New era of NFL quarterbacks pose challenge to 49ers, league

Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Deshaun Watson, Texans
Deshaun Watson (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

No. 3: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

The former Clemson Tigers quarterback and national champion came into the league with some high praise by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who proclaimed in a Sports Illustrated interview at the Senior Bowl in 2017:

"For them, it’s decision-making, it’s who you pick. And I’m just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan."

While that certainly was a bit hyperbole, Watson has been terrific after being selected 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Watson started six games, passed for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. He ran 36 times for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He displayed the same good pocket presence and touch as he had at Clemson. Although it was just a preseason game, the 49ers saw firsthand a glimpse of what the rest of the league would be dealing with in regards to Watson on this red-zone touchdown to former 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington:

While the team struggled that first year, the following season saw the Texans improve from four wins to 11 and a division championship, as Watson passed for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and completing 68.3 percent of his passes.

This offseason has been rough for Watson and the Texans, though, as head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien traded the aforementioned DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. And while the team did sign reliable veteran Randall Cobb in free agency, the drop off will likely be noticeable.

Watson and David Johnson should make a solid quarterback-running back duo, provided Johnson can stay healthy. But make no mistake, Watson is the straw that “stirs the drink” in Houston.

While he may never be able to live up to the Michael Jordan comparison, Watson seems well on his way to establishing himself as one of the game’s best young QBs.