Deshaun Watson, the National Championship, and the NFL Draft

(John Bazemore/Associated Press)

In case you were busy watching The Bachelor, there was a semi-important game Monday night. No, it wasn’t any NBA or NHL game, it was a game between players who don’t technically get paid. In the College Football Playoff title game, the Clemson Tigers took on the Alabama Crimson Tide. To say that the game was an instant classic would be an understatement. While Clemson prevailed 35-31 on a last-second touchdown, what stood out the most was just how good Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson really is.

After losing to Alabama in the 2016 title game, Watson and the rest of the Tigers had revenge on their minds this time around. While leading Clemson to their first national title in 35 years, the redshirt junior completed 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns while adding 21 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown against arguably the best defense in the history of college football. Watson produced for his team on the biggest stage when it mattered most. With the Tigers trailing 24-14 entering the fourth quarter,1 No. 4 showcased under college football’s brightest spotlight. In the final quarter, Watson’s offense scored 21 points, a total that was more than Alabama’s defense has allowed in entire games 12 other times this season.

Whether it was to make plays with his feet or arm, Clemson’s offense leaned on Watson for the majority of the game. He had two go-ahead touchdown drives in the final five minutes and put his body on the line through the entire game.

Whether it was helmet-crunching or bone-tingling hits or going all out to help his team win, Watson showed how a true leader should lead his team. Hit after hit, he continued to battle even with the full weight of his team on his shoulders. Toughness is hard to teach, and it seems as though Watson has the ideal toughness that successful NFL players have. The Heisman Trophy finalist’s team didn’t lead in the national title game until there was one second remaining in the game, but who’s counting really. All that matters is the score when the clock hits double-zero.

Following an impressive career at Clemson that consisted of almost 10,000 passing yards, 2,000 rushing yards, and 112 total touchdowns, Watson couldn’t have played any better in his final college game while bringing a national title back to the Tigers for the first time in 35 years. He not only is one of the main reasons why Clemson was able to win the national title, but he proved that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country as well.

Now the question is, was the performance enough for Watson to be selected with the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft? Do the Browns believe Watson is a franchise quarterback? Only time will tell, but after tonight’s performance, Watson—who has been previously criticized for his decision making and inconsistency—proved he can be counted on on the biggest stage. Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer may have better intangibles, Mitch Trubisky may have the size and local ties, but Watson proved Monday night that he is a damn good quarterback. He’s not only a quarterback who can use his feet or arm to make plays, but his all-around playmaking ability will help the Browns tremendously with his all-around tools.

  1. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide were 97-0 when leading by double-digits entering the final quarter []