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Swinney: Passing on Watson like passing on MJ

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7:09 PM ET

MOBILE, Ala. — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave the ultimate endorsement Tuesday to his quarterback, Deshaun Watson, as he heads into the NFL draft process.

“I’m just telling you, if they pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan,” Swinney said during the first day of Senior Bowl practices. “I’m just telling you. I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about; I’m just an old funky college coach. But Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”

Watson elected not to participate in the Senior Bowl. He is a junior but has graduated, making him eligible for the game.

Watson, who led Swinney’s Tigers to the national championship with a stunning 35-31 win over Alabama earlier this month, is one of the most highly debated draft prospects early in this year’s evaluations.

“I’m just telling you, if they pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan.”

Dabo Swinney

A strong case could be made for the Cleveland Browns considering Watson as high as No. 1 overall because of his star power and proven ability to win on the biggest stage.

But draft analysts aren’t as sold yet on the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said he has Watson rated as his No. 36 prospect overall — but Kiper projected Watson to go No. 10 to Buffalo in his first mock draft, and said he could go even higher because of the value and need at the position.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has declined an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl later this month in Alabama.

Last year’s Senior Bowl produced four first-round picks — and breakout star Dak Prescott. The 2017 game features a potential No. 1 tight end at the top, plus several other talented prospects.

The countdown to the 2017 NFL draft is on, and the Browns are on the clock. Pass-rusher? Quarterback? It’s time for Mel Kiper’s first crack at predicting the first round.

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Swinney, however, believes there should be no such debate.

“That’s how you change things, you know, change a culture,” Swinney said when asked specifically about Cleveland considering Watson at either No. 1 or No. 12 overall. “For me, it’s through discipline and recruiting and staffing and all that stuff. For them, it’s decision-making. It’s who you pick.

“It would be the easiest player [Browns

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