It seems like forever ago that DeShaun Watson was a hot commodity in the dynasty world. Watson was on top of the fantasy world after a breakout 2020 season. As we all know, his off-the-field situation turned an ugly eye toward Watson as a person and dynasty asset. Now with Cleveland Browns in the most guaranteed contract in football. Whether or not you wish to give Watson another chance, can he be the sneakiest elite quarterback you can buy into for 2023?
Super Star Days
Watson spent the years of 2018 to 2020 at a superstar level for us in fantasy football. He would have top-five fantasy finishes each of those three seasons. He would average 4,200 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns over these three seasons. Watson had the weapons of DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks, and Will Fuller over those three seasons. Even after losing Hopkins before the 2020 season, Watson would have his best season as a passer. He would explode for 4,800 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns.
Another thing that made Watson a star was his rushing ability. While he wasn’t rushing to the level of Lamar Jackson, he was averaging 460 rushing yards each season, along with five rushing touchdowns per season. Watson was an elite option at quarterback for any dynasty roster.
That 2022 Season
Watson would go on to missed miss a year and 3/4 of football due to off-field issues. It was clear whether it was a character thing or not being on the field that Watson’s dynasty value had fallen, and no one saw him as that elite quarterback option. Watson would get on the field in week 12 of the 2022 season, and it was not pretty.
In his first four games back, he would be QB25 during that span and throw over 200 yards just once. It was clear Watson had some rust to get off him, as he wasn’t rushing or throwing many touchdowns. There was hope in the final two games that he could rebound, as he was QB11 in Weeks 16 and 17. He would throw five touchdowns over that span and look like a more confident quarterback. If we compare his advance numbers to his 2020 season, it is clear that Watson dealt with some accuracy issues. His numbers were dramatically down compared to that elite season. He wasn’t throwing downfield as much as his yards per attempt dropped from 8.9 (league high) to 6.5. He did not look like the same quarterback he was during those early years.
2023 Outlook for Dynasty
Watons is in a make-or-break season for his NFL career and dynasty career. The Browns are going to have to decide whether or not to continue to keep their top 10 rushing unit as the main focal point of the offense. In the last three seasons, the Browns have been in the league’s bottom half as a passing unit. In 2022 it was the best season for the passing offense, so it’s heading in the right direction with Watson at quarterback. Watson is the type of quarterback who can change the Browns’ offense into a strong unit.
If we take Watson 17 game pace based on his poor numbers, he still would have managed to finish as QB 11/12 range in fantasy football in 2022. Those numbers have him throwing 3,122 yards and 23 total touchdowns. If Watson can get back to 4,000 yards and 30 total touchdowns, then Watson has the potential for a top-seven fantasy season. You see the floor that he can still be produced as a high-end QB2 in fantasy football.
Watson has the weapons around him that give him the most complete team he has ever had during his NFL career. Plus, he has the offseason he didn’t have with the Browns last year. Last season, Watson couldn’t practice with the team and be involved until about two weeks before he was reinstated. We saw an excellent glimpse of him during the preseason, going 3/3 and 12 passing yards plus 20 rushing yards.
Regarding dynasty start-ups, you could get a steal with Watson as your QB1. Watson is going in the early second round in ADP start-ups. He has the same upside as the quarterbacks that go in the first six picks, but you’ll get him in the second round with an elite skilled player you could also grab.
- Josh Allen for Kendre Miller, DeShaun Watson & 2024 1st
- Justin Herbert for DeShaun Watson & 2023 1st
- Daniel Jones & Zach Charbonnet & DeShaun Watson
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba for DeShaun Watson
The cost to get Watson is a bit more pricey than getting trades done. Watson is risky because we aren’t sure the potential upside comes back. All these trades are bargains for the Browns’ quarterback if he shows top-five potential. Currently, the top two trades will be more complicated for me to give up proven elite quarterbacks like Allen and Herbert. In my opinion, giving up Jones and Charbonnet for Watson is a no-brainer. I’m still not sold on Jones, and I know Watson has the potential to be elite. JSN is challenging because many love his potential, but I’d rather have an elite quarterback play in a Superflex league.
Watson comes with some risk that he’ll never bounce back to be the player he was back in 2020. I think he has a great shot to bounce back due to the incredible talent surrounding him. Watson has the athletic traits to be a 400 to 500-yard rusher, as he has shown us. That trait alone gives Watson a real shot to be a top-10 dynasty quarterback again. Due to his contract, I’d expect the Browns to ride out the next four years of his contract, so expect Watson to be a starting quarterback. The time to buy him low before he returns to elite play again.
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