There's no denying the Cleveland Browns believe in Deshaun Watson. That's why they not only mortgaged their future in a blockbuster trade to add him to their roster but they were willing to take a massive PR hit in the process.
Watson was traded by the Houston Texans while having more than 20 accusations of sexual misconduct lingering. Once it was said there would be no criminal charges, teams made offers but they all knew he was facing a lengthy suspension.
Cleveland ended up winning the sweepstakes and after an 11-game suspension, he was able to appear in the final six games. However, the rust was evident and he led the Browns to just a 3-3 record.
Now heading into 2023, there are many who believe the Watson we saw in 2022 is the Watson we will see from now on. But that's not exactly the case with Pro Football Focus. While Sam Monson admitted he has no idea how good Watson will be, he still ranked Watson 13th overall entering the year.
"Maybe the hardest player to rank on the list, Watson has one of the widest ranges of outcomes in the NFL. He finished 2022 with just a 55.3 overall PFF grade after returning from suspension and didn’t noticeably improve as one does if they are just shaking off the rust. In his last full season with Houston (2020), he earned a 92.5 PFF grade and was one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I have no earthly idea how good Watson will be in 2023, and neither does anybody else."- Monson, PFF
On the list, Watson comes in ahead of Derek Carr of the New Orleans Saints but right behind Matthew Stafford and Tua Tagovailoa. Of the 12 quarterbacks ranked ahead of him, Tua feels like the only real reach — but he took a leap this past year when the talent around him improved. Looking at the roster Cleveland put together, the same could happen for Watson.
Still, it feels like a fair ranking since it takes into account the fact that Watson has previously proven himself to be one of the best in the game while still admitting he needs to show 2022 was simply him knocking off the rust.
The good news for him is that Cleveland has done a tremendous job building the roster around him. All the pieces are in place and he now just has to go out there and perform.