Reacting to the Future of Packers WR1 Christian Watson

Is Christian Watson destined for stardom?

As a general principle, especially in the realm of the sports, it is good practice to not overreact. The highs are never as high as they appear to be and the same can be said for the lows, both of which apply to the game results and how the players perform in said games. Better yet, there is a calming presence, in a way, to staying even keeled as a fan and, therefore, displaying emotional discipline. Take it from me that this is much easier said than done. With all of that as a backdrop, is it an overreaction to pronounce that rookie wide receiver Christian Watson is destined for stardom? 

The 23-year-old North Dakota State product only had 10 receptions through the first nine weeks for a total of 88 yards in six games played. The most yards he had in a game during that stretch (34) came in the first game of the season and the most receptions (3) came the following week against the Bears. He never found the end zone *as a pass catcher* during the first nine games of the 2022 season. Over the last three weeks, however, it has been an entirely different story. Watson has tallied four receptions in each of the last three contests and found the end zone an astonishing six total times, including three against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, a game in which he also added 107 receiving yards. His six receiving scores are tied for seventh in the NFL – ahead of marquee names like Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb, Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill, and Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf – and his 353 receiving yards rank fifth among rookie wide receivers. Below is how Watson, the seventh wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft and the NFL Rookie of the Month for November, stacks up against his fellow rookie receivers in other categories. 

Cue the Larry David “pretty, pretty good” GIF. How does Watson stack up against every wide receiver in the NFL in terms of certain analytical categories? 

Again, cue the Larry David GIF. In addition, to put his absurd TD-to-receptions ratio into perspective, about one out of every fourth reception (6 touchdowns/22 receptions = 27%) has been a touchdown. One of Watson’s strengths coming into the draft was his elusive speed, an element of his game that has been on display this season. Despite only playing in nine games thus far, NFL’s Next Gen Stats has recorded Watson reaching 20+ miles per hour (mph) on 12 plays from scrimmage, second in the entire NFL behind Hill (18). One of those plays from scrimmage came against the Eagles on Sunday, where he reached a top speed of 20.97 mph. 

It is one thing for an NFL analyst, or analysts, to have high remarks for a player, but I personally take more stock in what current players have to say about a particular player, especially if that current player has played against the player this season that he is commenting on. Enter Eagles cornerback Darius Slay into the chat. On his podcast, Big Play Slay, Slay had high remarks for the first year player. (I’ll let it slide that Slay messed up Watson’s name.)

“He had a rough start early. … Boy been catchin’ sh*t like it ain’t nothing,” Slay said while gesturing acrobatic catches. “He caught the little slant, I saw how fast he is. Buddy outran angles. When you outrun angles, you’re fast fast. … I’m like, ‘damn.’ … He’s going to be good.” 

However, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows. While Watson has been better over the last two weeks at eliminating dropped passes, he did have two drops against the Cowboys and obviously had a critical drop on the first play of the game against the Vikings that would have been an easy touchdown had he corralled it in. For the season, his 8.8% rate of dropped passes per target is 17th worst in the league and seventh worst among WRs. Plus, Watson’s overall body of work is an incredibly small sample size in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, though, Watson definitely is not the first rookie wide receiver to explode onto the scene in his first year, only to wilter away in later years. 

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, as a recent example, recorded 873 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns (nine receiving plus two rushing) in his rookie campaign. While he nearly matched that receiving yardage in his second year (860 yards in one less game), he only found the end zone twice, and this year has been the worst of his three-year career by a healthy margin (39 receptions/394 yards/1 touchdown). Current Packers wide receiver Sammy Watkins is another example. He had 982 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in his debut season and followed that up with 1,047 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in the 2015 season, but he has not not even come close to matching that production in a season since. Sure, he had 8 touchdowns in 2017, but from 2016 through 2019 (four seasons), he had 2,215 receiving yards. In his first two seasons, he had 2,029 receiving yards. There are countless other examples I could cite to. Point being, Watson could be a flash in the pan. He could continue to find the end zone at a high clip the rest of the season, but flounder next season or the season after. 

It is clear that the Packers have their WR1 this season, albeit too late in the season to make any significant difference in the playoff race. Notwithstanding that, I will practice what I preach and encourage y’all (sorry), myself included of course, to pump the brakes on Watson becoming the next Randy Moss or someone even somewhat close to Moss’ stature or frankly one of the better Packer WRs in recent memory … with the understanding that it may be increasingly difficult to do so when you see that 6-foot-5 gazelle run and catch in space as well as high point the ball over vulnerable defenders.

__________________________

Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

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7 points

Comments (33)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Coldworld's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:07 am

He has huge potential. Let’s hope he polishes up rapidly. We should only have scratched the surface at this point: there is still a long way that he could climb. We need to be patient and use him to his strengths in the meantime.

