With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at one of the most electrifying rookie quarterbacks the league has ever seen.
Deshaun Watson Is One of the Most Dangerous Quarterbacks of All Time
The Texans were fresh off hanging 38 points on the Legion of Boom when disaster struck: Deshaun Watson would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Watson’s coming-out party in Seattle cemented his status as the most-dangerous quarterback in daily fantasy: Since 2015, Watson’s $9,600 and $8,100 salaries on FanDuel and DraftKings, respectively, have been matched only by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Overall, Watson’s six starts produced position-high averages of 29.4 DraftKings and 28.4 FanDuel points per game, +13.01 and +11.73 respective Plus/Minuses, and 100% Consistency Ratings on each site. Watson did this with the league’s 30th-ranked offensive line in adjusted sack rate (Football Outsiders), little proven receiving help outside of DeAndre Hopkins, and a career-worst version of Lamar Miller.
If elevating your teammates is the definition of valuable, there’s no question Watson was 2017’s MVP.
Texans with/without Deshaun Watson starting in 2017:
Hopkins PPR: 21.1/20.5
Fuller PPR: 21/4.9
Miller PPR: 14.9/9.9
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 9, 2018
The Public and Vegas Alike Don’t Expect a Crash Back to Reality
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien noted Watson’s recovery was ahead of schedule, and the second-year quarterback said he won’t change his game in wake of the injury. The latter point in particular is great news for fantasy investors. It’s hard to find a quarterback with a more fantasy-friendly workload: Watson averaged the second-most deep (20-plus yard) attempts (5.7) and the fourth-most rushing attempts (5.1) per game among all quarterbacks in 2017.
When the dust settled, Watson’s 0.73 fantasy points per dropback (per Pro Football Focus) placed him in rarefied territory:
Only 3 QBs have averaged at least 0.7 fantasy points per dropback in a season from 2007-2017 (PFF, min 25% snaps)
2012 rookie-year RG3
2013 27 TDs/2 INT Nick Foles
2015 CaMVP Newton
… and 2017 Deshaun Watson
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 9, 2018
Dual-threat quarterbacks with both the willingness and ability to stretch the field vertically force defenses to account for every last bit of the 57,600-square-foot field. It’s not surprising these players have doubled as fantasy’s biggest rock stars; rushing attempts and deep attempts each carry a relatively strong positive correlation with fantasy points per dropback.
The Texans possess the tools to work as one of the league’s best offenses, and Watson’s gunslinger mentality makes for some truly breathtaking moments when they have all hands on deck:
In 4 games with each of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller healthy …
Texans points : 57, 34, 33, 38 = 40.5 PPG
Watson: 1,171 passing yards, 9.44 Y/A, 16/5 TD/INT
Nuk: 39 targets, 24-402-6
Fuller: 22 targets, 13-279-7 pic.twitter.com/WNfeio5zwM
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 11, 2018
While Watson appeared in just seven games, his performance has rightfully led to plenty of optimism around the Texans. BetOnline currently has their 2018 win total set at 9.5 (-180 lean on the under), which marks the team’s highest win total since 2013. Warren Sharp believes the Texans face the softest schedule in the league. The Texans’ lack of a first- or second-round draft pick didn’t prevent them from improving their interior offensive line in free agency, so it’s feasible Watson has a more competent supporting cast this time around.
The public appears to expect an encore performance from Watson as well, with his average draft position sitting at QB2 at sites like Fantasy Football Calculator and DRAFT as of this writing.
A Repeat of 2017 Would Place Watson in a League of His Own
Watson is one of just nine quarterbacks ever to start at least six games and average over 24 fantasy points per game, joining:
- Cam Newton (2015)
- Peyton Manning (2013)
- Drew Brees (2011)
- Aaron Rodgers (2011)
- Michael Vick (2010)
- Tom Brady (2007)
- Steve Young (1998)
- George Blanda (1961)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney compared Watson to Michael Jordan, and — in fantasy, at least — it’s yet to be determined whether that statement truly is crazy or not.
Pictured above: Deshaun Watson takes the ceremonial first free throw prior to the game between the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards at Toyota Center.
Photo credit: Erik Williams – USA TODAY Sports