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2017 NFL Draft: Houston Texans covet Clemson QB Deshaun Watson's intangibles

By The Sports Xchange
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2017 NFL Draft: Houston Texans covet Clemson QB Deshaun Watson's intangibles
Deshaun Watson poses for photographs after being selected by the Houston Texans as the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater in Philadelphia, PA on April 27, 2017. The 82nd NFL Draft returned to Philadelphia for the first time in more than 50 years and runs from April 27-29. Photo by Derik Hamilton/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON -- Deshaun Watson has maintained a firm grip on the crucial moment for years, mastering the art of dead-eyed poise and concentration no matter what chaos unfolded around him at the line of scrimmage.

Watson has always wanted the football in his hands at pivotal times, displaying rare leadership and intangibles to go along with his skills and athleticism.

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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney likened Watson's clutch nature and talents to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

"I feel like I'm a confident player," Watson said after joining the Houston Texans with the 12th overall pick. "I feel like I can do things that a lot of people can't do. I have that leadership and confidence to spread throughout the team. I can get the job done whenever it's needed, especially in those pressure situations."

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The Texans coveted Watson's attributes enough that they mortgaged a lot to land the Clemson star quarterback in the first round, pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns as they swapped their 25th overall pick and next year's first-round selection.

Watson is coming back to Houston, a few weeks after his official visit with the defending AFC South champions.

"It was surreal, man," Watson said during a conference call. "I just started crying and bawling out. It was amazing."

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Watson will undoubtedly be supremely motivated. Despite his accomplishments at the collegiate level -- defeating Alabama for the Tigers' first national championship in three decades, winning the Johnny Unitas and Manning awards while piling up 9,201 career passing yards, 83 touchdowns and just 29 interceptions with 1,744 rushing yards and 21 scores -- he was the third quarterback drafted overall.

Watson was far more decorated than the quarterbacks who preceded him Thursday night: Chicago Bears second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, a one-year starter for North Carolina, and Kansas City Chiefs 10th overall selection Patrick Mahomes, who played in a spread offense at Texas Tech. If Watson was fazed by going after Trubisky and Mahomes, he didn't let it show.

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"My emotions were good," Watson said. "I was having fun with the family, laughing and giggling."

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Now, Watson has the opportunity to prove whether his game will translate adeptly to the NFL and head coach Bill O'Brien's system. Watson will sign a fully guaranteed four-year, $13.9 million rookie contract that will include an $8.26 million signing bonus and a standard fifth-year team option.

Watson's visit with the Texans went extremely well, drawing praise from O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith for his leadership skills and ability to quickly absorb information about a complex playbook.

"I thought it was a big possibility," Watson said. "I knew they were very interested; but, with the draft having so much uncertainty, I didn't know what they were doing, if they were going offensive tackle or defense or quarterback."

Watson engineered a dramatic national championship victory over the Crimson Tide, connecting with wide receiver Hunter Renfrow with a quick, decisive spiral for the winning touchdown pass in the final moments.

Watson rose to the occasion once again, passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for an additional 43 yards and one score against Alabama. In consecutive national title games against Alabama, Watson combined for 825 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.

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"He's got that winning gene," Smith said. "That leadership, it's infectious."

However, Watson will have some adjustments to make at the NFL level.

He operated primarily out of the shotgun formation at Clemson. He wasn't in a classic pro-style attack and had several predetermined reads and the advantages of a lot of talent around him, including big wide receiver Mike Williams.

Watson threw 17 interceptions last season, frequently failing to recognize shifts in defensive schemes designed specifically to confuse him.

"Just watch the film," Watson said of any doubters. "The film doesn't lie. The arm strength -- that speaks for itself. The Texans know the type of player and quarterback that I am."

Tom Savage is the projected starter and Watson will be groomed behind him. The Texans also have veteran Brandon Weeden as a backup.

"All I need to do is put my head down, don't say anything, learn from all the veterans, learn from Tom Savage, learn from Brandon Weeden and just play my role," Watson said. "Whatever my role is help the team win."

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