Dynasty Decision: Deshaun Watson

We all know the pain of holding onto that stud player too long as their production evaporates and your once highly-priced asset becomes worthless. There are also plenty of cases of players being sold expecting that decline only to continue defying the odds. This series will examine what you should do as players approach these decision points.

Deshaun Watson, QB CLE

With one of the more unique careers to date, Deshaun Watson was a fantasy superstar at a young age before off-the-field issues meant he missed a season and a half. Since returning to the field with the Browns, he has been disappointing as a player. Furthermore, he missed significant time last season due to various shoulder ailments. Now heading into his seventh season on the field and with three years remaining on his five-year £230m fully guaranteed contract, it is a make-or-break season for Watson both as an NFL starting quarterback and a dynasty asset.

Previous Performance

As a rookie, Watson started from day one and had an impressive campaign, averaging 24.1 points per game. That may not sound impressive, given some of the scoring of fantasy quarterbacks in recent years. However, Russell Wilson finished as QB1 in 2017, averaging 21.7 points per game. As a rookie, Watson averaged 2.4 points per game more than the overall QB1! Unfortunately, after seven games, he tore his ACL in practice and missed the rest of his rookie season.

After that incredible rookie campaign, Watson continued to produce despite a depleted roster. He posted back-to-back-to-back top five seasons in points per game and the top six overall. I don’t remember a better start to a career for fantasy than Watson. Those four consecutive top-five points-per-game seasons are genuinely incredible. Patrick Mahomes has four top-five seasons in points per game throughout his eight-year career!

Unfortunately, after that incredible start on the field. Some serious off-field issues arose when Watson was accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by 26 women. After this, he managed to force his way out of Houston and land the NFL’s largest fully guaranteed contract ever, while the Browns also had to pay three first-round picks, a third, and a fourth.

Since landing in Cleveland, things haven’t got going. Watson missed 11 games due to suspension in his first year and looked incredibly rusty when he was on the field, averaging only 15.1 points per game. He then followed that up in 2023, playing in six games through the first ten weeks as he suffered from shoulder injuries before fracturing his shoulder and ending his season. Watson again looked rusty and didn’t put it together on the field for fantasy, averaging only 15.1 points per game.

word image 1493409 1

Situation and Usage

Outside of quarterback, the Browns have one of the best rosters in the entire NFL. They’re loaded at almost every position. They have thrown resources at the receiver room over the last couple of seasons, both in trades and the draft, and now boast a top three of Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, and Elijah Moore, as well as David Njoku at tight end. On top of those solid weapons, Kevin Stefanski is one of the league’s best and most respected play-callers. The offensive line is a strength and amongst one of the best in the league. Watson has no excuses not to perform as the team will establish the run and allow him to see advantageous looks off of play action.


From the second he was traded, Watson had all the leverage in contract negotiations, which resulted in him landing a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract. Despite having played two seasons in Cleveland, there is still $200.7 million remaining, and Watson will have cap hits north of $63 million for each of the following three seasons. The Browns could restructure his contract and push money into future years to free up cap space, but their reluctance shows they’re nervous about extending his contract even further. If Watson is terrible again in 2024, there is a chance they could designate him as a post-June 1st cut, but the realistic scenario is that he plays in Cleveland for at least 2024 and 2025 just because the cap hit to release him would be crippling.

ADP and Trade Value

He is the QB18 in April ADP and the 41st overall player. The trade analyzer has him worth a random 2025 first or the equivalent of the 1.11 in the 2024 draft. Recent trades are below:

word image 1493409 2


Watson is a fantasy enigma; there are no other examples of a player having such an incredible four-year start to his career and then completely falling off a cliff. He is now seen as an albatross of a contract rather than the franchise quarterback the Browns hoped they were getting when they traded for him. If he can recover his Houston form, he will be an absolute steal at his current price of a late first. However, given how things have played out over the past three years, it’s hard to have any confidence in a player who has played 12 games during the past three years and has looked awful whenever he’s been on the field.

In a superflex league, I would be happy rostering Watson as my QB3. I have a solid QB2, and Watson can be my boom/bust option to complement him. However, I would struggle to roster him as a QB2 and have to rely on him consistently.

Given the price to acquire him is only a late first, it is reasonably palatable to go and acquire him at that price. However, at this point, the person who is rostering Watson is probably likely to be holding out for the old Watson and may want more in return to move him.

The talent hasn’t just disappeared, and there is some intriguing potential, but the likely scenario is that Watson continues to disappoint. So, if you’re playing for the most likely outcome, you probably want to avoid him. If you’re a manager who likes to shoot for the ceiling, he absolutely has the potential to return significantly on the investment you would need to make.

richard cooling
Latest posts by Richard Cooling (see all)