College: North Dakota State
Height: 6’ 4”
247 Rating: N/A
By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)
One of Trey Lance’s ($8,526,319) favorite targets in college, it’s easy to see why they were averaging over 20 yards per connection. Watson is an incredible size/speed combo that if coming out of the SEC or the Big 12, he would likely have been considered one of the top wideouts in this year’s class. Despite playing at the FCS level, his dominance of the lower-level competition combined with one of the best combines of all time have led to him becoming just about everyone’s favorite sleeper in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Here’s an interesting part about Watson’s production, not only was it in the FCS level, but North Dakota State steamrolled just about every team they went up against. So therefore, Watson’s numbers overall aren’t that impressive. But he was efficient with every touch he got, pulling in 95 receptions for nearly 2,000 yards over the past three years. When evaluating small school prospects, you want to see them show that they are above everyone else on the field, and Watson did that consistently.
- 10 RAS (Raw Athletic Score)- If you don’t follow @MathBomb on Twitter, you absolutely should. The combine and athletic testing don’t mean everything, but when a player like Watson pops up as the second best athlete at the WR position since 1987… you have to take notice.
- High-Pointing- When you combine Watson’s frame and reach with his strong hands and physicality, it makes it hard not to believe that any ball thrown his way could be considered a 50/50 ball. But once again we have to remember he was playing against FCS competition; not to completely disregard it but we need to take into account the defenders at the next level are quite the step up. Watson has a knack for making the most of his length though, and no matter how good the defender is, it’s hard to stop someone at his size when he gets up in the air.
- Home-run Threat- Watson was used in a variety of ways while at North Dakota State. He tested the defense deep quite often, but the coaches made sure to get him the ball as quickly as possible and gave him many opportunities on sweeps and screens. Watson took advantage of this and created plenty of chunk plays. Many times, he would split the closing defenders and gain extra yards down the sideline before being forced out of bounds. Even if it takes some time for Watson to polish his game at the pro level, he still brings big-play potential on every play that he is on the field.
- FCS Level Competition I’ve mentioned it many times already, and I don’t want to discredit Watson’s achievements as you can only play who is in front of you, but I want to caution anyone who expects Watson to make a Day 1 impact. While it’s always possible, I would expect the transition could take up the majority of his rookie season. This makes him a possible “post-hype buy” midway through the season. Keep that in mind when you see him go early in your rookie drafts.
- Route Running – Watson has dominated his opponents because he’s bigger, faster, and stronger. He should have been playing on the FBS level, and that much is very clear. At the pro level, he’s still an elite athlete, but the gap will be significantly closer between him and the defenders on the other side of the ball. Watson needs to become a better route runner to succeed at the next level, to get in and out of his breaks cleaner and create more deception with his body. This will likely be the biggest hurdle for him as he makes the transition to the NFL.
Things to Watch:
Watson had a combine for the ages, and he’ll go down as one of the most athletic wideouts to ever grace the field in Indianapolis. Now we wait for the draft, as he’s done everything he could possibly do in this pre-draft process to raise his draft stock. Starting from an exciting week down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and ending with testing out of the building during the NFL Combine.
There will be some mocks that have Watson at the end of the first round, and while I appreciate the optimism, I think he is simply just a bit too raw of a prospect to go that early. I do think that he is locked into Day 2 draft capital and likely won’t see himself slide much farther than the Top-50 or so picks.
I’d expect him to come off the board around the middle of the second round which could see him sign a 4-year deal worth about $7 million total. This would put Watson’s cap hit around $1.75 million a year, an incredible value if he reaches half of his potential while on his rookie deal.
A lot of times with wide receivers, a specific landing spot isn’t as much of a big deal compared to running backs or quarterbacks, but in Watson’s case he needs some time to develop and grow into a role. A team can absolutely get him involved right away in the offense, it would just likely be limited and more so with manufactured touches. A team that fits the bill here would be the New York Jets. Zach Wilson ($8,787,670) has a huge arm, and the team wants to surround him with talent on the offense. Watson could be part of a great young duo with Elijah Moore ($2,235,107) and take some time to develop behind Corey Davis ($12,500,000), who many have forgotten about due to his injuries last year. The tide is turning for the Jets (hopefully), and Watson would fit the new look offense that Robert Saleh is looking to build.
With the recently acquired 50th overall pick, the Kansas City Chiefs seem like almost too perfect of a fit for our fantasy football hope. Sure, they probably need a more polished prospect to step into the Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000) size hole, but Watson would be most intriguing if they want to double-dip early at the position. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a QB with a big arm throwing to a big and fast wideout, and that’s exactly what this pairing could provide us. It might be a pipe dream, but there are already plenty of rumors swirling about.