By Nick Shook
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Deshaun Watson temporarily lit the league on fire with his play in 2017 before a knee injury cut his season short.
That’s just a small bump in the road Watson envisions for himself — which includes surpassing the achievements of one Tom Brady.
“If Tom wins, it’s going to six, right? I want to be at seven,” Watson said during his Friday appearance on Good Morning Football. “Whatever it takes to be the best, the greatest, and not just for me, but for any athlete, especially quarterback … if you don’t want to chase Tom Brady and [be] above him, you’re selling yourself short. I always put my mentality with [being] the best, and Tom Brady is the best right now, so whatever I have to do to get to that level at age 40, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Watson was far from a sixth-round afterthought when he entered the NFL, fresh off a national title at Clemson and worthy of Houston trading up to No. 12 to select him in the 2017 draft. He didn’t arrive without questions, though, with some claiming his accuracy issues could become his downfall.
Newsflash: They didn’t. Watson completed 61.8 of his passes in seven games (six starts) for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His rookie passer rating broke the century mark (103.0), and he rushed 36 times for 269 yards and two touchdowns (one fumble lost). A Texans game was a weekly thrill-fest, that is, until Watson suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
The Texans withered from there, limping to a 4-12 finish, worsened by the loss of this year’s top-five pick sent to Cleveland in the Watson trade. But in a league dotted by uncertainty and/or mediocrity at the position, Houston still would likely rather have Watson than the pick.
There’s good news about that knee injury, which was serious but appears to be less severe than similar ones have been to other important players. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported this week that Watson’s rehab has accelerated, so much so that the Texans believe he will be on the field throwing with teammates during 7 on 7 drills during OTAs. This should give him an entire offseason to work with his teammates, regain confidence on his repaired knee and work his way back into comfort on the field — an advantage not afforded to counterparts Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, who suffered leg injuries that kept them off the field during the offseason.
Should Watson come anywhere near Brady’s five current titles (with a shot at No. 6 coming Sunday), the deal will have been well worth it. His pursuit of such a lofty goal resumes in 2018.