C. Watson (WR) | Packers 6’4″ 208 lbs. | 5/12/1999 (24)
High School/ College Production
Being a late bloomer, Christian Watson was not heavily recruited in high school. He graduated at 6’2″, growing another two inches in college. Watson had a significant growth spurt between his junior and senior year of high school, gaining 20 lbs. Because of this, he didn’t get significant playing time until his senior year, where he posted modest numbers of 23 receptions, 393 yards, and eight TDs.
North Dakota State offered Watson a scholarship, and Watson stayed in the FCS program for all four years. His most impressive campaign was his senior season, posting 43 receptions, 801 yards, and 7 TDs. As a senior, he also tacked on 15 rush attempts for 114 yards and one TD. Watson was consistently used in the running game for the Bisons since his sophomore season.
By that point, Watson had grown to his current height of 6’4″, and was selected in the second round (34th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the 2022 NFL Draft. As a prospect entering the NFL, Watson was seen as more of a project, but someone with the raw skills and athleticism that would allow him to have a truly elite ceiling if he continued to develop. And he certainly showed flashes of greatness in Year 1. Last year, Watson established himself as Aaron Rodgers‘ top target late in the season when Green Bay was dealing with numerous injuries to an already depleted WR corps. Rodgers has since moved on to the Jets who are amongst the NFL odds favorites to make a deep run this season in the playoffs.
Christian Watson’s biggest strengths are as follows:
- Build (6’4”, 208lbs)
- Draft capital (Early 2nd day, 34th overall)
- Deep threat (4.36 40-yard dash)
- Athleticism (WR1 Athleticism score in his class)
- Contested-Catch Rate
- Lack of competition in Green Bay
Watson had an impressive 2.40 YPRR and 13.8 ADOT, ranking 12th amongst WRs last year. He was also 3rd in fantasy points per route run and led the NFL in fantasy points per target. The hyper-efficiency in fantasy production resulted from Watson’s nine total TDs in just 14 games.
Watson struggled with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, ultimately missing three total games. He also had a low snap share until later in the season when he was back to full health and had earned further trust from the Green Bay coaching staff. They asked Watson to carry the load while Randall Cobb and Romeo Doubs were out, and this WR corps was essentially down to him and Allen Lazard for a solid month.
Watson had his rookie breakout in Week 10, posting four straight WR1 weeks and an absurd seven TDs in those four weeks. Watson had one of the biggest spikes in Dynasty value we’ve seen in quite some time last year, going from the WR57 on KeepTradeCut up to WR15 at his peak.
Watson emerged as the most reliable target for Aaron Rodgers as the year progressed, posting 17.2 fantasy PPG in PPR formats from Week 10 on. Green Bay had 42.5% of their target share leave this offseason, including Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Robert Tonyan, and Sammy Watkins. So Watson has plenty of opportunity to expand on his target share numbers in 2023 and cement himself as the Packers’ clear WR1 for the foreseeable future. And his target share numbers as a rookie were already impressive, finishing at 25.5% TPRR, good for WR25 in 2022.
One of the concerns from Watson’s college profile was his route-running ability. He didn’t have a well-established route tree in college and tended to round his routes off. While he still has some work to do in this department, Watson has exceeded expectations with his route-running in Year 1. Here’s a look at Watson’s success by route, according to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception.
Watson stayed all four years at North Dakota State, so he wasn’t an early declare and faced FCS competition throughout his career. On top of this, Watson has never posted overly impressive total numbers at any point in his football career. In fact, he’s never managed to post 1,000 receiving yards in a season, not even in high school.
1,000 receiving yards in a season:
NFL = 0
College = 0
High School = 0 pic.twitter.com/M3viTljfOR
— Nick Whalen (@_NickWhalen) June 21, 2023
Many of Watson’s most impressive numbers as a rookie can also be seen as red flags. Watson had an 18.8% TD rate, which is exponentially high and by no means sustainable over an entire 17-game season with a significant snap share.
