Welcome to the season of draft hype. Every year, there are a handful of prospects that seem to come out of nowhere, and this year is no exception.
North Dakota State University wide receiver Christian Watson has come clearly out of the blue to become the toast of social media after a stellar week of practice at the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Watson was hailed even by the event's executive director, Jim Nagy. After practice on February 4, Nagy tweeted, "North Dakota State's Christian Watson was named top WR on the National team in a vote from CB group, practice player-of-the-week awards ceremony today at 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl."
The Jets were said to be enamored with the "6-5 speed merchant," and the 49ers' fanbase is supposedly clamoring to reunite Watson with his former NDSU teammate, quarterback Trey Lance.
We need to bring this thing back down to earth. Here is Watson's four-year resume at NDSU, which plays Division I subdivision football in the Missouri Valley Football conference.
- 2021: 43 receptions, 800 yards, (18.6 yards per reception avg.), seven TD
- 2020: 18 receptions, 437 yards, (24.3 YPC avg.), one TD
- 2019: 34 receptions, 732 yards, (21.5 YPC avg.), six TD
- 2018: nine receptions, 165 yards (18.3 YPC avg.), zero TD
These domestic numbers against a lower level of competition are hardly the kind of numbers the fire department needs to show up to put out.
Here is the real question about Watson: If he is only putting up so-so statistics like this at NDSU, how will these statistics translate to the National Football League?
Did Watson have a nice week at the Senior Bowl? Yes. I went back and watched a number of the one-on-ones, but let's not get carried away.
In the practices, Watson did a good job of adjusting back to the football and catching it with his hands.
Evaluating is like being a private investigator. Everything is a clue and at this point of the investigation, the information coming out of the Senior Bowl does not match his college football resume.
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As for Watson's 40 time and the rumors he runs a 4.38 - - or he ran a 4.4 in high school - - that is not what shows up on game film. Watson is not blowing the doors off Division I subdivision defensive backs.
It is much more realistic that Watson runs a 4.62, which is what was reported by draftscout.com. It looks more like a 4.5 - 4.62 on game film.
Just because Watson is occasionally getting behind defensive backs who probably never will even sniff an NFL workout does not mean anything.
There was just nothing elite-looking about Watson on game film -- or in his statistics. I am sorry, but one week of doing well in practice does not move the meter a whole lot.
#1 Christian Watson - 6-foot-5, 208 pounds
2021 game film reviewed: South Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Eastern Washington
Grade: Fourth-seventh round
Tall, lanky and strong, ultra competitive possession receiver with average athletic ability, above average speed and good hands. Accelerates quickly in routes. Long strider, with building straight-line speed. Does labor and round off some at the route break-points. Does not burst to the ball. Plucks the ball with his confident hands. Does a nice job in the intermediate-route level, using his body to shield out smaller defensive backs.
On short-receiver bubble screens, he demonstrates good vision and instincts to weave through traffic after the catch to do a decent job picking up additional yardage. Is not at all elusive if he is surrounded. Will struggle to separate deep in the NFL. Do not see him as a deep threat at the next level.
Able to take occasional handoffs in the backfield and run hard to daylight. Decent run blocker who stuck his nose in during the games, but was much more of a blocker at the Senior Bowl practices.
High-effort player whose only dominant traits are his height and his hands. He will be good for morale and give it everything he has to give. Complementary role player who is not good enough to be a No. 1 receiver on any NFL team.
It is hard not to like Watson and his story, but the last thing the Lions need is another try-hard who can't take the top off a defense.
Detroit already has an entire depth chart full of guys like that.