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Deshaun Watson’s Fantasy Football outlook for the 2022 NFL season

NFL, 2022 Fantasy Football, Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Judge Sue L. Robinson has suspended Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season. The NFL is contemplating appealing for a longer suspension, while Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is hoping to see Watson on the field in Week 7.

It’s extremely tough to just forego his off-the-field challenges, but leaving those aside, Watson certainly merits a spot among the top five NFL quarterbacks. That’s both for fantasy and real-life rankings.

Keep in mind that Watson actually owns the third-highest fantasy points per game mark in NFL history. Over the course of his career, Watson has averaged 22.0 fantasy points per contest. He trails only Patrick Mahomes (23) and Justin Herbert (22.3). That’s just nuts, right?

Take note as well that his actual football numbers are pretty amazing. Among 68 quarterbacks with 300 or more dropbacks since 2017, the former Houston Texans QB is elite. He has actually achieved high rankings in PFF passing grade (90.6, No. 8), passer rating (104.5, No. 4), and yards per attempt (8.3, No. 2).

Doubters may argue that the Texans were 4-12 in Watson’s last season as their starting quarterback. Objectively speaking, however, Watson hardly deserves all the blame for that dismal season in Houston.

He does deserve the blame for his suspension, though. This keeps him from competing with quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, and Russell Wilson this coming season. Whenever he returns to the field, though, Watson should have a much higher ceiling than any of them.

Deshaun Watson’s 2022 fantasy football outlook

Some pundits believe that when Deshaun Watson returns to the field following his six-game ban, he is a top-five option.

From 2019 to 2020, he was precisely that. Now, there is no reason to believe that the 26-year-old won’t continue where he left off. Watson topped the NFL in throwing yards and yards per attempt during his last season of competition.

Watson had a 25-22 record with the Texans over his final three seasons, including two winning campaigns (11-5 and 10-5). He had an excellent completion percentage (68.7) and yards per throw attempt (8.3) but had fewer pass attempts per game than the league average (32.9).

In addition to leading the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and scoring 36 combined touchdowns, Watson had his finest fantasy season in 2020. From 2018 to 2020, he also excelled in the run game (99/551/5, 82/413/7, and 90/44/3). Over the course of his final three seasons, getting sacked was his biggest issue. He got sacked 62, 44, and 49 times in that stretch.

He enters a team that badly needs his skill under center. Recall that over the previous three seasons, the Browns’ passing attempts (539 – 19th, 501 – 28th, and 520 – 28th) and yards through the air (3,847 – 22nd, 3,701 – 27th, and 3,619 – 27th) were all below average.

Given that, the ambiguity surrounding Watson’s anticipated playing schedule lowers his early fantasy draft ranking. In four-point passing touchdown leagues in 2020, he finished seventh in fantasy points (427.55) while playing at his best.

Remember that Watson thrives in the deep passing game and improves the guys around him. The offensive line for the Browns allowed 49 sacks in 2021, but it should perform far better in 2022.

There is no denying that Watson improves the Browns’ offense. At the very least, he should benefit Amari Cooper greatly. Cooper’s fans should like how Watson has a history of depending on one outstanding wide receiver. That should be Cooper.

Some fantasy experts have noted that Watson is a lock to be a top ten (perhaps even top five) quarterback if he plays the full season. Sadly, he will miss at least six contests. Aside from that, the Browns’ run-heavy nature and their relatively shallow wide receiver corps might cap his potential.

Considering that the NFL has the option of appealing the suspension, many experts place Watson at QB14. That means he is ahead of Justin Fields, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr. If/when he does return on the field, however, Watson will go up to QB12 level ahead of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.