CLEMSON, S.C. – All indications are that former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson didn’t hurt his draft stock at the Tigers’ pro day on Thursday.
Or at least that’s what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney seemed to think about it.
Despite who may say or think differently, Swinney said Watson “won’t be sitting there long” when the NFL draft begins later this month.
“Don’t buy all the stuff you hear,” Swinney said. “He won’t be there long. He’ll be out the gate early. But wherever he goes? He’s really not worried about it, I promise you. He’s not worried about any of that stuff. He’s just anxious to see where the good Lord takes him. Wherever he goes, he’s going to bloom where he’s planted and be great.”
Swinney again also doubled down on comments from January, in which he said that the Cleveland Browns, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, were “passing on Michael Jordan” if they didn’t take Watson.
“I don’t know how to articulate the kind of greatness that’s inside of him,” Swinney said. “For me, that’s what Michael Jordan represents, because that’s what I grew up with. I’m sure when Michael Jordan was coming out of North Carolina, his 3-pointer probably wasn’t very good, he probably had some flaws and whatever when you start poking holes on him. It’s who he was. It’s that will and drive. You can’t coach that.”
During the pro day, Watson completed 54 of 62 passes inside Clemson’s indoor practice facility, both from the shotgun and under center. His passes were thrown to tight end Jordan Leggett, running back Wayne Gallman and wide receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams.
Watson, though, did not run the 40-yard dash.
All 32 NFL teams had scouts and evaluators on hand at the pro day – many of whom were likely there to watch Watson specifically – including four NFL head coaches in the Chicago Bears’ John Fox, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, Detroit Lions’ Jim Caldwell and Tennessee Titans’ Mike Mularkey.
And though Watson is expected to be a first-round pick, he may not be the first quarterback selected with North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer also contending for that right.
According to Swinney, Watson already has proven his worth as the top quarterback in the draft and the one who should be picked first.
“He’s the national champion,” Swinney said. “He’s the back-to-back Davey O’Brien (Award winner), back-to-back Manning (Award winner) and back-to-back finalist for the Heisman (Trophy). He’s a winner and the production speaks for itself. But it’s also the things that you don’t see. It’s what’s inside him, it’s what’s in between his ears and it’s the type of young man he is. He’s the complete package. He’s got it all.
“He’s chemistry, day one; he’s leadership, day one; he changes the locker room, day one; he impacts free agency, day one; he makes everybody better, day one; and he makes the coaches better, day one. He’s an unbelievable young man, who is incredibly gifted.”
But Watson also will have to adjust to playing in a pro-style offense in the NFL after playing in a spread offense at Clemson.
In order to help at least partially with that, he has been working with Jordan Palmer, a former NFL quarterback and the brother of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, as his quarterback coach in preparation for the draft.
“I think today was just Thursday for him,” Palmer said. “I’ve worked with some guys that are drafted real high, and they’re real nervous on pro day. It’s a big day. But I think that’s why he’s so cool in the national championship and those types of situations.”
During his preparation for the draft, Watson also has worked out personally in front of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and veteran offensive coach Norv Turner.
“When I’ve had some big time guys come out (to watch him), those are his best days,” Palmer said.
Watson made five starts as a true freshman in 2014, then served in the role on a full-time basis the past two seasons before opting to declare for the NFL draft. He led Clemson to a national championship win over Alabama this past season.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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