NDSU wide receiver Christian Watson is an intriguing prospect to evaluate for dynasty fantasy football leagues in 2022. He finished his collegiate career with highs in receptions (43), yards (801), and touchdowns (7). How should dynasty fantasy managers view Watson now that he’s with the Packers?
Christian Watson’s fantasy profile
Watson checks in at a towering 6’4″ and weighs 208 pounds. What are the best parts of his game, and what aspects of his profile might he need to overcome to succeed at the NFL level?
At his size, Watson has the physique and stature to be an excellent jump-ball specialist. He is much bigger than the average NFL cornerback, which gives him an advantage on downfield balls.
In his final season at North Dakota State, Watson averaged 18.6 yards per reception. It wasn’t just his size, though. Watson is incredibly fast. Before the Combine, I wrote here that he had a realistic chance to run a 4.4 40-yard dash. Well, he beat that by .04 seconds.
Watson will also be able to appeal to teams through his ability as a kick returner. Special-teams performance is an underrated aspect of college prospects. The ability to play on special teams can help get rookies onto the field, giving someone like Watson more of a chance to impress coaches and earn a larger role.
Typically, wide receivers profile as outside or slot guys. What stands out about Watson is he can do both. The NDSU offense moved him all over the formation. He’s not an elite route runner, but he’s certainly very good. Watson’s ability to accelerate off the snap and create separation, combined with his after-the-catch speed, makes him the rare FCS player with a real chance to succeed at the pro level.
Watson has shown the ability to body defenders and create an advantageous position in contested-catch situations. However, he didn’t always come down with the ball when he should’ve. Watson’s tendency to try and catch with his body rather than his hands essentially makes him smaller and neutralizes his size advantage. Fortunately, this is something that can be corrected. You can’t teach 6’4″, 208 pounds.
Outside of his actual football talent, Watson has to overcome his college. While NDSU has given us NFL prospects before, it’s still an FCS school. One of the key ways I like to evaluate college performance is by looking at how a player performed against top competition. A big game against Alabama or LSU is very different from a big game against Northern Iowa or Missouri State.
Through no fault of his own, Watson’s production came against defensive players that are not going to be playing in the NFL. That makes it difficult to gauge how impressive his numbers actually are.
In Cam Mellor’s March 26 Mock Draft, he projected Watson to go in Round 1. However, PFN Draft Analyst Oliver Hodgkinson cautioned that Watson might not get drafted until early Day 3. The unfortunate reality is Day 3 wide receivers rarely turn into fantasy-relevant players. I’m confident Watson is talented enough to have a nice NFL career, but fantasy managers looking to draft him would prefer he be at least a Day 2 pick.
Watson’s injury history
Watson has a pretty clean injury history. It’s always more difficult to find information on FCS players, but it appears Watson’s only injury of note is a 2021 hamstring strain that cost him three games.
Green Bay Packers
Entering Day 2 of the NFL Draft, no team needed a wide receiver more than the Packers. After passing on the position twice in the first round, the Packers traded up with the Vikings to get Aaron Rodgers a wide receiver. They then selected Watson with the 34th overall pick.
While MVS is not a big loss, Davante Adams most certainly is. Currently, Allen Lazard tops their depth chart. I like Lazard, but he’s a nice complementary piece; a WR3. He should not be any team’s No. 1 receiver. Behind Lazard are a bunch of players that are barely worthy of being on NFL rosters.
Watson is not as pro-ready as some of the other receivers in this class, but he’s going to have to learn quickly. As an early second-round pick entering a depleted WR room, it would be shocking if he didn’t start opposite Lazard in Week 1.
With that said, Watson is far from a complete receiver. He will have to learn on the job, but his ceiling is as high as anyone’s playing with Rodgers. Ultimately, in dynasty, Watson’s valuation should not matter too much as Rodgers only has a couple of years left. Watson will be around long after Rodgers is gone.
From a redraft perspective, Watson will have every opportunity to make an impact as a rookie. If he’s nothing more than a field stretcher like Valdes-Scantling, then we’ll get similar production. Hopefully, for the Packers and fantasy managers, he’s much more than that. Watson should be a worthwhile WR5 with WR3 upside.
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