Is the Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson still a Top 10 quarterback in the league?

The Cleveland Browns gave up a king’s ransom for Deshaun Watson but is he still worth the price?

Despite what some may say in the blogosphere, no Deshuan Watson did not have an acceptable 2022 season for the Cleveland Browns. You can argue every which way you want about that, but the facts stand, he played poorly. Was it the layoff? Maybe. Though he was in Cleveland since the spring, so it wasn’t like he wasn’t properly prepared. Was it the coaching? Probably, the opinion of Kevin Stefanski has plummeted since 2020.

Was it the talent around him? Hopefully not, as there’s no guarantee the Browns got better in that area, only that they are now different. Or was it the mental aspect, the constantly being booed, the idea that Watson was the worst human being in the league, and the constant critiques of his behavior for the better part of a year?

Yea, it was that. The psychological impact does not get enough respect. Watson did some heinous things, and ironically, he has been one of the more exposed athletes in all of sports due to what he did. He’s under more scrutiny than maybe anyone else, and for good reason. If you don’t think that will impact how you perform, you are sorely mistaken. The mental side of athletics may be more important than the physical, just ask Chuck Knoblauch.

So, after a year to forget, is Watson still seen as a Top 10 quarterback in the league? According to PFF, no.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is not a Top 10 quarterback anymore

Sam Monson of PFF compiled the top quarterbacks in the league who are expected to start the season for their teams. In his ranking, he ranked Watson at just 13th, saying;

13. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

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.

And Monson isn’t wrong in his evaluation. The problem with Watson isn’t so much about the talent around him, he’s succeeded with worse, it’s wondering what the impact of the time off will actually do to the man. Right now the conversation is very much about what long-term layoffs do to the athletic ability of a superstar athlete.

We saw Le’Veon Bell go from an All-Pro, Pro Bowl running back, to being washed up at just 27. Now, running backs do age poorly but even for running backs, going from All-Pro to washed after just one missed season seems rough.

We also see similar things in mixed martial arts, where guys, usually are unable to find their prior form after long hiatus from the cage. The most recent example is Henry Cejudo. Now, there are always outliers, like George St. Pierre, but their success only proves the hypothesis that it’s nearly impossible for an athlete to take considerable time off and return to their prior form. At least, initially.

Watson is an unknown variable for 2023.