As much as we like to pretend like fantasy football is one and the same with regular football, they’re totally different. Without a doubt, the biggest difference is the quarterback position. In the NFL, you can’t win without a good one. But in fantasy football, the quarterback has medium importance at best. Real NFL teams will reach for a quarterback early in the draft if they need one, but in fantasy football, you’d be foolish to take a quarterback before the 4th or 5th round. But what if you had to take a quarterback with your first pick in a fantasy draft? Who would it be? Well, the answer is Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Obviously, Watson isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL. In fact, you’d have a hard time fitting him into your top-10. However, as he heads into his third season as a pro, Watson the kind of upside that could potentially justify taking him in the 1st round of a fantasy draft without everyone else in the league thinking that you’re completely out of your mind.
If you go back to his rookie season, Watson looked like the next great star, not all that different from Patrick Mahomes in 2018. In just seven games (six starts), Watson threw 19 touchdown passes, throwing one in 9.3% of his passes while averaging over 240 yards per game. Of course, that’s an insane rate that no quarterback could keep up for an entire season. But those half-dozen games were a glimpse into what Watson is capable of doing.
It would have been a little unfair to expect Watson to pick up where he left off after the serious knee injury that ended his 2017 season early. He didn’t quite set the league ablaze, even if he helped guide the Texans to a record of 11-5 and a spot in the playoffs. But there was a lot to like about Watson’s 2018 season. He ended up with over 4,100 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes. He also improved his completion percentage to 68.3%, up more than six points from his rookie campaign.
Now that he’s nearly two years removed from his knee injury, it’s reasonable to expect Watson to continue to take steps forward. He doesn’t have any rust to shake off like he did a year ago and he’s not thinking about his injured knee in the back of his head. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a dynamic trio of wide receivers around him. DeAndre Hopkins is the safety net that all quarterbacks need to succeed. But Will Fuller and Keke Coutee have also shown that they can make plays down the field. Given Watson’s arm strength, he can take full advantage of having all three of those receivers on the field together, leading to a lot of long pass plays and a lot of touchdowns.
Perhaps equally important, Watson is a running threat. Mobility, while not essential to win games, is practically a prerequisite for quarterbacks putting up gaudy fantasy numbers. In 16 games last season, Watson ran for over 500 yards and five touchdowns, averaging over five yards every time he took off and used his legs. There’s no reason why he can’t match or exceed that same productivity in 2019, especially since his surgically repaired knee will be less of an issue than it was early last season.
To be fair, Mahomes led all players in fantasy points during his breakout 2018 season. But replicating over 5,000 yards passing and 50 touchdown passes will be difficult, especially with the entire league undoubtedly poring over film all summer looking for ways to slow him down. Meanwhile, Watson was a top-10 fantasy player last year with plenty of room to grow this season. We’ve yet to see the best out of Watson, and given his ability to rack up fantasy points with both his arm and his legs, he has the most fantasy upside among quarterbacks and is the quarterback most deserving of a 1st-round selection in fantasy drafts.