine Deshaun Watson with even an average offensive line pic.twitter.com/jkzfZ0TLSE
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 25, 2019
There might not be a better quarterback alive than Watson when everything is clicking. He’s proved this at the high school, collegiate and now professional levels.
Watson’s Game Goes to Another Level with a Fully-Healthy Texans Offense
The Texans have at least two wide receivers worthy of the attention of multiple defensive backs on any given play. Unsurprisingly, the offense’s results with the whole crew together have been nothing short of phenomenal from a production stand point.
Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller have experienced resounding success during their 11 games together over the past two seasons.
- Watson: 65% completion rate; 9.0 yards per attempt; 32 total touchdowns
- Hopkins: 69 receptions; 1,113 yards; 12 touchdowns
- Fuller: 45 receptions; 782 yards; 11 touchdowns
The Texans posted seven wins vs. four losses while averaging 30.8 points over these 11 games.
Watson’s numbers with Fuller are notable because we haven’t seen Houston’s franchise quarterback play nearly as well without his ace field-stretcher:
- Watson without Fuller (13 games): 21.9 points per game, 7.19 yards per attempt, 225 pass yards per game, 16 pass TDs
- With Fuller (11 games): 30.8 PPG, 9.03 Y/A, 288 pass yards per game, 30 pass TDs
Even Hopkins has experienced some up-and-down play with vs. without Fuller in the lineup, as Nuk has scored 12 touchdowns in 11 games with Fuller since 2017 compared to 12 scores in 21 games without his sidekick.
The presence of Keke Coutee helped ease the post-Fuller transition, as the Texans’ 2018 fourth-round pick caught 28-of-41 regular-season targets for 287 yards and a score before hanging an 11-110-1 line during the team’s wild-card loss to Indianapolis.
Watson is often the best player on the field with or without his best weapons:
But we’ve seen his game leap to a historically elite level with a full supporting cast. Luckily for Watson’s future fantasy football investors, he should have a full supporting cast this season.
The 2019 Version of This Offense Could Be Its Best in Years
There were more than a few offseason moves that indicate the Texans could feature an improved offense in 2019:
- Houston addressed its porous offensive line by spending a first-round pick on Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard and a second-round pick on Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping. They’re tentatively expected to start from Day 1 at right tackle and left guard, respectively, for a Texans’ offensive line that has ranked among the league’s bottom-three units in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate in each of the past two seasons.
- Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and Watson haven’t made habits of featuring a tight end in the passing game, but free-agent addition Darren Fells is at least an athletic upgrade over 2018 starter Ryan Griffin. Fells has the size (6-foot-7 and 281 pounds), athleticism (former overseas professional basketball player) and enough blocking ability to work on all three downs and at least make defenses pay a bit of attention to the seam threat in the Houston offense.
- D’Onta Foreman seemed poised to take over for Lamar Miller after a strong first 10 games to his career in 2017. Unfortunately, the Texans’ 2017 third-round pick has been working his way back from a torn Achilles ever since. It’s unlikely Foreman completely takes Miller’s starting job without the help of an untimely injury or suspension, but he reportedly had a standout offseason. An offense can never have too many solid running backs.
Watson should benefit from both an improved overall supporting cast as well as health in 2019: He suffered early-season chest, rib and lung injuries that contributed to him attempting 25 or fewer passes in six consecutive games during October and November.
Watson’s current status as the QB4 in average draft position is a slap in the face to everything the young quarterback has achieved since taking the league by storm in 2017. Sure, Patrick Mahomes deserves to be the QB1, but Watson’s dual-threat ability and demonstrated ceiling with a fully healthy offense makes him my QB2 ahead of both Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck.