Editor’s note: Watson’s suspension was handed down by former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer who was jointly appointed by both the NFL and NFLPA. Both parties have up to 72 hours from the time of the suspension to appeal. The NFLPA has issued a statement saying they will decline to appeal.
In case you’ve been under a rock, Deshaun Watson has been in the news quite a bit recently. More accurately, it’s been approximately a two-year Watson news cycle. From his refusal to play for Houston last season to his monster trade to Cleveland and the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct in between, Watson has been the focus of countless NFL stories. However, the decision today by arbitrator Judge Sue L. Robinson to suspend Watson for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy appears to finally bring an end to this ongoing saga.
At the end of the day, we here at DLF are tasked with providing information to fantasy football managers – specifically dynasty owners – to help them win championships. So, looking forward, how does today’s Watson news impact the fantasy landscape, and what should team owners do with this new information?
Looking at Mike Clay’s projections on ESPN, he projected Watson to play 11 games, which is precisely what the number is. He would complete 215 of 327 passes for 2,449 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. On the ground, Watson would amass 328 rushing yards on 63 attempts and add another three scores with his feet. Altogether, that would lead to 198 points and a projected finish as QB28.
To put those numbers into perspective, over 11 games those 198 points give Watson an 18-point-per-game average. Extrapolating those numbers out over a 17-game NFL regular season, Watson would accumulate 306 fantasy points. A year ago, 306 points would’ve made him the QB12. Upon his return, it’s more than reasonable for you to anticipate Watson to put up low-end QB1 numbers from weeks seven through eighteen.
Impact on the Team
No matter what you think of Watson as a person at this point, even 11 games with Watson as the Browns’ signal-caller is better for all fantasy-relevant players than a full season of Jacoby Brissett or Joshua Dobbs or Josh Rosen. If you had stashed one of them hoping for the NFL to lay the hammer on Watson, that ship has sailed, and they’ve all just seen their values plummet.
Watson’s earlier-than-expected return likely hurts Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt a bit. You could see a world where a Watson-less Browns team decides to lean on the running game more to overcome the shortcomings of the above-named fill-in quarterbacks. Assuming that still might be the case for the first six games, it might create a selling opportunity for the soon-to-be 27-year-old Chubb or the soon-to-be 28-year-old Hunt. If they start hot, it might be the best time to sell them as you will have a much harder time next off-season as they approach 28 and 29 years of age, respectively.
As we all expect, the most significant impact will be on the team’s pass catchers. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Amari Cooper, David Bell, and David Njoku, in particular, should see a surge in production to close out the fantasy season and into the fantasy playoffs. The ten-week span from weeks seven through seventeen should see Amari Cooper as a fringe WR1 and Njoku as a TE1, with Peoples-Jones, Bell, and maybe even Anthony Schwartz being viable bye-week fill-in options and injury void-fillers.
Suppose you can get into a position to make the fantasy playoffs with Browns players sitting idle on your bench. In that case, you might be able to unleash multiple players to push for better playoff seeding and make a deep playoff run with many players tied to Watson.
Assuming Watson looks anything like the player we last saw in 2020, he’ll likely find himself in the top echelon of dynasty quarterbacks once again. According to DLF’s ADP over time tool, his ADP was annually in the top-5 at the position, and even with everything else going on, he barely dipped outside of the top ten over the last two years. Even without seeing him take a meaningful snap since 2020, Watson is once again one of the top dynasty quarterbacks.
Looking at Watson’s supporting cast from his days with the Texans, he was primarily responsible for the success of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Brandin Cooks, as well as opening things up for Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde. A rising tide lifts all ships, so as long as Watson can return to form, he’s likely to create several fantasy-relevant options for dynasty managers as long as he’s under center in Cleveland.
Is He Tradeable?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the emerging “sell now” window that just opened. Sorting through DLF’s Dynasty Trade Finder, you’ll see that Watson has been on the move quite a bit, but people probably weren’t getting top-dollar in return. The news that he’ll only miss six games when many thought he’d likely miss the entire season gives a massive uptick to his present value. Watson will be under the microscope for the remainder of his career. The NFL will rightly pounce on any slip-ups to prove a point and lay a harsher punishment on Watson when possible. If the potential looming discipline over the next decade is something you want no part of, this is probably one of the biggest sell-high windows you’ll have.
Your personal opinions on Watson, the person, aside, he still appears to be an elite option at the position for fantasy football purposes. Additionally, he has shown to make other players around him viable options to win matchups and fantasy championships. His return in week seven will likely reward managers who held him, drafted him, or traded for him over the last two years. His presence will impact the fantasy landscape in 2022 and beyond, no matter how you feel about the situation.
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