Outside of the span where Watson posted WR1 finishes in four straight weeks, he had one WR2 finish and nine finishes outside of the Top 40. We can expect more volatility from Watson regarding fantasy production, as he lined up much more on the outside than in the slot as a rookie. Watson never saw more than eight targets in a game all season but managed to make the most of his limited opportunities by finding his way to the end zone so frequently. As mentioned, Christian Watson is an excellent deep threat, as confirmed by his WR1 ADOT numbers.
While the Packers did let go of a large portion of their 2022 target share, they also drafted several receiving threats in the NFL draft this offseason:
- Round 2: Luke Musgrave (TE)
- Round 2: Jayden Reed (WR)
- Round 3: Tucker Kraft (TE)
- Round 5: Dontayvion Wicks (WR)
- Round 7: Grant Dubose (WR)
Obviously, there’s a good chance the majority of these guys never materialize, but regardless, there are plenty of new young receiving options in Green Bay heading into 2023.
The recent QB change is one question mark when considering Watson’s future production. Aaron Rodgers has left for New York, leaving Year 4 QB Jordan Love as the man under center in Green Bay. Over three seasons, Love has only started one game, so we have no idea what to expect from the Utah State prospect. I don’t see Green Bay increasing the passing volume in 2023, and they were only 18th in pass rate in 2022, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this Green Bay team were a bottom ten passing attack in 2023.
If Christian Watson disappoints in Year 2, there’s a real chance he will plummet in Dynasty value. His value is slightly less insulated than someone like Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, or Drake London, who had superior prospect profiles and few red flags. Someone whose Dynasty value jumped from a low-end WR5 to a mid-WR2 in a month leaves me skeptical about their actual value. We saw the same thing with Gabe Davis after his monster games in the 2021 playoffs. Gabe’s Dynasty value on KTC skyrocketed to WR15 to start last season, and now his value has dropped to WR47. He simply doesn’t get the consistent volume to be anything more than a boom/bust guy.
I realize these guys aren’t the same player; Watson was a considerably better prospect and had superior draft capital. But to a lesser degree, I could see this kind of drop in value for Watson if he fails to meet his lofty Year 2 expectations.
One player that comps similarly to Christian Watson is DJ Chark. I think Chark is more of Watson’s floor in terms of NFL expectations, but here are some of their numbers side by side:
|Christian Watson||DJ Chark|
|Build||6’4”, 208lbs||6’3”, 200lbs|
|Next Gen Stats Score||75||76|
|Draft Capital||Round 2 (34th)||Round 2 (61st)|
Both prospects scored poorly in NFL’s Next Gen Stats production score, and both were atop their WR class in athleticism score. In addition, Watson and Chark stayed all four years in college, are considered deep threats, were used in the rushing and return game, and had high TD rates in college. Outside of Chark playing at a Power 5 school in LSU, these two players were eerily similar prospects coming out of college.
Now, Watson had a much better rookie year than Chark, who only managed 14 receptions in Year 1, partially due to a nagging quad injury. Chark had his breakout in Year 2, finishing as the WR17 overall and compiling over 1,000 receiving yards and eight TDs. Unfortunately for Chark, he fizzled out after his second year, never even finishing as a WR4 since then. Much of this can be attributed to the endless injuries he has dealt with over his 5-year career. Watson dealt with some minor injuries himself as a rookie. Hopefully, he won’t have the same struggles Chark had in this department.
As mentioned, I feel Chark is Watson’s fantasy floor, and his ceiling is someone like Tee Higgins. As athletic as Chark was as a prospect, Watson is even more athletic and can be a Top-24 WR for the next 5-7 years if everything falls his way. Watson has a wide range of outcomes in terms of fantasy production, and I think the 2023 season will determine his career trajectory. According to Bulletproof ADP, Christian Watson is going at the 5.04 as the WR18 in PPR SF Dynasty leagues within the past month. I’m personally not comfortable grabbing Watson at the WR18 mark, as I feel this is essentially his ceiling. Still, I can’t fault anyone for taking a swing on a young elite athlete like Watson.
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