Sean Payton Addresses Why Broncos' Rookie RB is Compared to Alvin Kamara

The Denver Broncos could have a sleeper who's drawn comparisons to an All-Pro on their hands.
Denver Broncos rookie running back Blake Watson
Denver Broncos rookie running back Blake Watson / Ben Watson/Denver Broncos

When Sean Payton turned on Blake Watson's film at Memphis, the Denver Broncos head coach had visions of running back receptions dancing in his head.

“I watched him," Payton said of Watson. "Then, I’d like to throw it to him.” (laughs)

Although he went undrafted, Watson was one of just two running backs to catch 50-plus passes in the FBS last year. Add to that his (unofficial) 4.39-second speed, and he makes for an intriguing weapon to add to Denver's new-look offense helmed by first-round quarterback Bo Nix, who has proven to be quite savvy at distributing the 'gimme' throws to playmakers in the short game, allowing them to get out in space, and do what they do.

In Payton's offense, much gets made of the 'joker' role, and he has talked a lot about it since arriving in Denver. Joker is synonymous with 'weapon,' and it's not necessarily tied to a specific position.

Many players have served in the joker role for Payton throughout the years, but when asked whether Watson shares any similarities with New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Payton quickly dismissed the notion.

“No. Look, we use that ‘joker’ term a little bit," Payton said. "That was one of the traits, though, that stood out. He was one of those guys again in the seventh round, sixth round, but we saw a player that was natural catching the ball. That was a big draw."

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After all, Watson stands at just 5-foot-9 and 189 pounds. The Broncos have a twitchy, smallish running back on the roster already in Jaleel McLaughlin, but Watson's receiving ability combined with his speed, and perhaps even his vision, made him an attractive draw for Payton.

"When we read a player, that was a draw to his vision. What’s the vision? So now we’re learning more about him," Payton said of Watson.

Who knows? Perhaps if Watson begins his NFL career by taking a hand-off 50-plus yards to the house, then people can feel more comfortable making the Kamara comparisons.

"I’m not making the comparison, but when [the Saints] drafted Kamara, we saw that vision, but we didn’t realize the other things in the running game," Payton said. "The first handoff in the preseason, I think against the Chargers, he went 52 yards for a touchdown. And we were like, ‘Man, we can hand the ball off to him.’ But if you asked me the traits that attracted us to Blake, it was certainly that that we saw in the passing game, and you saw pretty good football IQ too.”

After transferring from Old Dominion to Memphis last year, Watson rushed for 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns, and hauled in 53 receptions for 480 yards and another three scores. Kamara is an inch taller and 25-plus pounds heavier than Watson.

A more apt comparison for Watson might be Darren Sproles, who played for Payton in New Orleans from 2011-13. The 5-foot-6 Sproles could patiently follow his blockers, disappearing behind them, only to blast through a hole and into the second level, but he could also catch the ball as well as any running back in NFL history.

Sproles was quite a weapon for Payton, and so was Kamara. It's no coincidence that Kamara's five-year Pro Bowl streak ended when Payton stepped down as Saints head coach.

It's too early to predict such things for the undrafted rookie, Watson, but his unique combination of traits is giving him the opportunity to audition for a role similar to what the likes of Sproles and Kamara held under Payton in the Big Easy. Watson and Broncos' fifth-rounder Audric Estimé joins a running back room led by Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, the aforementioned McLaughlin, and Tyler Badie.

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Chad Jensen


Chad Jensen is the Founder of Mile High Huddle and creator of the wildly popular Mile High Huddle Podcast. Chad has been on the Denver Broncos beat since 2012 and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.