2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Christian Watson

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Christian Watson

by February 9, 2022 5 comments

Every year scouts look for that mid-round, second-day player who can make a bang in the NFL. Usually, this player played at a smaller school, but teams select this sleeper because of measurements, production, athleticism, or pre-draft performance. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson has all of these intangibles. The former two-star receiver stands at 6-foot-4 and has true 4.4 speed. Watson’s stock has soared because of his recent Senior Bowl success. Additionally, he’s been a top target for quarterbacks like Trey Lance and knows what it takes to play at a very high level. While all these factors are significant, we still need to look at the tape and decide if Watson is all that he’s been hyped up to be.  

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio 

Name: Christian Watson
Jersey: No. 1
Position: Wide Receiver
School: North Dakota State
Class: Senior
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 211 lbs

Games Watched: South Dakota (2019), Eastern Washington (2020-2021), Montana State (2021), South Dakota (2021), Albany (2021), Valparaiso (2021)

Major Injury History: None

Player Breakdown

Hands/Ball Security (9.25/10)

There were no real issues with Watson’s hands in any film watched. One drop came on a bubble screen, but it wasn’t the greatest pass. We did see a nice toe-tap grab against South Dakota (2021), where he had to extend the catch radius up, haul in the pass, and focus on getting his feet down. There’s nothing to complain about Watson’s hands, and it will be an excellent asset for him early on. 

Contested Catch (7/10)

You’d think Watson would be a jump ball machine for someone so tall, but he’s a little inconsistent in this area. He isn’t given many opportunities in this area and has won a fair share of jump balls throughout his career. However, on the tape, Watson didn’t impress that much. There was the inability to grab a 30-yard back-shoulder pass against Eastern Washington, and then a drop deep verse Albany that you would hope to have seen caught if the defender didn’t hold Watson down. While this may be a discouraging grade due to the size of Watson, this is not where teams will need him to succeed. It will be a fantastic bonus if he masters the jump ball skill. 

Tracking/Body Control (8.25/10)

Watson does not have the David Bell-like control over his body, but he gets in done here. He’s often been able to twist and adjust his body on simple throws to make the catch. For example, a 15-yard back-shoulder route verse Montana State made Watson adjust for the simple catch. Watson’s control allows him to make the necessary plays, but nothing really “wows” you in this regard. There was a deep, looping pass against Valparaiso that he had to go to the ground with but didn’t catch the ball. All in all, Watson won’t make the highlight reel play with his tracking, but his body control is more than serviceable for the NFL. 

Route Running (8.5/10)

He seems to get better the deeper he goes down the field. In every game watched, Watson showed an awesome little move to get into his post routes, which are the best in his route tree. Unfortunately, Watson doesn’t come with a diverse route tree either. We mentioned the posts, but he pretty much has only run screens, curls, outs, and digs. There was one drag across the film that he succeeded in running, but it’s not the greatest route tree ever. 

Besides getting into the deeper areas, Watson excels best in his ability to stop on a dime. We see this is his curl routes when cornerbacks are playing off-man coverage. These routes are nearly unguardable, and there were two of these early against South Dakota (2021). These skills showed up again against South Dakota in 2019, except this one came on a comeback route 15 yards downfield. 

The weaknesses come from the out routes. Early in Watson’s career, his out-routes were very looped. They weren’t crisp in any right, though this has improved into 2021. Against Montana State, he was tasked with a stick concept, and the route was very clean. The cut to the outside was crisp, and Watson easily got open even though he wasn’t targeted. 

Separation (8.5/10)

Big wide receivers have often gotten criticized for lack of separation. Guys like N’Keal Harry and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are two of the notable busts for this. Watson, on the other hand, can create separation much differently than most bigger receivers do. Strength isn’t going to be a big factor in how he gets open. He’ll beat corners with speed and route running. Watson understands corners and the leverage they have mid-play. On a deep out-route verse South Dakota (2019), Watson made a firm deke to get the outside leverage when a corner was turned towards the inside. There should be no concerns for Watson getting separation in the NFL. 

Release (7.5/10)

The release was the hardest trait to scout for Watson. This is simply because corners wouldn’t press him much. A 6’4″ receiver with elite speed, like Watson, will regularly beat an FCS cornerback by running past them. The package was decent but not the greatest when he was truly pressed. Watson’s release is mostly just a stutter step. Sometimes, he got his hands involved, but again, corners rarely gave Watson a battle at the line of scrimmage. 

Run After Catch (9/10)

No receiver who stands this tall should move this way. Watson is absurdly evasive and makes guys miss left and right. He doesn’t use an insane amount of explicit jukes, more so runs past and around defenders. We did see a fun hurdle in the film where Watson cleared the South Dakota (2019) defender with ease. The negatives are that he can be a little too clunky at times. Watson isn’t great at making himself skinny as a ball carrier, but that’s not too necessary when receiving out in space. Overall, Watson can be lethal after the catch in the NFL

Vertical Speed (9.25/10)

With the vertical speed, you need to (again) factor in size as well. Watson isn’t going to be a Tyreek Hill type receiver. But for the big guy he is, boy can he go. It almost looks like Watson is getting faster as he goes further downfield. He’s constantly running right past defenders, even when they’re in off-man coverage, and getting a step with ease for the deep ball. 

Burst (5/5)

We discussed when talking about the vertical speed how Watson gets faster downfield. Burst is what makes Watson’s post routes so good. Out of his cut, he can speed up with ease, and it’s a full acceleration into the second level. We saw this come even from an early age against South Dakota in 2019, and he’s only improved since. Watson’s burst is at the top of the class and may even be the best in the class. 

Athleticism (4.75/5)

Everything about the athleticism is sweet. Against Valparaiso, Watson ran for a 70-yard touchdown on a touch pass that makes you think he may be a little quicker than 4.40 speed. The one knock here is play strength. You’d like to see Watson get stronger and fill out his frame a bit more before he takes over serious reps in the league. If he can do this without hurting his speed too much, then we are looking at a superstar. 

Blocking (3.75/5)

The blocking from Watson has improved over the years, but it’s still not great. His best game blocking-wise came against Valparaiso, and Watson did pancake a defensive back verse Eastern Washington. Besides these moments and games, Watson is an inconsistent blocker that has potential in the NFL to be a good one because of the frame. 

Versatility (5/5)

Out of everything that Watson does well, versatility is what will get him drafted early. From a pure receiver standpoint, Watson has lined up on both sides of the field, including the slot. He is a prime target for screen passes and end-arounds, which North Dakota State gave him often. The part that takes the cake, however, is the carries out of the backfield. The second he lines up back there, your mind drifts to Deebo Samuel with the San Francisco 49ers. It’ll be very fun to see how NFL teams use Watson. 

Player Summary

Before his Senior Bowl performance, Watson was the definition of a hidden gem. Now, he’s a player getting some serious draft hype, and rightfully so. All of the traits we went over bring us to one conclusion: Watson has the potential to be a star. Is he worth taking in the first round? Well, with all this receiving talent, it’s hard to say. But, Watson is a talented enough player to be selected on Day 1 and get starting reps in his rookie year. 

Rookie Projection: Cracking Starting Reps

Third-Year Projection: Potential Breakout Year

Player Grade (85.75/100): Late-First Round

Player Comparison: Deebo Samuel


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