2022 NFL draft scouting report: North Dakota State WR Christian Watson

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North Dakota State WR Christian Watson

6-foot-4
208 pounds

Yahoo Sports' 2022 NFL draft grade

5.82 — possible second-rounder; starter potential

TL;DR scouting report

Trey Lance's former deep target is a long, lean big-play artist who also makes an impact in the run game and as a returner

The skinny

A 0-star Rivals recruit in the Class of 2017 out of the Tampa area, Watson received virtually no recruiting attention, which he attributes to being a late bloomer and growing four inches in a six-month span late in high school. He signed with the Bison and redshirted in 2017. Watson played in 14 games (two starts) in 2018, catching nine passes for 165 yards and returning two kickoffs for 51 yards.

In 2019, Watson caught 34 passes for 732 yards and six TDs; rushed 13 times for 162 yards; and returned four kickoffs for 70 yards in 16 games (11 starts). He caught 19 passes for 442 yards and one TD in the 2020 season (10 games), also rushing 21 times for 116 yards and returning 10 kickoffs for 338 yards and two TDs.

As a senior, Watson caught 43 passes for 801 yards and seven TDs; ran 15 times for 114 yards and one TD; and returned 10 kickoffs for 227 yards. He competed at the Senior Bowl.

North Dakota State WR Christian Watson helped the Bison win three FCS national championships. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
North Dakota State WR Christian Watson helped the Bison win three FCS national championships. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Upside

  • Outstanding athletic template — fast, explosive and springy

  • Great play speed — recorded at 23 mph on in-game tracking device

  • Ideal length at 6-foot 4 1/8, with 32 1/2-inch arms and big hands (10 1/8 inches)

  • Very good deep-ball tracking ability — catches well over either shoulder

  • Excellent body control — able to adjust to off-target throws

  • Improved route runner — crisper routes, less wasted movement

  • Big-play prowess — averaged 20.4 yards per catch, TD every 7.5 grabs

  • Made most of opportunities — run-first offense averaged only 18.3 passes/game last three seasons

  • Averaged 52 receiving yards/game on only 4.3 targets/game since 2019

  • Effective runner on jet sweeps — 49 rush attempts over final 38 college games

  • Competes as a blocker — helped spring some big run plays

  • Frequently asked to crack back on linebackers in run-heavy scheme

  • Returned from injury to help Bison win national title in 2021

  • Solid showing at Senior Bowl — looked the part vs. better competition

  • Good kick-return production — 26.4-yard average, two career TDs

  • Competes at full speed with consistently good effort

  • Member of three title-winning teams in four years

  • Very good football bloodlines — father played in NFL; uncle, brother played college and beyond

  • Selfless, team-first player who never griped about targets or catches

Downside

  • Frame likely needs more body armor

  • Play strength is lacking for player his size

  • Lateral quickness and shiftiness nothing special

  • Not overly sudden when making cuts

  • Can be far better on contested catches — just OK in traffic

  • Inconsistent catching the ball — concentration drops and body catches on tape

  • Far more experience outside than in slot

  • Played at lower level of college football vs. lesser-caliber DBs

  • Bit of an older prospect — turns 23 years old in May

Best-suited destination

Watson profiles as an ideal third receiver, or perhaps a No. 2 option eventually, in a vertical passing game. His combination of length and straight-line speed make him a tough cover, although he's still ironing out his game and adding more tricks to his bag. But for a speed receiver to also be able to contribute as a runner, returner and run blocker, Watson figures to add value immediately to an NFL team. He looks like a tailor-made Green Bay Packers wideout, but 31 other teams could use his services just as well.

Did you know

Watson's father, Tim Watson, played college football at Howard and was a sixth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1993 and played for the Chiefs, Giants and Eagles from 1993 to 1997. He later changed his name to Tazim Wajid Wajed.

Watson's brother, Tre, was a linebacker at Illinois and Maryland, also later playing in the XFL. His uncle, Cedric, played football at Marshall.

Player comp

Robby Anderson

Expected draft range

Top-40 pick.