The Chiefs could’ve avoided scheming for one of the the game’s hottest players, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
They could have drafted him in April.
Deshaun Watson a Kansas City Chief, and waiting in the wings?
Patrick Mahomes a Houston Texan, and starting?
It might’ve happened. But after both teams traded to improve their first-round positions in April, the Chiefs took Mahomes at No. 10 and the Texans followed with Watson at No. 12.
Watson believed the Chiefs were a possibility for him on draft night.
“They were high on me,” Watson said. “I took a visit there; it was a great visit. I kept an open mind throughout the draft process.”
Neither player regrets how his professional life has unfolded so far.
Watson is soaring. After becoming the Texans’ starter in the second half of their opening game, he has improved every week and is coming off a sensational performance with four touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown — just the third rookie in NFL history to accomplish that feat — in a 57-14 crushing of the Tennessee Titans.
The point total and victory margin were franchise records, and Watson was named AFC offensive player of the week.
Mahomes, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game. His path is to serve as the top reserve behind Alex Smith, who tops the NFL in quarterback rating and leads the league’s lone undefeated team.
But Mahomes has been identified as the Chiefs’ future starter.
“This is the situation I wanted to be in,” Mahomes said. “I was happy the Chiefs drafted me and I haven’t looked back.”
Watson and Mahomes were linked as quarterback prospects for the past couple of seasons. They got to know each other at a summer quarterback camp run by Jordan Palmer.
Both players worked out for the Chiefs and Texans.
“We really liked Patrick, watching his tape in college and getting to know him during the pre-draft visit,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “You could just tell he had a bright future. You’re talking about two guys who were very impressive to meet in person.”
Watson had more team success in college, leading Clemson to ACC championships in his final two years — he was MVP of both games — and the past two College Football Playoff title games against Alabama.
The multi-talented Watson racked up huge numbers in both games, with the Tigers falling in the first appearance and winning the second. Watson passed for a combined total of 825 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 116 yards.
At Texas Tech, Mahomes set records with his cannon arm, including 819 total yards in a loss to Oklahoma. He also led the nation in several passing categories. The Red Raiders went 13-16 in Mahomes’ starts.
But as the draft approached, Mahomes, Watson and North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky rose above the other quarterback candidates as first-round possibilities. It became a matter of who went where.
Trubisky was selected first, going to the Chicago Bears, who moved up one spot to grab him. Trubisky is scheduled to make his first NFL start Monday when the Bears play host to the Vikings.
Mahomes went next, ending the mystery of the Chiefs’ — and Texans’ — choice of quarterbacks.
“I had a great communication with the Chiefs,” Mahomes said. “They got it done and put me in a great situation.”
Then came Watson.
“He’s a great player,” Reid said. “What he did at Clemson is what we thought is what he would do here… He was a real pleasure to deal with before the draft.”
Now the Chiefs must plot a way to defeat Watson, who in the past couple of weeks has pushed Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt as the NFL’s most productive rookie.
Unless Smith gets injured, Mahomes will watch and wait for his time, not pulling for Watson for perhaps the only time this year.
“The rookie class, you want everybody to do well,” Mahomes said. “Although I hope Deshaun has a few struggles this week.”