It’s finally official - the Deshaun Watson suspension has come down after much posturing by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Here is what the suspension entails.

  • Watson is suspended for 11 games (with the bye week, he returns for week 13)
  • Watson will have to pay a $5 million fine

Now, there will be endless speculation on whether this is fair or not or whether he should be allowed to play at all. But we are coming up on the end of August when serious fantasy drafts are being done so it’s our job to help you sort this out for your fantasy football rankings. So let’s take a second to put the rumors and our personal feelings aside and assess this from a fantasy standpoint.


Deshaun Watson Suspension & its Fantasy Football Impact

Deshaun Watson himself has been a tremendous asset in fantasy football - there is no question about that. He has essentially been a top-five quarterback any time he’s been on the field. And he’s been one of the few players who seems to successfully put up stats regardless of team success. He’s been dominant when the team had double-digit wins. And he put up his best statistical season in 2020 with almost 5,000 yards, 33 TDs, and only seven interceptions despite the team going 4-12. If you have him while he’s playing he will likely be starting for your fantasy team. The question is how feasible it is to carry him and that boils down to your format and bye weeks.

The Browns have a Week 9 bye week. That means Watson won’t return until Week 13. That's a long way out and, if you are going to draft Watson, there are very few quarterbacks that don’t have a bye week while he’s suspended. You can’t put suspended players in an IR spot in most formats so that means the following quarterbacks are the only ones you could pair with Watson without needing to roster a third quarterback at some point for bye weeks. Here is how I’d rank them.

Right off the bat, Baker and Mariota might not even have the job that full time so that’s not a feasible pairing. And you also aren’t likely going to want to trust Jameis Winston or Carson Wentz as your starting QB for 12 weeks while you wait for Watson. On the flip side, if you spend up to pick Kyler Murray, it’s probably a waste of capital to also draft Watson - you honestly might not even start Watson over Murray when that time comes. That leaves pairing Aaron Rodgers, Justin Fields, and Matt Ryan with Watson as really the only realistic two quarterback combos.

At the end of the day, your format really will dictate what happens here. In two QB leagues, he’s going to be an asset but you need to pair him with the right guys. If you have huge benches and can carry three quarterbacks, that could also work. Beyond that, a Fields/Watson pairing feels pretty risky and Matt Ryan might not even be good enough to start for 12 weeks so a Rodgers/Watson pairing feels like the most reasonable. And that’s a pretty specific needle to try to thread on draft day for upside that might not even be there.

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