WR – North Dakota St.
6’4” 208 lbs
Notable College Production:
Christian Watson is a small school prospect who was a major winner at the NFL Combine when he measured in at 6’4” and ran a 4.36 second 40-yard dash. His raw production in college wasn’t remarkable but he played in a run-first offense that routinely rested starters with a lead late in games. He is a big play receiver who is able to win on deep routes as well as creating YAC on shorter throws. The biggest concerns in Watson’s profile are his high drop rate and lack of polish despite being an older prospect. Watson is currently being drafted as the 8th rookie WR off the board on Underdog which reflects the reality that his 2022 outlook is very landing spot dependent.
Evaluating Christian Watson is a bit of a roller coaster experience. His measurables are off the charts with an elite combination of size and athleticism, even by NFL standards. Despite these physical gifts, Watson’s most productive season against FCS competition topped out at 801 yards and 7 touchdowns, which is very underwhelming for someone rumored to be a top 50 NFL draft pick. However, if we drill down a bit further on Watson’s production it starts to look pretty good in the context of his offense. In his three seasons as a regular contributor he accounted for 25%, 35%, and then 35% again of his team’s total receiving yardage, which are very strong market share numbers. Additionally, he is the only prospect in this class with a yards per route run above 4.0 in 2021. This number is a bit inflated by NDSU’s extremely run-heavy offense which averaged fewer than 20 passing attempts per game in each season of Watson’s career, but is a positive indicator nonetheless. Add in his production as a rusher and returner and all of a sudden Watson starts to look worthy of a top 50 pick.
Watson’s production may turn into a strength with added context, but his career drop rate of nearly 13% is much more difficult to put a positive spin on. This is especially true for the 2020 season when he had an absolutely woeful drop rate of 28% (small sample size but still very worrying). Watson sometimes uses his body to trap the ball rather than snagging it with his hands which makes him susceptible to drops and will reduce his effectiveness in contested catch situations against NFL defensive backs. He isn’t a great route runner at this point but he showed improvement each season in college and has the physical tools to create separation on a variety of routes if he improves in more technical areas like footwork and route tempo.
Watson is surprisingly dynamic with the ball in his hands for such a tall receiver. He had 426 rushing yards in his college career and was a very effective kick returner. He should thrive on manufactured touches and has the speed to threaten defenses vertically, a great combination to add to any offense. He is not as polished as the top tier of receivers in this class but his long-term upside is just as high and he has the explosive skill set to provide boom weeks in best ball as a rookie. If Watson lands on a team with a good deep ball passer at QB I will be very excited about his outlook for 2022 and would expect his ADP to rise.