Deshaun Watson landing spots - Fantasy Implications
Deshaun Watson is the big QB domino potentially waiting to fall this offseason. Below are the 5 teams top of the list trying to put to bed their quarterback nightmares and bring in the wantaway Texan.
New York Jets
Odds – 5/1 Weapons – 3/10 Fit – 5/10
The New York Jets from a draft capital point of view stand right near the top of the list – alongside the Miami Dolphins – for being able to offer a boat load of picks to the Texans in exchange for Watson. Sources in the last few days have confirmed that the Jets are one of three teams that Watson would approve a trade to, the others being the Dolphins and the Panthers. Lets take a look at the fantasy impact of landing the big fish.
The Jets currently have the weakest array of weapons on offer out of the top 5 teams. In fact in terms of talent it would be a step down for Watson who was able to hook up with Will Fuller for some big performances last season. There is positives though and they have a future star in the making already on the roster in Denzel Mims. A 2nd round pick out of Baylor in 2020, Mims showed flashes of what an outstanding wide receiver he can be in this league and I really feel he can be a future No.1 for this franchise. He’s already a big dynasty buy for me and if Watson lands in New York his value will immediately rise in anticipation of the two hitting it off for years to come.
Looking at the Jets running back room it’s much the same, underwhelming. Frank Gore & Josh Adams departed as free agents, leaving La’Mical Perine & Ty Johnson as the lone backs on the roster. They can’t go into 2021 without upgrading at this position and the most likely outcome is they makes a move or two during free agency. Whichever free agent lands in New York with Deshaun Watson gets a friendly boost in value being tied to a top 5 dynasty asset.
Watson’s value here initially takes a bit of a hit landing on the Jets (poor offensive line that needs improvements, weak at receiver & running back) but they are a franchise on the up and with the second most cap space in the league undoubtedly Watson would be given some shiny new weapons this offseason.
Odds – 5/2 Weapons – 8/10 Fit – 9/10
My favourite landing spot from a fantasy perspective.
Watson’s arrival would spark memories of the Cam Newton era of the not-too-distant past. Newton was a fantasy cheat code in his peak with his rushing ability, Deshaun Watson brings all of this to his new team. The Panthers are reportedly interested in pursuing Watson aggressively, so let’s look at what impact it would have for fantasy.
DJ Moore – The arrow would be pointing so high for DJ Moore, who quietly had an efficient fantasy year topping the 1,000 yark mark for the second year in a row. His performances seemed to have gone under the radar with team-mate Robby Anderson stealing the headlines, especially in the early part of the season. People forget that DJ Moore is still just 23 years old and potentially has a long way to go until he reaches his peak. He’s a huge buy for me this offseason with the anticipation of a QB upgrade and Deshaun Watson is the biggest of upgrades you can ask for.
Robby Anderson actually finished the season 4 spots higher in the PPR fantasy rankings than Moore at 19. He was undoubtedly Teddy Bridgewater’s favourite target in this offense which you might assume would negatively impact Anderson’s production with a new QB, but luckily enough for him Curtis Samuel is slated to move on free agency so there’s more targets (97) to go round.
Christian McCaffrey – Quite rightly still the number 1 pick in most 1QB start ups. McCaffery suffered horrendous luck in the 2020 campaign, only playing in 3 games but remarkably scored 6 TDs in those 3 contests. With the arrival of Watson this whole offense is elevated to elite levels and even with a rushing quarterback McCaffrey will remain the number 1 option at the position regardless of the likely small drop off in rushing attempts. Watson’s rushing ability opens up lanes that may not have been there with the less mobile Bridgewater. It also may help McCaffrey stay healthier with the fact he’s not always the focal point of the team; he doesn’t have to pound the rock to keep this offense ticking with Deshaun Watson under center.
Deshaun Watson can take the next step to becoming the number 1 fantasy QB on a team like Carolina.
Odds – 7/2 Weapons – 6/10 Fit – 7/10
One team with the ability to make the move – but a move I feel is less likely – is the Miami Dolphins. The AFC East team who narrowly missed the playoffs in 2020 have come on leaps and bounds and now look like a team capable of challenging for playoffs and beyond in 2021 onwards.
The Miami Dolphins sit in the middle of the pack for current weapons at receiver and running back. One receiver who can benefit the most would be veteran DeVante Parker who suffered a down year in 2020. In 2019 Parker was found on a lot of championship winning rosters, surprising most people on his way to huge 1200+ yard season with 9 touchdown catches. For whatever reason he didn’t hit it off with rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa though and concerns about Parker’s production are present again for 2021. If Watson was under center there would be fresh hopes of another push to become a WR1 for Parker.
The wide receiver two on the team is currently Preston Williams entering his 3rd season in the NFL, although only featuring in 16 out of a possible 32 games. Williams has shown flashes of his true potential in both seasons but then shortly afterwards having his season ended early due to injury. Many expect Miami to grab their top receiver off the board with the 1st of their two 1st round picks but if a move for Watson is made these picks will most likely be involved in the deal.
