The Cleveland Browns have won the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. At long last, we know where the embattled quarterback will play. Whether or not the NFL allows him to play all 17 games the final piece to this saga of a puzzle.
Browns and Texans still are finalizing official trade compensation for Deshaun Watson, but it is expected to include three first-round picks, a third-round pick and potentially a fifth-round pick, league sources tell ESPN.
Five picks for Watson.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2022
ESPN’s Adam Schefter also reports the Browns will pay him a fully guaranteed $230 million over five years. That’s commitment!
We last saw Watson take a snap in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season when he led the NFL in passing yardage with 4,823 and finished fourth in fantasy points (435.6, or 27.2/game) while playing with limited talent at the skill positions. The Browns have some intriguing pieces, but it’s unfair to say we’re looking at a major upgrade in receiving options. It’s definitely an improvement, but just how much is up for debate. Either way, Watson has demonstrated the ability fewer quarterbacks bring to the table: Making everyone around him better.
Cleveland acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper from Dallas and sent veteran slot receiver Jarvis Landry packing, but the latter was more contractual than anything. Reports said at the time the Browns could opt to re-sign him. Perhaps this is the impetus to make it happen. Cooper, if healthy, has borderline WR1 potential in PPR scoring, although history points to him being a much safer No. 2 in fantasy.
With Cooper the team’s presumed WR1 of the crop, Cleveland has an inconsistently dangerous Donovan Peoples-Jones as the next most accomplished wideout, and that’s not saying much. He has 48 career catches and five total scores over his first two seasons. But he brings size and downfield skills to the offense. There’s serious breakout potential now that Watson is under center in this rather fundamental West Coast offense.
The Browns added slot receiver Jakeem Grant in free agency, and the 5-foot-6 gadget player has yet to put it all together to suggest he’s on the verge of something useful in fantasy over 18 weeks. Without trying to pour salt into a wound, there’s no denying having Watson at quarterback will be an upgrade from Baker Mayfield — and everyone else Grant has had as his signal-caller.
Watson has former first-round pick David Njoku as the primary tight end, with third-year man Harrison Bryant also in the mix. Both get a boost, but target cannibalization could be a weekly frustration.
In the backfield, Watson has a dynamic one-two punch in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, with the latter being an excellent receiving outlet. This duo brings balance to the offense and allows for a heavy dose of play-action passing, which is a staple in the Kevin Stefanski system.
An overall stout offensive line only sweetens the deal for fantasy purposes. Cleveland still may not be done yet addressing the position in free agency, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Browns add depth in the upcoming draft with one of it’s few remaining selections.
Watson’s biggest enemy right now will be how hard the NFL comes down on him for off-the-field issues that won’t result in criminal proceedings but still have been enough of a black eye on the NFL’s image that it’s unlikely Roger Goodell and Co. can afford to let Watson escape some level of punishment. It’s really anyone’s guess as to how many games he will be docked, so until that side of things is resolved, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Watson is a midtier QB1 if he plays at least 14 or 15 games, but if a suspension cuts his season to, say, eight or nine contests, he’ll be a much tougher quarterback to draft in fantasy football leagues. Stay tuned!