The 2016 NFL draft has been over for less than 72 hours, but a clear favorite has already emerged for the top pick in the 2017 draft.
That player is Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
A quick search for 2017 mock drafts has Watson dominating the top spot, often going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 1 overall.
From Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:
“Cody Kessler is not your quarterback of the future,” Miller wrote. “He’s there as a smart, accurate deep-ball thrower who will serve as a solid backup to Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III this season. The future will come in 2017 when Deshaun Watson enters the draft.”
Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus agreed, mocking Watson to Cleveland at No. 1.
“Before the 2015 season, we asked if Watson was the best quarterback prospect in all of college football,” Palazzolo said. “While Cal’s Jared Goff likely surpassed him in that department, Watson’s all-around tools are difficult to match. He has the strong arm to drive the ball into tight windows, though it’s his touch on two-level throws that impresses most. There’s still room to grow from a quarterbacking standpoint as he can learn to get through his reads better and his accuracy wanes at times, but Watson is poised for a huge season and he’s the early favorite to be the first quarterback off the board. The Browns waited to invest heavily in a new franchise quarterback and that may pay off next year.”
In fact, just about everyone agrees.
“Watson is extremely gifted and if he is able to develop in certain areas and stay healthy, he will be one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2017 class,” Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote in his mock, which sent Watson to Cleveland.
“Watson’s career arc has him hurtling toward the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 pick in the draft,” SB Nation’s Dan Kadar said, while also giving the Clemson quarterback to the Browns. “Beyond his deep-ball accuracy, he is an impressive prospect.”
Other potential top picks include Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, Texas A&M linebacker Myles Garnett, Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson, Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson and LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
But there’s no denying Watson’s momentum at this (very, very, very) early point in the process.
As a sophomore last year, Watson completed almost 68 percent of his passes, with 35 touchdowns (plus another 12 rushing) and 13 interceptions. He totaled over 5,200 yards of offense, including over 1,100 rushing yards, while Clemson finished 13-0 and advanced to the national championship game.
Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, coming in behind Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Often times, the No. 1 pick at this point isn’t the top pick when the actual draft comes around. But Watson—with his rare abilities at the game’s most important position—has a real chance to hold his ground as the top pick throughout the process.