Mark Schofield’s RSP NFL Lens: QB Deshaun Watson (Texans) and the Value of “What He Can Do”

RSP writer Mark Schofield revisits Texans QB Deshaun Watson’s tape to demonstrate why what a player can do is often far more important than what he can’t in this RSP NFL Lens feature.

A mistake that is made far too often in the evaluation realm is a hyper-focus on the negative. This is a mistake that is not limited to the #DraftTwitter world, but carries over into the National Football League itself.

Take, for example, the New England Patriots and how they approach free agency. Year after year they take fliers on players who for one reason or another have not panned out with their original team — or teams. Most recently we have seen Kyle Van Noy and Cordarrelle Patterson come to New England and flourish.

To be fair, the Patriots have their share of misses as well, but they seem to fare better than most organizations when it comes to bringing on players and giving them a fresh start. How is this?

It is because they are asking the right question: What can he do?

Look at Patterson who was drafted in the first round to play wide receiver. The Minnesota Vikings expected him to become a wide receiver in the NFL and the organization used him as a route-runner and a boundary receiver.

However, he lacked the necessary technique to develop into the player the organization expected. While the organization and Patterson continued pounding its collective heads against the wall, Patterson had already revealed All-Pro talent as a runner after the catch and as a return specialist. 

Now, look at how the Patriots are using Patterson. Instead of strictly a wide receiver, he’s an offensive weapon. New England lines him up at running back and gives him run plays without much need for pressing and cutting back — running behind fullback James Develin.

The Patriots put Patterson in jet motion and using him as a decoy, or on the end-around. When he’s used as a receiver, he runs a limited but dangerous route tree.

The Patriots did not shy away from Patterson because of what he could not do, or because of his limitations. Instead, they looked at him and asked: What can he do?

Once they identified what he brought to the table, they made a decision that his skill-set, and what he can do, can help them win games. Now let’s talk about Deshaun Watson.

Think back to his draft cycle. The number “49” probably comes to mind quickly when you do. That was the speed of his velocity in miles per hour when clocked at the scouting combine.

It was the talk of draft circles when that number was announced. Many wondering if it would completely sink his draft stock. It also, perhaps unsurprisingly, overshadowed the fact that prior to that number being released, many believed Watson had the best workout in Indianapolis.

But with that number, there were worries. Concerns that Watson lacked the arm strength to excel at the next level.

Let me show you what Watson could do in the college game, and how that has translated to the NFL:

Watson was a player who excelled at throwing deeper routes, even into tight windows, thanks to his understanding of leverage, coverage, and trajectory. Teams that passed on him focused far too much on what he could not do, or what they perceived he could not do. The Texans, however, focused on what he could and can do. Now they’re the hottest team in football.

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