Christian Watson - WR - North Dakota State
Welcome to the rookie profile for Christian Watson. Watson has been an offseason darling following the conclusion of the 2021 season. He was a standout during this year’s Senior Bowl and blew away scouts at the NFL Combine with a 9.98/10 Relative Athletic Score. He’s making his name as an outstanding athlete, namely his 4.36 40 yard dash, paired with his size at 6’4” and 208lbs. The biggest question surrounding Watson this offseason will be, how well will his game translate from the FCS level to the NFL level of competition?
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 208 lbs
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
Christian Watson was a little-known recruit that joined North Dakota State as a true freshman in 2017. He redshirted his freshman year but went on to contribute 165 yards the following year in the North Dakota State Bison’s national championship run. In his redshirt sophomore year, he truly broke out posting 732 yards and 6 touchdowns. The team once again won the FCS National Championship game. South Dakota State only played 8 games in 2020 due to the shortened COVID season. Despite that, Watson still had a successful season with 437 yards on only 18 receptions, good for 24.2 yards per reception. Truly an explosive play waiting to happen.
During Watson’s final season with the North Dakota State, he hit career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The team went on to win another FCS National Championship. Following his redshirt senior year, Watson decided to declare for the NFL Draft. He received an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl during the 2022 offseason where he was a true standout. He was overly successful in team and individual drills against some of the most esteemed players coming out in the NFL Draft. He followed up a successful Senior Bowl with an excellent combine. He has an impressive frame standing at 6’4”, 208lbs, and a long wingspan of 32.5”. His measurables, including the 4.36 40 yard dash (96th percentile), translate to a 119.9 speed score (98th percentile) and a 133.5 burst score (95th percentile). (Analytics courtesy of playerprofiler).
Christian Watson is going to win at the next level by leaning on his size/speed combination plus freakish athletic ability. As mentioned above, he ran a 4.36 40 yard dash at 6’4”, 208lbs. At that size, he can win at the catch point or in the open field with his long speed. He showed versatility in the South Dakota State offense, lining up out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. His ability to work the open field off a hand-off or on screens is impressive, following blockers well and showing off his speed to weave through the defenses he faced.
Additionally, he creates explosive plays downfield by getting past the defense and showing off impressive ball tracking skills. His wingspan and size give him an advantage in contested catch situations as well. While he isn’t the most refined route runner, he has a good start/stop ability that can get defenders off balance. That start/stop ability will be a good building block to continue building his route running skills at the next level.
As mentioned, Watson isn’t the most refined route runner. He has the athletic ability to grow, but he is a very raw athlete with minimal route running techniques that will translate to the next level. Watson ran a very limited route tree and struggled to get in and out of breaks consistently. He should benefit greatly from top-tier NFL coaching when he gets to his future team. While Watson was able to make some very impressive catches, there were a few too many drops and body catches for comfort on tape, mostly consisting of concentration drops. Some of the aforementioned drops were tough catches, but at the FCS level, it would have been good to see him come down with more of those.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Late Round 3/ Round 4
Watson is a very raw athlete, and an NFL team taking a shot on him will be betting on his top-tier athleticism. He could see a huge jump at the next level if he takes well to the NFL coaching and cleans up his technique overall at the wide receiver position. It’s obvious that he could have been successful at the FBS level and even at a Power 5 college. But does he have the ability to be a standout at the NFL level? That’s the bet an NFL team will be taking when drafting him come April. The Atlanta Falcons stand out as a team that has a glaring hole at the WR position with the departure of Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, and even Russell Gage. If the Falcons focus on other positions of need early in the draft (there are plenty of needs to address), Watson is the perfect kind of home run swing they could take in the 3rd or 4th round. The Detriot Lions are another team with a lot of needs that the team could elect to address early on in the draft. But taking a shot on Watson on late Day 2 or Early Day 3 could pay off with a true downfield threat in the offense to pair with Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, and TJ Hockenson.
Post Draft Analysis
Green Bay Packers- Round 2, Pick 2
Green Bay had a mass exodus of wide receivers this offseason, most notably losing Davante Adams to the Raiders. They did convince Aaron Rodgers to come back and play for the team versus retiring, but looking around the wide receiver room, there aren’t many familiar faces. Allen Lazard is back with the team and he has been a consistent presence. Randall Cobb is aging and failed to make a large impact last season, but he’s a reliable target for Rodgers. Then the Packers trade 2 second-round picks to the Vikings to move up and take Christian Watson, a player that has all the upside in the world but is still very much a project. The Packers need someone to step in right away and be a target for Rodgers. It’s hard envisioning Watson being that reliable of a receiver right out of the gates, but he’ll be given every opportunity to be just that.
Watson couldn’t have asked to be drafted in a better situation outside of maybe the Kansas City Chiefs. He is still a raw prospect that needs a lot of development as a wide receiver. But having one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing him the ball can do a lot to mitigate these issues, not to mention the targets he is in line to be peppered with. There is minimal target competition around him between Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, and Amari Rodgers. None of those names inspire much confidence, including most of these players battling injury in recent years. That bodes well for Watson to get early playing time right out of the gates, and Lafluer most likely scheming up touches for Watson. Despite the development needed, he has an incredible situation to develop in. He’s a great home run swing at the top of the 2nd round of dynasty rookie drafts. In redraft, he could be a solid dart throw at the end of the draft.
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Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck – USA TODAY Sports