4 points
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croatpackfan's picture

December 02, 2022 at 05:19 pm

I'm with your view. Speed is not all, but it helps a lot. Somehow I believe Doubs has better chances to blossom before Watson, just by reading about Doubs work ethic and how much he had will to improve himself.

I also believe that Watson needs to learn how to protect himself from defenders...

-1 points
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DoubleJ's picture

December 03, 2022 at 09:36 am

Watson is said to have an incredible work ethic as well. During practice he was always picking Rodgers or the CB's brain on what to do better. I think an off-season in an NFL weight room will do Watson a lot of good.

0 points
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HarryHodag's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:11 am

Christian Watson will stay in the league if he learns, live D. Adams before him, that dropping catchable passes is not acceptable in the pros, and you have to stay healthy so you're available to play.

I'm concerned about the number of concussions he's had already.

He could be a good receiver but will need competent quarterback play as well.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:55 am

He may exceed ten TDs for his Rookie Year. He fell behind rehabbing his knee. His father taught him the route tree. Just adjusting to the speed of the Pro Game.

7 points
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mnbadger's picture

December 02, 2022 at 12:25 pm

H'dag, I totally agree with the fear of concussions for the CW. Not only career changing but life changing. He's been hit high more than a few times w/o penalties. I wonder if his rookie status is keeping the flags in the pockets. For his well being, I hope not.
Godspeed CW, we need you.
GPG!

7 points
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bjkdad44's picture

December 02, 2022 at 08:24 pm

Cheap shot artists ARE getting away with it… because he IS a ROOKIE!!!

0 points
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splitpea1's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:16 am

As long as he stays healthy and improve his catch percentage, I don't see why not. If we can draft or acquire a solid #2 receiver along with a good all-around TE, we should be able to stretch the field and keep opposing defenses from crowding the LOS.

3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:58 am

Mocking Cedric Tillman from Tenn. in the second. Trade down to the 20's and acquire picks in the second rd. Doubs could also assume the role.

4 points
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PackyCheese500's picture

December 02, 2022 at 12:28 pm

Doubs could be the WR2. For the TE, I think we should draft Notre Dame's Michael Mayer with our 1st round pick. He would be exceptional

5 points
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BirdDogUni's picture

December 04, 2022 at 10:33 pm

You misspelled Quentin Johnston... ;P

0 points
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ricky's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:26 am

After a somewhat rough start, Watson seems to have found his footing. That he is catching passes from both Rodgers and Love is particularly promising. James Lofton also got off to a great start, but had a difficult second year (anyone recalling Davante Adams at this point?). So, if he stays healthy, Watson could have a great career. Or, he could be one of those guys who can't stay healthy; or becomes a diva; or decides he wants to play in a warmer climate in a bigger city. In short, who knows? Time to enjoy what he is doing, and be encouraged, and hope for the best. Because, as Packers fans, we've had more than our share of disappointments this year. Time for some good news.

6 points
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DoubleJ's picture

December 03, 2022 at 09:41 am

I don't see him becoming a diva. He could have gone to a bigger program than NDSU but told the HS coaches he already signed with them. He also could have transferred but was committed to them. In terms of climate he went to college at Fargo so that is colder than GB, granted they played indoors. Size wise GB & Fargo are almost identical with GB being closer to bigger population areas for other entertainment during the off-season.

2 points
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marpag1's picture

December 02, 2022 at 11:39 am

I sometimes wonder... what if Watson had caught that first pass of the season, took it in for the TD, and then played the whole season brimming with crazy confidence right from the beginning?

Unanswerable question, of course, and maybe it makes no difference at all. But I still wonder.

6 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 02, 2022 at 12:01 pm

Why worry about it? I've seen a number of guys dropping deep balls @ the Shipwreck on the Prairie. Poor design with southern sun etching in the sight line. Even Jefferson dropped a couple.

5 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 03, 2022 at 02:57 pm

I often wonder..What if AR was a little less AR sometimes and told him..Kid you gotta catch those...You were wide open, i'm coming right back at you...I see how great you can be...I believe in you.

-1 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 03, 2022 at 05:50 pm

I wonder if, knowing that he has issues tracking and catching over the shoulder, if they had just started him out in the deep crossing routes that he was used to, we all be celebrating. If I recall, his first and also most recent long TDs were on exactly that type of route. Surely a coaching staff is wise to know such things and use them to the benefit of team and player?

-1 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 03, 2022 at 08:01 pm

A good one would on offense or defense.

-1 points
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dobber's picture

December 02, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Bottom line is that this is a great flash. He needs to keep getting better. There are a lot of fast WRs out there who run limited route trees, but get figured out by opposing DCs. He'll be measured by how he responds to what defenses do to limit him, not by what he's done against defenses with limited film on him.

