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Over the next few weeks, we will ask our staff a single question on a variety of topics ranging from a huge news event to a tough fantasy decision or player evaluation.
If you like this format, come back tomorrow for another Question of the Day. Today, we'll kick things off with Deshaun Watson's 2023 outlook.
Will the 2023 version of Deshaun Watson be closer to his 2020 (when he was an elite fantasy option) or 2022 (when he wasn't anything close to a quality fantasy option)? Why?
Here's a quick glance at the answers:
- Closer to 2020 - 13 votes
- Closer to 2022 - 2 votes
And here are the full answers. Enjoy!
Christian Williams: I'm projecting Watson to be closer to his 2020 form, if only because it'd be difficult for a once-MVP candidate to remain in the lows of his 2022 performance. Many factors contributed to the poor play last year, from rustiness after missing more than an entire season to the shell-defense renaissance when he was away. Still, a full offseason within the Browns offense - one more tailored to his skill set instead of Kevin Stefanski's preferences - and the addition of critical offensive talent should get better production from the divisive quarterback. His range of outcomes may not include the heights he reached in 2020, but Watson should perform better in 2023.
Dave Kluge: I expect Deshaun Watson’s 2023 to look closer to his 2020 season than his 2022 season. There aren't many instances of a historically-gifted player joining a new team mid-season after over a year off from football. I'm willing to throw away last year, putting more weight on Watson's three and a half years in Houston over his half-season in Cleveland. During his time with the Texans, Watson was a perennial top-five fantasy producer. Another year to acclimate with the offense, along with improved pass-catchers, should get him back on track for 2023.
Sam Wagman: I absolutely think that Deshaun Watson can have a 2023 stat line that is similar to his 2020 season instead of 2022. Between Watson's 11-game suspension and getting acclimated to a brand-new system last season, I'm willing to give him a pass as far as how rusty he looked. He has shown himself to be able to carry an entire offensive unit on his shoulders and now gets a solid one in Cleveland. Between a solid running game, an above-average offensive line, and a wide receiver room that includes a handful of weapons, Watson is set to produce at a high level in 2023.
Jason Wood: I'm projecting Watson to be closer to 2022 than 2020, although that's not necessarily a condemnation of the quarterback. I agree with my peers that what we saw last year is almost assuredly a career-worst, and there's no reason to think the elite productivity we saw in Houston is gone forever. Watson was the NFL's all-time leader in passer rating (over Aaron Rodgers at No. 2) going into last season. But I don't expect him to improve enough to approach 2020 when he was the No. 5 fantasy quarterback on a per-game basis. Kevin Stefanski's system differs from what Watson enjoyed in Houston, and the personnel differs. In three seasons as Cleveland's head coach, the Browns have been near the bottom of the league in passing percentage: 2020 (52.2% of plays), 2021 (54.0%), and 2022 (52.3%), whereas the 2020 Texans threw 64.4% of the time.
Ben Cummins: While I believe it will be somewhere in the middle, I lean closer to the successful version of the quarterback we saw in 2020. It’s easy to forget because it’s been so long but Deshaun Watson was truly special in 2020. He ranked first in yards per pass attempt (8.8), ninth in pass touchdowns per game (2), 11th in touchdown percent (5.9), fourth in completion percent (70.1), and seventh in interception percent (1.2). Prior to his extreme legal troubles, Watson was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That certainly was not the same player we saw on the field last season. In 2022, Watson threw for just 183.7 passing yards per game and only 7 touchdowns compared to 5 interceptions. But Watson had last year to shake off the rust and hopefully get his mind right mentally and morally. Now, he has the full offseason as the locked-in starting quarterback to build momentum.
Ryan Weisse: Can I say neither? Let's not forget that 2020 was a weird season. Putting it bluntly, Watson is not completing 70% of his passes or throwing for 4800 yards and 33 touchdowns again. That was who the Texans needed him to be. The Browns don't. That said, he should certainly be better than what we saw last year, and his rushing upside cannot be discounted. He could push toward the Top 10 at the position, but he will not hit the Top 5.
Kevin Coleman: I expect Watson to be closer to his 2020 version of himself than his 2022 version. The Browns have the weapons, coaching staff, and potential offensive scheme changes to support Watson's success as a fantasy asset. If the team embraces a more pass-heavy approach and incorporates Watson's mobility into their weekly game plan, he has the potential to surpass expectations and become an elite fantasy quarterback in 2023.
Andy Hicks: Watson will be closer to his 2020 form than 2022. He won’t be all the way back just yet, but progress has to start somewhere. Once he is in sync with his receivers and comfortable in the offense, good performances will come. His best may not be seen in 2023, but it will be ascendant from a disastrous but necessary downturn in 2022.
Phil Alexander: Watson's final stat line will resemble 2020 more than 2022, meaning he's more likely to finish closer to QB4 than QB25. However, that leaves a wide range of potential outcomes. While I can forgive Watson for last year's performance after a distracting scandal and long layoff, the 2020 Texans and 2023 Browns are like apples and oranges. In 2020, Houston allowed 29 points per game and ranked 31st in team rushing yards. The 2022 Browns, on the other hand, allowed 22 points per game and had a top-5 rushing attack, both of which seem repeatable this season. A path for Watson to lead the league in passing yards, as he did in 2020, doesn't exist in Cleveland. Fortunately, his rushing ability and supporting cast should place him inside the top-10 quarterbacks most weeks. If you pass on quarterbacks early, he's a fine starter for your fantasy team.
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