News: 6 days agoWatson completed 22 of 40 passes for 235 yards with one touchdown and one interception while adding six rushes for 22 yards in the Browns' 26-22 loss to the Steelers on Monday night. He also lost two fumbles and ran for a two-point conversion.
Spin: Watson's busy but ultimately uneven stat line is somewhat of a microcosm of what is now a eight-game starting stint with the Browns. Watson's second fumble was also highly costly, as he lost the handle on a sack by Alex Highsmith and the ball was scooped up by T.J. Watt for a 16-yard touchdown that would turn out to be the difference in the game. The veteran quarterback still doesn't appear completely comfortable in head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense, and outside of his clear chemistry with Amari Cooper, Watson has had trouble consistently connecting with complementary options like Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones over the first pair of contests this season. Watson could certainly also be affected by the loss of Nick Chubb to what appears to be a season-ending knee injury, as despite second-year back Jerome Ford's impressive showing in Chubb's stead Monday night, there will likely be more defensive attention focused on Cleveland's air attack for the time being. Watson does draw a favorable matchup on paper in Week 3 when the Titans come to town.
ESPN Fantasy Projection: The 2023 season will be Watson's first as Cleveland's full-time starter. The former Texan was suspended for 11 games last season and struggled upon his return, ranking 22nd in fantasy points per game. On the plus side, he finished strong with his only two top-eight weekly finishes and he was his usual productive self with his legs (fourth at QB in rushing yards during six active weeks). Watson, who was a top-five fantasy QB in three straight seasons prior to missing 2021, is a good bet to improve in his second season with the Browns. He'll be working behind a good offensive line and has a solid group of targets led by Amari Cooper and David Njoku. It's safest to view Watson as a fringe QB1, but he has elite upside.