5 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 03, 2022 at 02:54 pm

Whatever other teams do opens up the run game and other receivers...Pick your poison...That's the beauty of it, unless your hard headed QB1 forces it to him anyways instead.

0 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 04, 2022 at 06:58 pm

He has scored on 50% of his touches.

0 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 05, 2022 at 06:01 am

A non Believer. LOL...That's okay if it takes 2-3 DB's to limit him it will open others. I worry more about our OC not scheming him enough to make 1/2-3/4 of our offenses points...We need more help on offense still.

0 points
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Savage57's picture

December 02, 2022 at 02:15 pm

He reminds me a lot of James Lofton. Long strider, great body control.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 03, 2022 at 05:55 pm

The most exciting facet of him, in my opinion, is that he is not just a pure long strider. He has burst and quick feet, which long striders typically don’t: MVS for example.

-1 points
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asmith1969's picture

December 02, 2022 at 03:00 pm

Excited to what the future holds for CW. What concerns me are the concussions (not his fault). Granted, if he stays healthy, he’s a bona fide threat on every offensive possession. Imagine being able to run 20MPH?! That stat alone is insane! GPG! 👊👍✌️🏈

2 points
3
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jannes bjornson's picture

December 02, 2022 at 05:37 pm

A couple of cheap shots to his head, but he's still on his feet. The same for Davante.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 03, 2022 at 05:59 pm

We did use him as a big target in crowded areas rather a lot. He’s not Lazard big and he’s rather more thoroughbred than cart horse. Hopefully we do less if that going forward.

-1 points
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MITM's picture

December 02, 2022 at 06:21 pm

Im just here to eat my Crow Parmigiana on Watson. Never would i have imagined this turnaround

4 points
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CheesedDeadHead's picture

December 02, 2022 at 08:07 pm

That TD against the Eagles is just a thing of beauty. It's almost as spectacular as the historic Belmont Stakes win for Secretariat where he ran away from the competition for a record setting win that likely will never be surpassed. Imagine how it felt for the Eagles defender to realize you won't catch up to Watson and start to slow then you're knocked on your ass by a block from the side by Alan Lazard. I hope that play and the leaping catch in the end zone against the Cowboys are just the beginning of a long highlight reel career

5 points
6
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NoNonsense's picture

December 02, 2022 at 09:01 pm

Christian Watson has certainly had a rough start to his career from missing nearly all of TC and the preseason from knee surgery. Then the big drop on a beautiful route during the first pass of his first game to the hammy and then the (1) concussion. I mean damn, talk about everything working against him. Now look at him, the sky is really the limit for the guy. Sure he could flame out, he certainly wouldn't be the first guy to do so but I just don't see that happening.

Injuries are the equalizer but if he can stay healthy and they actively keep him involved with targets and touches, there is no reason he can't keep ascending from here on out. He's so dangerous in the red zone and in the open field that you can do almost anything with him. Jet sweeps, high point catches, use his speed both vertically and horizontally to make big plays and open up opportunities for others.

Now that he's made his presence felt in the league, he's got other teams attention and if LaFleur is smart he will use that to his advantage. Throw in the fact that he blocks very well, theres almost no reason to take him off the field unless he needs a breather.

He is the definition of a game changer. It's now on the coaches and the QB to maximize his potential. Give him the opportunities and he will continue to shine.

4 points
4
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PatrickGB's picture

December 03, 2022 at 08:22 am

I see him becoming the #1 of a great 1-2 punch at WR. Doubs can be #2. Lazard strikes me as a good #3 and is almost like a move TE. Cobb is aging yet still a reliable clutch when called upon. It’s probably too late to do much this year and the cap is an issue but if these receivers are playing next year…look out!

2 points
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PhantomII's picture

December 03, 2022 at 01:52 pm

He's a rookie...He's gonna get better and better. He came from a team that ran far more than pass it. If he stays healthy he has size speed, quickness, vision, catch radius and movement skills that could make him a generational talent. He has Megatron RAS level. He dropped 2 passes against Dallas...Then willed the packers to defeat the Cowboys with (3) great touchdowns that showcased his abilities. Personally collected 3/4 of our end zone offense...or without him we would have scored 1 touchdown. AR was throwing dimes in that game also.
Good times ahead especially when Doubs returns.

3 points
3
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SinceLombardi's picture

December 04, 2022 at 01:11 pm

So far against a bunch of rookies in the bears secondary, I’m not seeing anyone destined for anything except last place. Plenty of time for Rodgers. It’s a bad team with bad players bad coaching. Watson may be a star someday, but it probably won’t matter. This is uninspired football if I’ve ever seen it.

0 points
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