The running back production was surprisingly efficient given the lack of a star name at the position with Miles Gaskin and later on Salvon Ahmed providing some decent fantasy performances. The Dolphins are likely adding to this group in free agency with Packers Aaron Jones hotly tipped to be top of the Dolphins wish list. A pairing of Watson & Jones would be mouth watering for Dolphin fans and fantasy owners.
The Dolphins offensive line was very young featuring three rookies in 2020 and finished very low by analysts final grades. But they will surely take a step forward in year 2 with a proper offseason under their belts. Watson to Miami would undoubtedly be an upgrade from Houston and his fantasy value would push him further toward the top of the rankings.
San Francisco 49ers
Odds – 9/2 Weapons – 9/10 Fit – 7/10
This fit would be scary for the rest of the NFC. If the Buccaneers can build a super team in Tampa then why can’t the 49ers with Watson in San Francisco? Well for this to practically work then the 49ers would likely have to move on one or two star names, but from a fantasy point of view it would be terrifying.
Looking at their offensive weapons. It is a ridiculous array of young star receivers and a tight end as good as they come. You have to start with George Kittle who many call the top tight end in the league and a guy who can do it all. Watson to Kittle is just a dream pairing as much as Mahomes to Kelce is, this would be hard to stop. Watson would have an elite target over the middle and for Kittle as long as he can stay healthy he has a top 3 quarterback throwing dimes his way.
I imagine the two stud receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk would see their roles change slightly. Both are best with short passes, get the ball in their hands and they can make guys miss in the open field. They can both play expanded roles though being positioned all over the field. And add in the playmaking ability of Watson when he has to take off, this would be a true nightmare to defend Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Take this elite talent and then the fact Watson was able to make Chad Hansen & Keke Coutee fantasy relevant last season and you’ve got a recipe for success for fantasy owners.
The only question mark would be the current offensive run heavy scheme. Who knows who will be at running back for the 49ers in 2021 and if Watson were there would they change up their approach? Is the current scheme in place to protect Jimmy G’s limitations? This could work both ways though, Jimmy G only needed to throw 27 TDs in the 2019 Super Bowl season (the QB14) which could see a limit on what Watson is asked to do. Or it could open up the run even more for Watson, the 49ers creative system can unlock even more chances for big plays with the ball in Watson’s hands.
Odds – 13/8 Weapons – 9/10 Fit – 9/10
The favourites to land Deshaun Watson is the John Elway managed Denver Broncos, and you can see why. Elway loves a splashy quarterback signing – just look at what happened back in 2012 when he landed Peyton Manning who later took the Broncos back to the promised land. The fit here is great and the weapons on hand are every bit as good as they are in San Francisco.
Top wide receiver Courtland Sutton will return from his ACL injury suffered in 2020 looking for a bounce back season. Sutton had a stellar 2019 season recording over 1100 yards and 6 TDs and finished as the WR19. Quarterback play hampered the Denver offense last season with Drew Lock suffering a sophomore slump; an upgrade to an elite level quarterback would elevate these receivers to the next level. I like Sutton as a buy this offseason and my target price is around a mid-late 1st round pick which I would be delighted to pay if I could acquire him.
Jerry Jeudy was drafted with the 15th pick in the 1st round in 2020 and was one of the most hotly anticipated rookies of the class with his elite route running in college. It didn’t work out for Jeudy in his rookie season though only securing 52 catches on 113 targets, but a lot of blame has been placed on inconsistent quarterback play from Lock. A fit again Sutton to take away the opposing team’s top cornerback and a clear upgrade to Watson could mean big improvements for Jeudy. He’s one of my big buys of the offseason even without the thought of Watson throwing him the ball so to think the Broncos are favourites to land him is exciting and presents a buy window right now! I would be happy spending a late 1st/early 2nd on Jeudy to acquire him.
There is also a nice window of opportunity to buy receiver KJ Hamler who again is someone who had a quiet rookie campaign but has plenty of playmaking ability and at only 21 years old has a lot of growth to come. Hamler is a good stash in dynasty and a 3rd round pick is the target to acquire him.
The final piece of the puzzle is Noah Fant. The 23 year old started the 2020 season on fire as the TE4 through 4 weeks, before injuring his ankle against the Jets. He didn’t quite look the same for the rest of the season, stumbling to a finish of the TE8 in PPR. I think with a full offseason and a big upgrade at quarterback the increase in production can be vast for Fant who has freakish size and athleticism at the position. I can certainly see a world where Fant is a top 5 tight end with Watson in at QB.
Watson in Denver would be awesome for his fantasy value. A clear upgrade from his current position and a secure place with young playmakers.
Where do you think Deshaun Watson ends up? What is clear is that his value and most players on the team he lands at will benefit from his arrival. The question is can you benefit from it and make a move in anticipation?
fantasy football analyst
alastair, a die-hard buccaneers fan from norwich and up and coming fantasy contributor can be found on his twitter page – the dynasty grill (@ffdynastygrill)