Deshaun Watson’s desire to leave the Houston Texans will remain the most intriguing storyline of the NFL offseason until the only organization that he has ever known decides to trade him. While the Texans steadfastly persist in saying that they will not trade their franchise quarterback, leaguewide sentiment suggests otherwise. Assuming that Houston does pull the trigger sooner than later, many continue to speculate as to where Watson will end up playing this coming season. Three teams keep coming to the forefront of this discussion as having the best potential trade packages to offer, the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins, and the San Francisco 49ers. Obviously, the Texans will only accept the offer that they deem worthy and Watson’s no trade clause throws a wrinkle into the proceedings too, but which squad offers the most fantasy potential?
This past season, even in a dysfunctional organization Deshaun Watson produced remarkable numbers that belie the four-win Houston squad. Regardless of where Watson suits up next year, fans can rest assured that he will continue playing at an elite level. However, if Watson receives the keys to the right team then everyone may start talking about him not just as an elite quarterback but the preeminent player at his position. As long as Patrick Mahomes plays that title may seem overzealous, but Watson possesses the talent and dedication to go toe-to-toe with Mahomes. He just needs to find his own version of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Lateral Move
Despite reports that Watson wants to play for the New York Jets, this situation feels like the worst possible fantasy outcome. While arguments that the Jets are better than their tanking season would suggest, the team simply does not profile as a significant upgrade. For one, the draft capital that would surely find its way to Houston in any deal would strike the possibility of adding cheap, young talent to a lacking roster. The team’s skill players leave something to be desired, unless Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, and 37-year-old Frank Gore excite you. Additionally, Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets’ offensive line as the 29th worst unit in the league, making it worse than the Texans’ line that has kept Watson running most of his career.
On the bright side, the Jets hired Robert Saleh as head coach, replacing Adam Gase and hopefully finding some stability in the process. Saleh, though, hangs his hat on the defensive side of the ball and needs has the task of establishing a winning culture, which means that offensive creativity could take a backseat. Another positive note, the Jets, per Spotrac, own the 3rd most cap space this offseason, meaning that they have the potential to bring in some difference-making free agent additions. Of course, the change of scenery could make a positive impact too. All things considered, though, if Deshaun Watson ends up with the New York Jets, it seems that his fantasy prospects will take nothing more than step to the side.
True AFC Contender
Staying in the same division, the Miami Dolphins offer a significant upgrade. While they would also give up a number of draft picks and do not have the same cap space as the Jets, the Dolphins are right on the cusp of legitimate contention. Just last season, with Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tua Tagovailoa at the helm, the Dolphins came within a win of making a surprising run to the playoffs. Tua still projects as a solid quarterback and when Fitzmagic is flowing he can do just about anything, but neither of them measures up to Watson. In Miami, Watson would walk into a ready-made contender that would go head to head with the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs for AFC supremacy.
Additionally, as Brian Flores enters his third season, his skill as a coach only grows more evident and he has already instilled a winning culture that garners the best from his players. In terms of pass catchers, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki offer more upside than anyone on the Jets’ roster. Meanwhile, young running back Myles Gaskin provides a nice complement to the pass game on the ground and can also act as a safety valve out of the backfield. The Dolphins may not run out the most ingenious offense, but Flores’ defense will force turnovers, they produced the most takeaways in 2020, and Watson will have more opportunities to score than ever, a fact that will bring a smile to fantasy managers everywhere.
Super Bowl Bound?
Few teams can provide more to Deshaun Watson than the Miami Dolphins. The San Francisco 49ers are one of those teams. Last year, San Francisco dealt with a multitude of injuries on both sides of the ball, but do not forget that they made a dominant run to the Super Bowl in 2019 before ultimately losing to Kansas City. Players like Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Richard Sherman ensure that the defense will perform at a high level. As for the offense, neither the Jets nor the Dolphins boast a receiving threat like George Kittle, a tight end who can singlehandedly warp a defense. Brandon Aiyuk also showed flashes as a rookie and the deep cadre of running back like Raheem Mostert and Jerick McKinnon will make plays out of the backfield.
Kyle Shanahan acts as the linchpin that makes Deshaun Watson’s fit with the 49ers so tantalizing. For his entire career, Shanahan has displayed time and again his creativity on offense. Shanahan has always developed creative ways to open up the offense, but he has never worked with a quarterback as talented as Watson. Remember, in 2016, Shanahan helped Matt Ryan capture the MVP, imagine what he and Deshaun Watson could do together. Combine Shanahan’s inventive systems with Watson’s ability to improvise and images of an all-time offense and fantasy season start to coalesce. Even given that San Francisco possesses the least cap space and worst draft selections does nothing to damper the possibilities.
The Pipe Dream
Okay, bonus round! The 49ers definitely profile as the best fantasy fit for Deshaun Watson out of the teams that have the best chance to land the star quarterback. Imagine, though, if Watson took the reins from Drew Brees and joined the New Orleans Saints. In New Orleans, he would play behind a top 10 offensive line, according to PFF, would benefit from Sean Payton’s game planning, and would undoubtedly have some of the best skill players at his disposal in Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Emmanual Snaders. The sight of that offense jogging on to the field would melt defenses’ faces like the Ark of the Covenant. With the Saints’ cap situation, $65 million over the cap, this possibility remains a pipe dream.
Wherever Deshaun Watson does end up playing football in 2021, he will continue to do so as one of the league’s elite play callers. However, if he finds himself in the right situation, a truly historic fantasy season could be on the horizon. Fantasy players, take note.