Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, in a bid to convince his critics and land a NFL job, improved his status with a solid showing at the NFL scouting combine.
The combine concluded on Monday with the defensive back drills.
“(Watson’s) footwork was better than expected coming out of their offense,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “His accuracy was consistently outstanding. I think Watson is the guy who just caught my eye.”
A former Falcons ball boy from Gainesville High, Watson completed his passing drills on Saturday. He joined North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer as the top quarterbacks at the combine.
While Watson performed well, questions remain about his ability to direct a NFL offense.
“Deshaun Watson looked over to the sideline for 100 percent of his calls,” Mayock said. “Not just the pre-snap calls, but for where is the safety. He got a lot more information from the sideline, which isn’t going to happen in the NFL.
“It’s a transition for him pre-snap and post-snap. What I see with him is when he gets past that first look, he breaks down a little bit, especially with the underneath coverage.”
The NFL has had a shaky record recently for evaluating quarterbacks. Just last season Dak Prescott, who was recently named the league’s offensive rookie of the year in Dallas, slipped to the fourth round. Seattle’s Russell Wilson, a former rookie of the year and Super Bowl champion, was drafted in the third round in 2012. There’s also the infamous pick of Tom Brady in the sixth round, too.
While Watson is not likely to slip out of the first round, there are other quarterbacks who could be developed.
“The two guys that I want to develop as third- or fourth-round guys who have potential starting characteristics, would be (Miami’s Brad) Kaaya and the Tennessee kid (Joshua) Dobbs,” Mayock said. “Both of them are highly inconsistent in the pocket but they have size and arm strength.”
Some of the other winners and losers from the combine:
John Ross, Washington. The fleet wide receiver ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds, setting a combine record. The previous record of 4.24 was set by Chris Johnson in 2008.
Robert Davis, Georgia State. The Panthers’ all-time leading wide receiver ran the 40 in 4.44. He finished in the top three catagories among wide receivers in the broad jump (136 inches, first), vertical jump (41 inches, second) and bench press (19 lifts of 225 pounds).
Carl Lawson, Auburn. Lifted 225 pounds 35 times, which was tied for first with Utah’s Isaac Asiata among defensive linemen. He was also a top performer in the vertical jump at 33 inches.
Antonio Garcia, Troy. In a down year for left tackles, Garcia, who played a Charles Drew High, turned some heads at the combine with a 31-inch vertical. “I think Garcia could develop into (a pass protector,)” Mayock said. “He’s too grabby right now, but he’s got great feet and long arms.”
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. Despite playing all over the field for the Wolverines, he insisted that he is a safety. He ran the 40 in 4.46. “I’ve seen him play a little bit off the ball,” Mayock said. “To me, he’s a safety. … Jabrill Peppers is a matchup player. On first down, he might be in one place and on third down he might be in another place. He can play in the middle of the field and he has great range.”
Rueben Foster, Alabama. The hard-hitting linebacker was sent home after getting into a disagreement with a hospital worker while waiting to take a mandatory exam.
Tim Williams, Alabama. The linebacker hurt his stock with his admission that he flunked several school-administered drug tests. “Tim Williams is going to slide a little bit, I think, from the off-the-field stuff,” Mayock said. “He’s an exciting edge player.”
Leonard Fournette, LSU. The running back weighed in at a hefty 240 pounds. But he quieted some of the criticism by claiming he was carrying five pounds of water weight and then ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds.
Chrisitan McCaffery, Stanford. The much-hyped wide receiver/running back only lifted 225 pounds just 10 times and his 4.48-second 40 was slow.
Caleb Brantley, Florida. The defensive tackle had poor interviews and turned off some teams with how he handled questions about his work ethic and taking some plays off.