On April 27 – the night of the 2017 NFL Draft – former NFL GM Mike Lombardi dropped by Reiter Than You to declare Deshaun Watson the best player in the draft. Not the best quarterback, the best player.
And yet, the Bears took Mitchell Trubisky No. 2. They might be regretting that, just as the Browns likely regret trading the 12th pick to Houston when Watson was available.
“Look, I was a huge Deshaun Watson fan,” Lombardi said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “I thought he was the best player in the draft. I would have picked (him) if I were the Browns. It was very clear he was the best quarterback in the draft. I don’t know how you take a quarterback with 13 college starts over Deshaun Watson. I said it then. I’ll keep saying it. I know Ryan Pace traded up to get Trubisky. He could have just stayed right where he was and got the better quarterback.
“That being said, I never thought he’d be this good,” Lambardi continued. “I thought he would be dynamic and have a play here or a play there. But what he’s done, the first two games of the season, they scored 20 points with Tom Savage and a little bit of Deshaun Watson. Since then, they’ve averaged 39 points in the last five games. If they would have had half the defensive players that they’ve had before in the past still playing for them – J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, all those guys – they would be a much better team. They would be the team to beat in the AFC. But unfortunately they don’t have anybody on defense.”
Watson has been fantastic for Houston (3-4). He’s completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while also rushing for 269 yards and two scores.
Cleveland (0-8), meanwhile, has the ignominy of passing on Carson Wentz in 2016 and passing on Watson in 2017.
Owner Jimmy Haslam might need to make some executive changes – again.
“If you’re Jimmy Haslam and you’ve fired a bunch of people – me included – I was one year,” Lombardi said. “I traded Trent Richardson for a first-round pick and never got a chance to use it. If you’re watching people’s work, how do you let somebody else go back in the draft room and pick a quarterback?”
The Browns also drafted Cody Kessler ahead of Dak Prescott.
“Now look, you can kill (the Browns) for that decision, (but) a lot of people weren’t sure about Dak Prescott,” Lombardi said. “A lot of people weren’t committed that he was going to be as good as he turned out to be. That happens in sports all the time. I’ll give you that one. But the Wentz decision and the Deshaun Watson decision – especially when Dabo Swinney comes out and says he’s Michael Jordan, especially when you can go in your office and put tape on against Alabama’s pro defense and watch him two years in a row put points on the board – and then hear Nick Saban talk about him. I had a conversation with Nick Saban. Nick Saban was like, ‘Look, there’s no doubt this guy’s going to be a great pro. I’m glad I don’t have to defend him anymore.’ You ignore that? I wonder how you go back into the room and ask these guys to start drafting again. To me, if you make those mistakes, you lose the right to pick again.”