Just shy of a week ago, the Green Bay Packers traded up to the top of the second round to select wide receiver Christian Watson out of North Dakota State University.
Watson set the draftnik world ablaze with his offseason dominance of the Senior Bowl showcase and the NFL Scouting Combine.
He used his 4.36 speed to race up draft boards seemingly until the opening of the 2022 NFL Draft last Thursday evening.
Despite this, many continue to be divided on this draft darling.
I fell in love with Christian Watson, then I fell out of love and then I fell back in love.
That, in a nutshell explains who Christian Watson the prospect is.
Watson’s raw measurable are just…um…hard to wrap your head around.
6-4+ height // 208 lbs // 4.36 timed speed // 38.5″ vertical // 10″ hands
A freakishly sized human with sprinter speed, explosive jumping ability and strong agility.
Why on earth would all 32 teams (some multiple times) pass on this truly special athletic specimen?
Because, as someone is likely to tell you, Fargo sucks and Watson can’t catch.
That’s a joke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a tweet out there somewhere that actually says that.
The distillation of the knocks on Watson are as follows:
*Coming from NDSU and playing in the FCS, Watson didn’t play against stiff enough competition
*He’s an underdeveloped receiver who’s relied on his athleticism too much. Read: “raw”
*He has difficulty catching the ball with consistency
*Watson’s college numbers don’t jump off the page
I heard all of these things, and eventually I started to agree with them.
The problem is, not every player has the preferred linear path to the NFL.
Eventually I took a deeper look at the criticism of Christian Watson.
The conclusion I came to is that Watson is not without risk, like any prospect. But, Watson absolutely made the most of his opportunities in a run heavy collegiate offense where he wasn’t asked to do much more than get open deep or utilize his physical tools and find the end zone.
Just because he wasn’t asked to run every route on the tree, does not mean he’s incapable.
All he did was make play after play with the ball in his hands. Making NFL caliber high point catches, toe-tapping sideline grabs and trucking defensive backs. Cue salivation.
Not every prospect can be a top 10 high school recruit and play in the SEC.
It’s quite possible that Christian Watson just slipped through cracks as a late bloomer, and is ready to take what collegiate experience he does have and marry that with his insane physical traits to become an NFL ass-kicker.
So, what could Christian Watson eventually become?
Lots of Marquez Valdes-Scantling comparisons have been thrown around in the early going, and on the surface I can see that.
Watson’s bread and butter right now is that of dominant deep threat.
Perhaps “Go” routes and double moves are the most we can expect from Watson in year 1.
Personally, I think that would be a great starting point and allow Watson to play to his strengths.
The Matt LaFleur offense is predicated on having a reliable deep threat, and I think we can all agree that MVS being inactive against the 49ers in the playoffs was a key reason that the Packers lost that game.
If Watson can successfully fill that role in year 1, that could seriously be enough to put the Packers over the top for another Super Bowl berth. I’m okay with that!
Indulge me for a moment.
After watching a lot of Christian Watson cut-ups, I kept coming back to one player that he reminded me of.
Calvin Johnson. Megatron.
There is only one Calvin Johnson, but after looking at lots of high-end comps using Kent Lee Platte’s RAS website, no one fit more closely to what Christian Watson’s ceiling might be.
The thing that really jumped out at me was when Watson had the ball in his hands, his vision and ability to carve up the field (and defenders) in front him was eerily similar to the nightmare years of Calvin Johnson running through some leaky Packers secondaries.
Furthermore, watching Watson highpoint the ball over a sea of defenders deep downfield is practically something that Megatron could have a trademark on.
What if Christian Watson lives in the weight room during the 2022 season?
Then he shows up to camp in 2023 at 6-4 and a rocked-up 220 lbs instead of a lean and lanky 208 without losing 1/100 of a second of speed.
What if he devours the playbook and spends the off-season learning the nuance of footwork or selling routes?
Could he be MegaWat?
Obviously a lofty goal, but Christian Watson has already shown that he’s not willing to rest on his natural abilities and will outwork everyone to reach his significant ceiling.
Remember when no one wanted DK Metcalf because he ran a horrible 3-cone?
Yeah, scouts and executives get it wrong all the time.
Christian Watson will undoubtedly have a learning curve when he lands in Green Bay.
He’s got all the tools to be a dominant force in the NFL for years to come, and I think he’s got the work ethic to become much better than the sum of his parts as well.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.