Let’s Argue: Should the Browns Take Deshaun Watson?

Welcome to Let’s Argue, your weekly opportunity to be #MadOnline. The premise is simple: WFNY’s Mike Hattery and Jeff Nomina will present arguments — maybe just a question or a deep stat dive or a good old fashioned hot take. Then, they will either argue with each other or invite you to come argue with us. This week, Mike and Jeff are starting the argument, but don’t let that stop you for joining in the comment section or coming at us 140 characters at a time on Twitter @SnarkyHatman & @SportsNom.

Mike: The smokescreen around the NFL Draft and projecting players has reached full blast with everyone leaking inaccurate information, obsessing about small details which are likely irrelevant and  offering humorously myopic analysis of hand size. With the Browns sitting with picks Nos. 1 and 12 they appear likely to continue their endless search for a quarterback, perhaps having the opportunity to takes Myles Garrett and Deshaun Watson both. Watching Watson, his raw physical skills, his ability to make quick decisions, and his success against Alabama’s defense, which is somewhere just south of an NFL defense, he is my favorite quarterback prospect in the draft but the Browns could potentially take a transcendent talent in Garrett. As a Ryan Tannehill apologist, why should the Browns take a QB No. 1 overall?

Jeff: As someone who is a full blown Ryan Tannehill homer, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on quarterback talent. What I will speak on, is the opportunity cost of NOT taking a quarterback with this pick. Think about how hard it is to get the top pick. Remember how many games you had to blow for this to happen (thanks for that Phins game, by the way.) There’s so much (bad?) luck involved in getting the top pick. And the prize? The chance to take the top quarterback prospect.

So why would you pass on that? The entire point of this tear-down was to get the elite-level QB, right? I was told all season that ending up with someone like Ryan Tannehill was the worst-case scenario. Craig covered that here. And you know how you end up with someone like Ryan Tannehill? When you need a QB but aren’t in a position to draft one of the top prospects. Ask yourself, “How many games will the Browns win next year?” Is the answer enough that you won’t be picking in the top spot? The top three? The top five?

And beyond just where you’ll be picking, it’s about who will be available. What are the odds someone better than Deshaun Watson will be available at the fifth pick next year? The third pick? Even the top pick? To borrow from our Cavaliers tanking experience, sometimes Kyrie Irving is there, other times it’s Anthony Bennett. Watson may not be the perfect prospect, but in reality, no one is. If Watson is even close to a worthy pick at No. 1, the Browns should absolutely take him.

While I’ve been drawing hearts around Ryan Tannehill’s name, you’ve been putting in a bit of effort to watch Watson. Is he a prospect with a ceiling high enough to warrant this pick?

Mike: The opportunity cost argument is a fine one which should not be undervalued but teams must constantly balance value and opportunity cost. The Cavaliers example you posed is particularly interesting. Because the Cavalier’s failure was not based on a lack of of luck or fortune but rather upon prioritizing adding positional fit rather than the best talent available. Bennett is the ultimate hindsight draft conversation but even at the time the pick was shocking because of the amount of talent a tanking team was passing on. Rather than take Victor Oladipo (fit concerns with Kyrie/Dion), or Nerlens Noel (injury issues), the Cavs forced a pick based on “fit” with Anthony Bennett.

Further, the top prospect in the draft Myles Garrett brings the sort of dominating, disrupting pass rushing skills that have become essential and the key to anchoring a dominant defense. The Khalil Mack/Derek Carr model is an one which requires luck and design but perhaps the Browns have happened upon it. Draft a defensive player of the year candidate and then wield their second first round pick and a second to deal to grab Watson. This does not necessarily have to be one or the other.

In regard to Watson himself, I am very optimistic. Watson is one of these prospects who has been under review for so long that public evaluation dings him too much for dominating over multiple seasons. He is an elite athlete with a potent arm and the decision making skills to succeed in the NFL. Mark Schofield at Inside the Pylon wrote a fascinating article about how Watson’s decision making skills are probably underrated and he shows the ability quickly process information. Finally, in the biggest game of Watson’s college career after shredding an elite Ohio State defense, Watson had his way with the most talented defense in the country on the biggest stage. Watch his tape from the National Championship game again and try not to fall in love.

The whole interception ordeal while in some ways concerning is just a surface level ding. Jameis Winston had 28 intereceptions in 27 starts, Watson had 32 picks in 38 starts. I am not by any means comparing the two but noting that obsessing over this particular detail is myopic. Winston has great deep ball touch, fantastic athleticsim, a good frame and strong accuracy. For the Browns, Watson is a great gamble. But one question is raised, is it irrational to both love Watson and want the Browns to take Garrett No. 1 overall?

Jeff: I understand that argument, but disagree with it. To my point above; if Watson is the guy, then you take him. You don’t get cute, you don’t try to game the system. If there is a quarterback worth taking with the top pick and you have the top pick then use that top pick to take the quarterback that is worthy of that top pick. Especially in this draft, which appears to be flush with pass rushers. Is the difference between Watson and the likely third or fourth best quarterback smaller than the difference between Garrett and the third or fourth best pass rusher? I highly doubt it.

Understanding that comparing rebuilding styles isn’t a perfect science, you’re talking to a guy who is a Dolphins fan. I’ve watched Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake wreak havoc on teams for years. And then watch guys like Chad Henne and Jay Fiedler lose it for them. Your Raiders example makes sense, but finding a Carr later in the draft seems to be much more difficult than finding a Mack. Or at least being able to manufacture the type of pressure that Mack provides. Look at the Texans right now, for example. I’m guessing you guys don’t want to sit through a 1-15 season just to top out at the Houston Texans.

Getting the quarterback position settled just solves so many other issues. It puts the team on a course, it let’s you start evaluating that side of the ball, to build to those strengths. It shuts up annoying beat writers. Hell, if nothing else it just stops the constant buzz outside of the team (and likely within it) about who should start. And if you don’t capitalize now, what happens next year? Are you forced to take a lesser prospect because you have to find a quarterback? Are you forced to trade multiple assets for the 2018 version of Jimmy Garoppolo who is almost assuredly far less handsome? It just seems like passing on an opportunity like this puts a huge amount of urgency on the team down the road.

I just keep coming back to this: the Browns have the top pick this year. And odds are high they won’t next year.

Now, this all assumes the team put a high grade on Watson, of course. And if they didn’t, then obviously he shouldn’t be the pick. If they have a higher grade on another quarterback, by all means take him. If they don’t have a high grade on any of the quarterbacks? Then take Garrett, or anyone they have graded at that spot. But think long and hard about it, because these opportunities arise far less often than you think.

So let’s punt this to the readers. Is Watson worth the first pick? Can the Browns afford to pass on picking a QB this year? Is Garrett just too good of a prospect to pass up? Answer in the comments, on the Twitters, and in the poll below. We only have four more months of draft arguments, so time is of the essence.