While both sides remain entrenched in their stances in their mutual staring contest, with Deshaun Watson demanding a trade and the Houston Texans insisting they won't trade him, the healthiest way I have found to deal with this sports trauma is to try to envision a future without Deshaun Watson (which coincidentally, I think is the actual betting favorite right now).
As I go through that exercise on virtually an hour by hour basis, I find it non-negotiable that, in any trade involving Watson, the Texans MUST get a quarterback solution for the future in return, either a young quarterback with a couple years under his belt, or a high draft pick in the 2020 draft to select what everyone hopes is the NEXT Deshaun Watson.
I do this fully realizing that the odds of finding the NEXT Deshaun Watson are minuscule. Watson is a top five quarterback, so by definition there are only, subjectively, at most, FOUR better than him right now on planet earth. But delusion is our best friend in times like these. So if you're using lying to yourself as a shield against the stress and anger of losing Watson, I'd say jump off this post now. However, if you want further anecdotal truth on just how difficult Nick Caserio's job in finding the NEXT Watson is about to become, then by all means, continue.
The best case for the Texans, in my opinion, is that they come away from a Watson trade with one of the first three picks in the draft. Right now, those belong to, in order, Jacksonville, the New York Jets, and Miami. The odds of the Jags moving the first overall pick for Watson would seem slim, but their new head coach, Urban Meyer, reportedly would entertain a Watson trade, and that would mean Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence coming here with the first overall pick.
If it's not the Jags trading with the Texans, then hopefully the Jets or Dolphins are on the other end of a deal, and the Texans can draft Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson. Those are all exciting options, right? Well, not so fast, my friend. Even the BEST solutions in this Watson conundrum are fraught with peril, for here is a list of quarterbacks taken with a TOP THREE PICK from 2011 through 2018. Buckle up!
CAM NEWTON, Carolina, 2011 (1st overall)
Won an MVP and went to a Super Bowl in 2015, but injuries have caught up with him, and most recently he skippered the Patriots to a 7-9 record in 2020.
ANDREW LUCK, Indianapolis, 2012 (1st overall)
Burst on the scene big time in his first three seasons, culminating in an AFC title game appearance in 2014, but injuries got him, too, and he eventually retired before the 2019 season.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III, Washington, 2012 (2nd overall)
Griffin was the offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, but like Newton and Luck, injuries got RG3, too, and he eventually moved onto Cleveland for one year, and was most recently a backup in Baltimore.
RYAN TANNEHILL, Miami, 2012 (8th overall)
Tannehill was an injury-riddled bust in Miami for about six seasons, and then was rejuvenated in Tennessee after taking over for an ineffective Marcus Mariota in 2019. He is an actual success story, but endured many injuries and ineffective seasons before getting right.
BLAKE BORTLES, Jacksonville, 2014 (3rd overall)
Bortles was a mess for most of his time in Jacksovnille, with big turnover issues. His one crowning achievement was quarterbacking a defensive oriented Jags team to an AFC title game in 2017, but they probably would have made the Super Bowl with slightly better QB play.
JAMEIS WINSTON, Tampa Bay, 2015 (1st overall)
Winston piled up big yardage numbers in Tampa Bay, but also threw 30 picks his final season there. They moved on from him in 2020, signed some dude named Brady, and the rest is history.
MARCUS MARIOTA, Tennessee, 2015 (2nd overall)
Mariota, like many on this list, dealt with injuries for most of his time in Tennessee, and had major accuracy issues, as well. He spent 2020 as a backup to Derek Carr in Las Vegas.
JARED GOFF, Los Angeles Rams, 2016 (1st overall)
Goff got the Rams to a Super Bowl in 2018, but as his offensive line deteriorated, so did his play, and he was most recently sent packing to Detroit in a trade for Matthew Stafford.
CARSON WENTZ, Philadelphia, 2016 (2nd overall)
Wentz might have won the MVP in 2017 had he not hurt his knee in Week 14. Instead, he missed the rest of the season, and the Eagles went on to win a Super Bowl with Nick Foles as their starter. Now, three years later, Wentz was benched in the midst of a 4-11-1 season, and is now likely to be traded.
MITCHELL TRUBISKY, Chicago, 2017 (2nd overall)
Drafted second overall in the same class as Patrick Mahomes and Watson, Trubisky was benched multiple times throughout his four year Bears career, and is now likely to leave in free agency and become a career backup, like Bortles and Mariota.
BAKER MAYFIELD, Cleveland, 2018 (1st overall)
Probably the biggest current success story on this list, Mayfield overcame a sophomore slump in 2019 (and the idiocy of one year head coach Freddie Kitchens) to go 11-5 and win a playoff game for the Browns in 2020.
SAM DARNOLD, New York Jets, 2018 (3rd overall)
Drafted two spots after Mayfield, Darnold has been a mess for three seasons, and will likely be replaced, possibly in a trade involving, wait for it, DESHAUN WATSON.
So if you're someone who thinks the best route to hope in Houston, post-Watson, is with a top three overall selected rookie (and I actually am in that camp of folks who feel that way), just know that even the BEST way to find a Watson replacement is fraught with terror and failure. On this list of twelve quarterbacks above, most of them will have wound up playing for multiple teams in their first five seasons, and nearly all of them dealt with massive injury woes.
Indeed, it would appear that the best way to find the NEXT Deshaun Watson is to just keep the one you have.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.