Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after Clemson defeated Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship, in Tampa, Florida on January 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- So much for low expectations.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson's stock skyrocketed after leading the Clemson Tigers to a national championship earlier this month against Alabama. It's so high now that the gunslinger is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, according to some experts. That would mean that the 1-15 Cleveland Browns would have the first swipe at the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
The Browns, who have relentlessly failed at picking up a quality gunslinger in the last decade-plus, could pass on him in favor of many other team needs. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told Pro Football Talk on Tuesday that passing on his guy would be a huge mistake.
"He's humble, the same guy every day, and always ready," Swinney told PFT. "He comes to every meeting prepared. That's how you change things, you change the culture, through — for me it's through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it's decision-making, it's who you pick. And I'm just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they're passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don't know what the heck I'm talking about, I'm just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot."
Ironically, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers each passed on taking Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. While the Rockets ultimately selected Hall of Famer Akeem Olajuwon, the Blazers ended up with Sam Bowie.
Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is currently the favorite for the top pick in the draft.
The Browns are expected to start Robert Griffin III next season, after signing him in March to a two-year pact. Since drafting Tim Couch with the top pick in the 1999 draft, the position has been a revolving door of mediocrity for the Browns. The franchise has started 27 quarterbacks since Couch.
Watson, 21, completed 814-of-1,207 passes for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions in three seasons with the Tigers. He also ran for 1,934 yards and 26 touchdowns on 435 carries.
Drafting Garrett is obviously no sure thing for the Browns, as the team asked Watson to play in this week's Senior Bowl, presumably to see more of his arsenal. Browns coach Hue Jackson didn't seem to mind that Watson declined the request.
"There are going to be other guys that are not participating either, so I won't hold it against him," Jackson told cleveland.com. "I don't think that's the right thing to do. He's still a draftable player, there's still a process we have to go through to evaluate him and see if he can fit here with the Cleveland Browns."
The 2017 NFL draft is set for April 27 to April 29 in Philadelphia. Cleveland holds the No. 1 and No. 12 overall selections. Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer are the other top options at quarterback in this draft class.