Earlier this year, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney turned heads when he stated that with the draft coming soon “They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan”. A bold statement of course, especially when considering that at the time opinions on Watson typically went one of two ways; Either he was enormously overrated with a style that wouldn’t suit the NFL and an arm that was far from good enough, or that he was quite simply a guaranteed star.
As he enters his first NFL bye week, it would be foolish to already settle on the Michael Jordan comparison as the outright winner of the two, given that he has only started five games. But, as it stands he has most certainly lain the foundations for such a career.
That may be, but a strong start doesn’t automatically mean MVP contention. What this strong start has done though, is bumped him up a level. Instead of his performances being compared and rated based on those of the other rookie QBs in the league like Mitchell Trubisky or DeShone Kizer, Watson is already being named in the same conversation as the Tom Brady’s, Cam Newton’s, and Alex Smith’s of the football world.
What this implies is that while he is certainly in contention for offensive Rookie of the Year, his name is also beginning to crop up when discussing the ‘big boy title’ so to speak. However, whether or not he should seriously be considered at this point raises one poignant question; What makes an MVP?
It's all relative, or is it?
There is no doubting at this point in time who the MVP of the Texans has been. For someone, let alone a rookie, to come in and utterly transform what has been a stale and lackluster offense for the past few years in the matter of a couple of quarters speaks volumes in of itself. Let's put it this way, in just eight of 16 regular season games last season did the Texans put up 20+ points. Under Watson they have racked up 30+ in the last four straight games. And keep in mind, that's operating in an offense that is missing it's starting left and right tackles, starting tight end, and was briefly missing a starting receiver.
He's also had a remarkable effect on the fortunes of those around him, with second-year WR Will Fuller V a prime example. In 2016, he showed flashes of potential thanks to his immense pace, but struggled later in the year with weak hands ultimately racking up just two TDs in 14 games.However, since his return after a broken collarbone this preseason, he has connected with Watson for five TDs in just three games.
So, going purely off of the effect a single player has had on their respective team, you'd have to say that Watson is at the very least in the top three in the league. But that alone won't win you the title.
As every NFL fan is well aware at this point, Watson has been a record breaker both within the Texans franchise and the entire league this year. He led the Texans to a franchise-high scoring game when they defeated the Titans 57-14, in that same game he equaled Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton's rookie single-game TD record with five. Since then he has set a new rookie record for TDs through their first six games with 15, which also leads the NFL at the moment, is an NFL record for former Clemson alumni, and according to Sporting News, he is well on his way to setting a new rookie TD record for the season.
But again, as depicted perfectly by defensive end, and Texans teammate JJ Watt in 2014 and 2015, setting records and setting the league alight may not be enough to win you the title.
Human highlight reel
So how about his play from a non-numerical point of view? Well, to put it simply - it's been astounding. He has caught the eye from day one. His ability to extend plays that seem dead is something no Texans fan has seen before from a home QB, whether that's by avoiding the sack by simply adjusting his standing within the pocket, or by using his talent as a rusher to evade tackles and gain the first down.
Then there's his arm. A question mark when he entered the league, he has used his large group of receivers wisely, leaning on the safe hands of DeAndre Hopkins and Ryan Griffin when in trouble, and using the pace of Fuller to create that much needed deep threat. While his completion percentage needs some work, and he has thrown five interceptions so far, for a rookie these issues won't be too much of a concern just yet - thanks to his ability to learn and adapt so quickly. Just read what Houston's head coach Bill O'Brien had to say about the rookie earlier this month:
I think he’s a very poised guy so he’s able to take the correction and learn from it, whether it’s a coverage tip that we can learn from, whether it’s some MIKE point that we need to correct. Whatever it is, he looks at you, he nods his head and he rarely makes the same mistake twice. I think that’s something that he does a really good job of and that has to continue because there’s no perfect way to play the game. You have to be able to adjust on the fly and I think he does a good job of that.
Game after game, Watson has astounded endless fans around the world with his playmaking abilities. Take a look at this fans highlight video posted recently:
It's a combination of factors
Ultimately, records alone won't make him MVP, neither will turning this team around, or his highlights. What will however, is a combination of the three. Look at the last few winners - Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, what they all have in common is that they led their teams from Week 1, they showed the fans and critics things that no other player had shown them that year, and even set records in the process.
While it's only Week 7 and an awful lot can change between now and February, you'd have to say that at this point in time, Deshaun Watson has everything needed to at the very least become an MVP contender, and even be an early front-runner.
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