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Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has started to say Deshaun Watson is ahead of the curve compared to any rookie quarterback he’s been around, while tentatively remaining committed to Tom Savage as the starting quarterback. Savage started Wednesday night’s preseason opener against the Panthers, but Watson stood out by going 15-for-25 for 179 yards along with 24 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Watson showed some of his known flaws in his NFL debut, most notably a lack of great arm strength. But he showed poise and intangibles similar to what he showed during his final two years at Clemson, with athletic ability Savage just does not have. He seems to be on track to win the starting job before Week 1, but does that mean Watson will be an immediate fantasy contributor?
Over his two seasons as a Heisman Trophy finalist at Clemson, Watson totaled 8,702 passing yards and 76 touchdowns with over 1,700 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. He ran notably less last year though, with 165 carries for 629 yards, coupled with more pass attempts (38.6 per game, 32.7 attempts per game in 2015) and more interceptions (17). But his actual interception rate (2.9 percent) was not dramatically worse than in 2016 (2.6), so concern about turnovers is a little overblown.
To really be worth drafting in single season 12-team leagues, Watson has to be the Texans’ Week 1 starter. But if you’re drafting before that’s officially decided, he is worth speculating on as a QB2 and his ADP (QB22, pick 14.05-Fantasy Football Calculator) points to that.
Watson adds to his fantasy value with his running ability, and his overall accuracy as a college quarterback (67.4 percent completions for his career) should somewhat translate to the next level. He would also have a legit No. 1 receiver to throw to in DeAndre Hopkins. For what it’s worth, Hopkins has endorsed Savage as Houston’s starting quarterback.
It’s a rare rookie quarterback that produces well for fantasy owners, and any comparisons of Watson to Dak Prescott last year are a little aggressive. But Watson should be the first quarterback from this year’s draft class off the board in dynasty league drafts, and he has the clearest immediate path to the starting job among this year’s rookie signal callers.