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The debate over which quarterback should be taken first in next month’s NFL Draft rages on, mainly between Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, but position guru Steve Clarkson is confident in his pick.
He’s going with Watson, without hesitation.
“I put a lot of value in intangibles,” Clarkson said. “That’s what has to win it.
“When I look at Deshaun Watson, what I do see is he played against an NFL team in the Alabama Crimson Tide and he almost threw for 1,000 yards, he rushed for a lot of yards and he should have been 2-0. If it wasn’t for an onsides kick, he would have won two national championships.
“He was at his best when his best was needed, the old quote from the great, late John Wooden.”
There is no question Watson was fantastic during the big moments at Clemson and there were many because of him including back-to-back national title games and one championship.
If not for a fourth-quarter onsides kick two seasons ago against Alabama, which led to a late score for the Crimson Tide, Watson might have beaten the Goliath of College Football twice.
Is that enough for NFL general managers to be convinced? Critics of Watson as the top quarterback taken say he threw too many interceptions – 17 this past season and 13 the year before – and that he does not have elite arm strength. Accuracy can be an issue and his slender frame at the NFL level might be a concern.
Warts will pop up for any high-level draft pick and Clarkson said serious criticism of Watson’s game is unwarranted. Just look at his production on the field and that alone is reason enough for a struggling NFL franchise to give him an opportunity.
“When you can do what he’s done and he battled back from a subpar start to his season, for him to come back the way he did and finish like he did, that speaks volumes,” Clarkson said.
“I don’t put a great deal on his workouts and things of that nature. I just like to look at the tape and interview the young man and know what he’s about and talk to the people that know him best and get a feel for them and that’s how you make your decision.
“I’ve had a chance to spend a great summer with him and I’ve met him in a couple different places and he’s an extraordinary young man. He graduated in three years. That tells you all you need to know.”
An argument for Trubisky is a reasonable one. He has great arm talent and in one season leading North Carolina he threw for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and six picks. He also ran for five scores.
But one season starting is also a concern. Can NFL teams be certain Trubisky should be a top pick based on only 13 games as a starter? Is his resume long enough?
Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer has had hits and misses in the lead-up to the NFL Draft, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes seems to be an intriguing late first-round option and Cal’s Davis Webb could be a steal later on but this draft debate is really coming down to the two ACC quarterbacks.
Will Watson or Trubisky be taken first? For Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell, a huge Watson supporter, the debate really isn’t even that close.
"The 'it factor' is overlooked way too often when drafting quarterbacks and people get bogged down in measurables, ball velocity, turnovers versus time in the pocket and so many other numbers,” Farrell said.
“The guy beat the best defense I've ever seen in college football this past season and carried his team on his back to two national title games. He's led some amazing comebacks in the fourth quarter and has ice in his veins. You can't teach that stuff so he's by far my No. 1 quarterback."
Will struggling NFL franchises listen?