2022 NFL Draft Profile: Christian Watson (Fantasy Football)
The 2022 wide receiver draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory. According to Grinding the Mocks, 16 wideouts are projected to get chosen in the first two days of the draft. Christian Watson has been one of the biggest risers in the class this spring, recently getting first-round buzz. Let’s find out why.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.
Watson hasn’t been on the draft radar long. While FCS powerhouse North Dakota State has produced top quarterback picks Carson Wentz and Trey Lance in recent years, the Bison haven’t had a wide receiver picked in the NFL Draft since Stacy Robinson in the second round of the 1985 draft. Watson’s hype started to build when he made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl in February.
.@NDSUfootball WR Christian Watson has been the best WR at @seniorbowl practices all week, and today is no different. Pretty sure I didn’t see him lose a single rep in 1-on-1s pic.twitter.com/FZPNszHkZp
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 3, 2022
His draft stock has been rising ever since. Let’s take a look at Watson’s full profile and his fantasy prospects as he enters the NFL in 2022.
|Season||Games||REC||Yards||Yards/Rec||Rec TDs||Rush||Yards/rush||Rush TDs|
It took a while for Watson to get going. He even described himself as a late bloomer, which makes sense considering he grew four inches in just a six-month timespan late in high school. North Dakota State was the only school to offer him a scholarship coming out of high school. Even then, he redshirted as a freshman.
His production increased year over year, and by the end of his senior season, he had put up some huge numbers. His 4.33 yards/route run is the highest in the class. He’s the only prospect in the class to top 4.0 yards/route run, with well-known names Treylon Burks (3.57), Drake London (3.56), Jameson Williams (3.12), and Garrett Wilson (3.0), the only others to average at least 3.0 yards/route run.
Watson was more than just a receiver for the Bison. He carried the ball 52 times at 8.0 yards/attempt over his four years in Fargo. He also averaged 26.4 yards/return over his collegiate career and housed it twice, including this 100 yard TD return.
|Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash||Hand Size||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump|
|6’4”||208 lbs||4.36 sec||10 ⅛ “||38.5”||136”|
Watson entered college at 175 pounds and packed on over 30 more pounds his five years on campus. At 6’4”, he’s the second tallest wide receiver in the class. According to the production profile measurables in the UDK+ Dynasty Pass, he’s almost three inches taller than the average NFL WR1 at nearly the same weight.
The combine is where Watson burst onto the draft scene. He posted top-six numbers in the broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash. His 4.36 second forty was faster than every other wideout expected to get drafted on day one. Simply put, Watson is arguably the most physically gifted wideout in the class.
What’s on Tape
Games Viewed: Northern Iowa (2020), Eastern Washington (2021), Northern Iowa (2021), South Dakota (2021), Missouri State (2021),
Watson’s tape is littered with huge plays, By my count, he had 14 touchdowns of 40+ yards over his career. He is consistently seen creating separation with his pure speed as he blows by opposing defensive backs, as seen in this 85-yard touchdown bomb.
Watson has the profile of an outside receiver, but he can make an impact from anywhere on the field. He made big plays on jet sweeps and even occasionally lining up as a halfback in the backfield. In the clip below, Watson takes the reverse and navigates through traffic for a 43-yard touchdown run.
Watson’s hands aren’t great, and it showed up on tape. To be fair, he did show improvement over the years. He had an abysmal 28% drop rate in 2020 but improved that to a 10% drop rate in 2021. That still isn’t great, but at least it’s an improvement. Nevertheless, drops are a concern for Watson.
What’s NOT on Tape
Forced Missed Tackles
Elusiveness is in a crowd is not Watson’s strongest characteristic. According to Pro Football Focus, he only forced six missed tackles during the 2021 season. For comparison, in their senior seasons, Treylon Burks forced 15 missed tackles and Drake London forced 22. Watson is tough to catch in the open field but not nearly as difficult to bring down in tight spaces.
Watson was predominately an outside receiver in college. He only lined up in the slot 17.3% of his snaps over the past three seasons, compared to 80.1% of the time lined up out wide. The remaining 2.6% account for the handful of times he lined up in the backfield. In his final collegiate season, he only caught one pass for seven yards from the slot. Watson has the physical skills to succeed as a “big slot” in the NFL, but he has very little experience playing from that position on the field.
North Dakota State has won 11 of the last 12 FCS Championships, but it’s not the same competition as the FBS. Of the 1,696 players to make the 53-man roster cut in August of 2021, only 98 of them were from FCS schools and only 17 of those were defensive backs. The defenders Watson will face at the NFL level will be a much bigger challenge than the guys he was torching in college.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
Watson is one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2022 draft class. His landing spot and draft capital may impact his fantasy value more than any other prospect in the class. If he’s selected in round one by a team with a good quarterback and target opportunities, like the Green Bay Packers or Kansas City Chiefs, he’ll rocket up fantasy draft boards this summer. Given his big-play persona, he may profile better in best ball formats than redraft.
Watson presents more risk from a dynasty outlook, especially if his landing spot is less than ideal. Despite his freakish athleticism, he may take time to develop as an NFL wide receiver. This should be considered a concern for a wideout that will enter the league as a 23-year-old rookie.