Christian Watson finally heard his name at No. 34 overall when the Green Bay Packers drafted him in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Packers traded up to No. 34 overall, giving up two picks in the mid-50s to move up for Watson -- a player who they feel will immediately make an impact to offset the offseason losses of wide receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Watson is one of the most exciting players you'll watch this draft cycle. When he gets into open space, he'll eliminate safety and second-level linebacker angles, and when he runs the vertical stem, he'll sometimes create up to five yards of separation within seconds. Watching his game film is almost like watching a video game. Watson's doubters will point to the level of competition and lack of speed on opposing defenses while playing at North Dakota State, but his steady drumbeat continued at the Senior Bowl when he impressed against high-level competition.
What jumps out on tape is how much respect opposing cornerbacks offer Watson on a consistent basis due to his ability to chew up ground fast on vertical routes, and cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl soon learned how difficult it was to keep up with him in man coverage, so they too began to back off. Watson is not a finished product by any means and I have real concerns over a few areas of his game -- we'll get to below, but his limited route tree is not one of them. That's the same "concern" I heard about DK Metcalf and players before him. My focus is on what a receiver can become based on his traits and projection and not what he was able to do (or oftentimes only asked to do) at the collegiate level.
Watson's freakish straight-line speed, acceleration and vertical leaping ability put him in the top percentile of athletes at his position, and those traits project to a high-ceiling WR1 in Fantasy Football if he can reach said ceiling.
Age as of Week 1: 22 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 208 | 40-time: 4.36
Comparable body-type to: Martavis Bryant
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Watson from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
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Watson's calling card is his length and straight-line speed, and that makes him a perfect replacement for Valdes-Scantling as the X receiver on the outside. However, Watson also offers a lot more athleticism than his predecessor. Watson's leaping ability and lateral explosion were on display throughout his film at NDSU when they used him on jet sweeps and presnap motion. With Aaron Rodgers, he'll be an immediate hit on the smoke routes that Rodgers loves to throw. Watson has a path toward massive volume in Year 1 given the lack of target competition and vacated targets within that Green Bay offense.
Watson has seen his Dynasty stock rise significantly since tearing up the combine. And it wasn't just the 40-yard dash that caught everyone's attention -- Watson measured in with a massive wingspan (32.5-inch arms) and hands (10.5 inches) to go along with elite-level explosive numbers — 38.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot-4 broad jump. Watson's height is in the 90th percentile for wide receivers while his 40-yard dash finished in the 92nd percentile and broad jump in the 98th percentile. Athletes like that with his past level production don't fall far in Dynasty rookie drafts and now that he has been paired with Rodgers he could move all the way up to the WR1 off the board. He won't last very long in Round 1 regardless of format.
- Watson brings prototypical X wide receiver size at 6-4, and while I don't think he's the best for his size at using his length to high-point contested catches, he does an excellent job using his frame to box out and get position on defensive backs in coverage.
- Consistent success rate against man coverage that carried over to the Senior Bowl when he evolved to matching up against D-1, Power-5 conference cornerbacks.
- Elite top-end straight-line speed -- Watson almost looks like a gazelle out there gliding through his vertical stem.
- Acceleration is another elite trait in Watson's game. If you watch closely on vertical routes, he'll cover ground in a flash and often create 3-5 steps on his defender seemingly right off the snap. Watson's acceleration also shows up when he's moving laterally on bubble screens and jet sweep/push pass plays.
- Run-after-the-catch ability is surprisingly there for Watson -- despite his lengthy frame. He's elusive.
- Massive catch radius projects to the NFL level with lengthy wingspan and massive hands plus explosive jumps -- all translate to a receiver who can pluck away from his frame.
- Performed well at the Senior Bowl against press-man coverage due to his physicality.
- Watson offers versatility as he was used in a Deebo Samuel-esque role at times on jet sweeps, push passes and quick-designed throws around the line of scrimmage because of his YAC ability.
- Played in an ultra run-heavy offense at NDSU, which led to his deflated stats -- more meat on the bone for the next level if he gets into a pass-heavy offense.
- Shows willingness and physicality to be a solid blocker at the next level on the perimeter.
- Ideal frame for projection to the next level with his long arms, massive hands, and ability to pluck away from his frame.
- Smooth on the move and a long strider.
- Plays with plus body control/contact balance for a prospect of his size.
- Uses his hands and get-off speed to beat press-man coverage with physicality and speed.
- Perhaps most importantly from a projection standpoint, Watson can bend at his hips and has good ankle flexion and lateral movement skills for a 6-4 athlete.
- Watson struggles at times to track vertical passes and doesn't always look natural in this regard. If you're looking for an excellent example of what an elite vertical ball tracker looks like, then check out 2022 wide receiver prospect George Pickens or someone like Josh Palmer from the 2021 rookie class.
- Watson's hands remain a work in progress, and he's not the most natural hands catcher and often lets the ball come into his body. Concentration drops were an issue for Watson at NDSU on a limited target sample size.
- Not as strong at the catch point in contested-catch and tight-window throw situations, although he has the tools to be.
- For now, Wason's route tree is a bit limited, but we've seen that "concern" quickly wash away for prospects with similar concerns entering the NFL in recent seasons like Metcalf.
Advanced stats to know
- 16 drops at NDSU despite just 105 total receptions in 52 games.
- 8.0 yards after the catch -- tied for 23rd-best in the class
Watson reminds me in some ways of former Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant. While they offer similar athletic builds, both prospects differed in many ways. Watson has the edge when it comes to his acceleration, which makes him a better post-catch YAC threat, but Bryant was better at the catch point. Watson has all the tools to be a mismatch at the NFL level but will need to improve his concentration at the catch point and his willingness (and success in) making tight-window contested-catches