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Can Justin Watson Convert Offseason Hype Into a Roster Spot?

Is the hype turning into something more, or will the Watson train stop short of the regular season?

The Kansas City Chiefs' wide receiver room looks a lot different than it did a year ago, and that doesn't apply to just the top of the depth chart.

Everyone knows the projected top four in Kansas City's new Tyreek Hill-less reality world: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore. That order may not necessarily be the case come Week 1 but in some fashion, those are the players that should see the ball thrown their way more than any other Chiefs wideout in 2022. There isn't much room for debate on that end.

There is, however, plenty of room for debate, discussion and questioning in regards to the final spot or two on the receiver depth chart. A little bit of clarity has been provided now that rookie UDFA Justyn Ross is on the injured reserve list, but multiple players are still competing for a very finite amount of places to filter in. The likes of veteran reclamation projects such as Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, 2021 training camp and preseason darlings like Daurice Fountain, and even 2021 draft pick Cornell Powell are battling for the right to make the final cut. There's one player who has been hyped more than just about all of them, though. 

Twenty-six-year-old Justin Watson. 

Jul 27, 2022; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson (84) runs drills during training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Watson, who signed with Kansas City on a futures deal back in February, was a fifth-round pick back in 2018. He has just 23 catches for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns to his name in the NFL. The most damage he's done on the football field came at the collegiate level with Pennsylvania, where he finished No. 1 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Heck, he wasn't even invited to the 2018 NFL Draft Combine. Despite all of that, Watson has been the subject of national hype and local coverage alike this offseason. Is it warranted?

That remains to be seen. Reports coming from Chiefs camp have been positive, and Watson certainly brings an intriguing profile to the table. In addition to being 6-foot-3, he's a well-built 215 pounds. That combination of an impressive catch radius and frame is impossible to teach, especially when it's paired with a 40-inch vertical and a 4.4-second 40-yard dash time. From an athletic standpoint, Watson seems to be the part. He also has special teams experience, and it's clear just how important that is in regards to making the Chiefs' final roster cut. Watson is aware of that, too: 

"You never want to play Kansas City when you’re playing special teams," Watson said on Wednesday. "This is always a premier unit. To play for (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) Coach (Dave) Toub and (the Chiefs place) such an emphasis. The assistant head coach is our special teams coordinator. You can feel that it’s important, it doesn’t even need to be said. You can just tell by how much we put into it and the effort we put into it. I love that. It’s always been something that’s been important to me. You can feel it with a lot of the other guys. It’s cool after practice, we already see a lot of guys working with each other, competing knowing that those last couple of spots on the roster are going to come down to special teams.”

Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to do our second Chiefs roster projection, and we both had Watson making the final 53. I didn't see it happening in version 1.0 that we did back in late June but where there's this much smoke, there could be some fire nearby. The preseason can change a lot of things, but the Watson hype train doesn't appear to be slowing down quickly enough for looming roster cuts to bring it to a complete stop.

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