Put Mel Kiper among the NFL draft analysts who weigh Deshaun Watson's full body of work more heavily than the Clemson quarterback's electric performance in the national championship victory over the vaunted Alabama defense.
Kiper, the ESPN draft guru, has the Bears using the third overall pick on Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen in his first mock draft, released Thursday. He has the 49ers taking North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky second, calling incoming head coach Kyle Shanahan and Trubisky "a perfect fit."
From Kiper's perspective, it wouldn't make sense for the Bears to then pounce on Watson (he projects Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett to the Browns at No. 1). Kiper had a second-round grade on Watson before the college postseason.
"That would be a quantum leap for me to go from the early- to mid-second all the way up to one, two or three," Kiper said in a teleconference Thursday.
"He can throw the football," Kiper continued. "You look at him when he moves around, he threw better late in the year from the pocket. He's a great kid. He'll work hard, which is the critical part of the whole equation. He certainly has the arm to make the throws you want. Is he accurate enough from the pocket? That's the big question."
Kiper rates Watson, who declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl, as the 36th-best player in this year's draft. His mock draft has Watson to the Bills at No. 10. But, in the same breath in which Kiper said he wouldn't take Watson third, he acknowledged it's possible for him to rise that high during the predraft process, citing Vince Young's ascent to the third overall pick in 2006 after his show-stopping performance in Texas' national championship victory that year.
"It has happened before," Kiper said. "And I have (Watson) at 10, so if you have him at 10 on Jan. 19, come late April, yeah, I guess he could be up that high.
"Quarterbacks get forced up, so is there some risk/reward there? Yeah. It depends what kind of grade Buffalo ultimately has on Watson, but I do think he's going to go somewhere in the top 10 to 15. If it's not Buffalo, it'll be somebody else."