GREEN BAY, Wis. – There are a lot of NFL players with big-time speed. Most of them would lose a race to Green Bay Packers receiver Christian Watson.
According to Zebra Sports, the company behind the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Watson reached a top speed of 21.72 mph during his fourth-quarter touchdown run at the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Watson’s peak speed on the 46-yard scoring sprint matched DeSean Jackson for the fastest speed by a receiver and was tied for third-fastest by any ball-carrier this season.
Watson’s speed is evident to everyone, including his teammates. On the touchdown, fellow receiver Sammy Watkins began to celebrate with Watson at the 40-yard line and even though the player in pursuit, Bears rookie defensive back Josh Blackwell, ran his 40 in 4.34 at Duke’s pro day.
“Yeah, to be honest, if I see nothing in front of me, it’s looking pretty good,” Watson said after the game. “Honestly, that’s exactly what I saw: I saw no one. I saw the corner go in with Sammy on his little crack block and I knew if the corner’s not coming off there’s no one that’s going to make the play from the inside.”
Watson has reached 20-plus mph on six of his 30 offensive touches this season, that 20 percent being the highest rate among all players with at least 10 touches, according to Zebra.
According to Next Gen Stats, Watson’s sprint vs. Chicago was the Packers’ second-fastest over the last six seasons. Marquez Valdes-Scantling hit 22.09 mph on his 75-yard touchdown at Minnesota last season. That was indoors on turf; Watson was on grass on a cold day in December.
Including his 14-yarder just before halftime, Watson has caught a touchdown pass in four consecutive games – the ninth-longest streak in NFL history among rookies. An incredible run of eight touchdowns the last four games comes on the heels of an injury-plagued stretch in which he played 81 snaps in eight games.
“You’ve got give that kid a lot of credit,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said on Monday, “because, obviously, the way the season started, going into camp with the [knee] surgery and then kind of having to miss that time and just kind of falling behind because of different injuries and stuff, I think a lot of guys, that would’ve been it, right? ‘Hey, let’s get to the next season and see how it goes,’ but I give him a lot of credit for not losing faith and not losing his work ethic because when the opportunities presented themselves, obviously, he’s made the most of them.”
Watson and Seattle running back Kenneth Walker lead all rookies with nine touchdowns. Walker, by the way, has the top speed by any ball-carrier: 22.09 mph on a 74-yard touchdown run.
Walker and Jets receiver Garrett Wilson are the co-favorites to win AP Offensive Rookie of the Year at FanDuel Sportsbook, their +200 just better than Watson’s +350. Watson’s odds were as long as +10000 before his touchdown streak.
At Caesars Sportsbook, Walker (+200) and Watson (+220) are running neck and neck as favorites.