Green Bay Packers rookie Christian Watson exited his first NFL season with the statistical profile of the league’s next star wide receiver.
Watson averaged 9.3 yards per target and 2.26 yards per route run during the 2022 season. Both are important statistical markers at receiver. The two paint a clear picture of how productive and efficient a wide receiver is based on targets and routes run, the two best markers of opportunity. The receiver position can’t throw itself the ball and production of receivers is based completely on opportunity.
Anything above 9.0 yards per target and 2.0 yards per route run is a fantastic number for a receiver. For context, only 22 receivers finished the 2022 season above 9.0 yards per target, and only 15 receivers finished above 2.0 yards per route run.
Elite production efficiency is even rarer for first-year receivers. Ten rookies with at least 50 targets have averaged at least 9.0 yards per target run since 2019, including Watson. But only five of the other nine averaged at least 9.0 yards per target AND at least 2.0 yards per route run.
Here are the five:
– Ja’Marr Chase (11.4 yards per target, 2.51 yards per route run)
– Justin Jefferson (11.2 yards per target, 2.66 yards per route run)
– Terry McLaurin (9.9 yards per target, 2.05 yards per route run)
– A.J. Brown (12.5 yards per target, 2.67 yards per route run)
– Deebo Samuel (9.9 yards per target, 2.04 yards per route run)
(Note: Other rookies recently hitting both markers include Cooper Kupp, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr. and Keenan Allen.)
The final eight games for Watson in 2022 were nothing if not special.
Between Weeks 10-18, Watson averaged 2.58 yards per route run, which ranked third among all NFL receivers and trailed only Davante Adams and Jerry Jeudy. He also averaged 10.1 yards per target, which ranked sixth among players with at least 40 targets. Basically, Watson was nearly Chase-Jefferson good over the final eight games of 2022.
More on his run between Weeks 10-18: Watson made nine contested catches (sixth-most) and five catches over 20 yards (ninth-most) over the final eight games, and he averaged the third-highest yards per route run and caught the most touchdowns against man coverage. He also caught 14 passes on third or fourth down, creating four touchdowns and seven first downs.
When targeting Watson in 2022, Packers quarterbacks had a passer rating of 123.3, the third-best number among all receivers. He was also one of just three receivers to catch at least seven touchdown passes on fewer than 100 total targets.
Is Watson the next star at wide receiver? The impressive stats from his rookie season strongly suggest he’s on a star path entering 2023.