Fantasy Court: The Case Against Christian Watson in 2023 (Fantasy Football)
This article is part of the annual Fantasy Court series. Check out The Case For Christian Watson by Caleb Leach for the opposing view.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor to return to fantasy court. My victories in this courtroom are well documented, perhaps no more evident than my spot-on case for Saquon Barkley one year ago. However, as much as I enjoy bringing the truth to light in fantasy court, it brings me no pleasure to shed light on today’s case.
As a card-carrying Cheesehead, it pains me to deride any member of the green and gold. That being said, I feel it my duty to put a stop to the egregious over drafting of Christian Watson. His current average draft position (ADP) of WR25 is out of control. He is being drafted before Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, and Diontae Johnson. These are just a handful of the more reliable wide receivers currently going later than Watson in fantasy drafts, not to mention potential bell cow running backs like Alexander Mattison, Cam Akers, and James Conner.
Allow me to make the case against Christian Watson for fantasy football in 2023.
The Definition of “Unsustainable”
No, I won’t subject you to Webster’s definition of “unsustainable.” I will point out that if you looked it up, you would likely find a picture of Watson celebrating one of the seven touchdowns he scored from Weeks 10-13 of the 2022 season. During that stretch, he put up 91.7 fantasy points on just 15 catches. That breaks down to a ridiculous 6.1 fantasy points per reception!
If you want to dig deeper, check out the wide receiver edition of my “anomaly or new norm” series, where Watson and his 9.4 target/TD rate in 2022 is featured as a likely anomaly. That fact is further supported by Marvin Elequin’s expected touchdown model, which says that Watson is one of the biggest negative regression candidates in 2023.
That four-week stretch accounted for 64% of Watson’s fantasy points on the season. If you eliminate Week 18, when no reasonable fantasy football league is still competing, it jumps up to 71% of his fantasy points in those four weeks. What’s worse, Watson put up just 16.1 total fantasy points from Weeks 15-17, also known as the fantasy playoffs. I’m sorry for your loss if you were counting on Watson during that stretch, especially if you somehow made it to the Week 17 championship, where Watson scored a meager 1.6 fantasy points.
More Unknowns Than We Know?
What’s even more troublesome for Watson is the complete unknowability of Green Bay’s offense heading into the 2023 season. Aaron Rodgers is gone. So are the 217 targets vacated by Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Randall Cobb. At first glance, this may seem like a positive note for Watson. But if we look closer, Romeo Doubs commanded a higher target share than Watson last season. The following table shows how the targets were spread out in Green Bay’s offense in 2022.
So Watson didn’t exactly command targets from a season-long point of view in 2022. Maybe we could project him for a nice bump in 2023 if, along with the departures of Lazard, Tonyan, and Cobb, Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers was returning for his 19th season in Green Bay. Instead, we have to do our best to project what a Rodgers-less offense looks like under Matt LaFleur.
Here’s what we do know. The Packers ran a run-heavy offense at one of the slowest paces in the NFL last season. Just check the 2022 stats in the table below.
|Neutral Game Sec/Play||32.9||28|
Now, keep in mind, this was with back-to-back MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm. It seems awfully unlikely that Green Bay picks up the pace and passes more in Jordan Love’s first season as a starter.
But that’s not all. Not only is Rodgers gone, but there are other young pass catchers in Green Bay to compete for targets. As a fellow rookie, Romeo Doubs put up better target stats than Watson last season. More recently, Doubs has been getting some major hype as the potential top target in the offense during training camp.
I don't think last year's Romeo Doubs hype was all nothing.
There's something there. Here he is beating Jaire Alexander off the line AND at the catch point.
He might take a significant step in that offense in Year 2pic.twitter.com/UGBkh0g6pG
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 2, 2023
Plus, the Packers went and spent two second-round NFL draft picks on pass catchers Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed, not to mention third-round pick Tucker Kraft. Another second-year wideout, Samori Toure, could also take a big step into relevance in his second professional season. Green Bay has the youngest collection of pass-catchers in the NFL, and predicting who comes out on top feel like a fool’s errand.
Watson burned bright in 2022…for four weeks. I don’t doubt that he will put up his fair share of elite games again in 2023, but they will likely be outnumbered by his down weeks. While I won’t argue over his draft spot with the best ball bros, his current ADP is unlikely to pay off in redraft.
In short, is Watson one of the most athletic wide receivers in the NFL? Absolutely. Will he pay off his current redraft ADP? Unlikely.