Christian Watson, Wide Receiver, NDSU: 2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Christian Watson, 2022 NFL Draft. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
Christian Watson, 2022 NFL Draft. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /

Christian Watson plays with a flare that makes him a fan favorite. Learn more about the breakout star from the Senior Bowl in this 2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report.


Name: Christian Watson

School: North Dakota State

Position: Wide Receiver

DOB: May 12, 1999 (22 years old)

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 211 pounds

Wingspan: 77 1/8”

Arm: 32 3/4”

Hand: 10”


Christian Watson spent his formative years in Tampa, Florida and went on to star for the football team, as well as the track and field team. On the gridiron, Watson played both wide receiver and safety. He averaged a sparkling 17.1 yards per reception as a senior and chipped in eight touchdowns. Christian was also a model student, making the honor roll each of his four years at H.B. Plant High School.

Following a successful high school tenure, Watson collected only two stars on the recruiting trail. This led to lukewarm attention from schools in the FBS. Luckily for him, North Dakota State — a juggernaut on the FCS level — gave Christian a shot. He was ranked as the 501st best wide receiver in his own recruiting class and brought this chip with him to Fargo.

Watson opted to redshirt in 2017 as a true freshman, as he was still growing into the frame that he possesses today. After minimal game action in 2018, including two starts, he finally made himself known the following season. Becoming the main target for former Bison quarterback Trey Lance allowed Christian to master his craft while simultaneously putting the country on notice. He played in all 16 games (11 starts) and used this increase in playing time to set the pace for NDSU by collecting team highs in receptions (34), receiving yards (732) and touchdowns (6). This also slotted him into the number two position in the conference with an incredible 21.53 yards per reception.

My favorite game on Christian’s film came against Montana State in the FCS Semifinals. He scored multiple 70+ yard touchdowns, and they happened on back to back plays for the NDSU offense. The first came on a 75-yard pass from Lance, with the very next offensive snap resulting in a 70-yard rushing touchdown on a perfectly executed sweep. This serves as just a glimpse at Watson’s game breaking potential.

NDSU held a “showcase” game of sorts versus Central Arkansas in the fall of 2020. This game was solely designed to give Trey Lance a spotlight, since COVID forced them to move their schedule to Spring 2021, which fell smack dab in the middle of draft season. Watson hardly made his presence felt in that game, hauling in three catches and not even surpassing the 20 yard mark on the day.

Once spring rolled around, you could tell Watson missed having the current 49ers quarterback throwing him the ball. In eight games, Christian posted an underwhelming stat line as a receiver. Despite this step back in production on the offensive side, he excelled as a return man. Watson was the only player in the FCS to house multiple kickoff returns for a touchdown and, in doing so, tied the school record for such plays. One of those occurred in the NCAA quarterfinal game versus Sam Houston, proving his status as a threat to score on any play.

In the fall of 2021, Watson and company returned for a much more normal season. This renewed normalcy breathed new life into the entire team. None more so than the redshirt senior from Florida. Christian set new career highs across the board, including receptions (43), receiving yards (801) and touchdowns (7). This includes a record day versus Northern Iowa, a game in which he exploded for an 85-yard trip to the end zone. Including that play, over half of Watson’s total touchdowns on the season came on plays of 65 yards or more.

Christian Watson is a tantalizing prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Let’s peel back the layers and see what makes Watson so special.

2022 NFL Draft Profile: Christian Watson

Best Traits

Big Play Ability: Perhaps Watson’s best trait — and most exciting — is the ability to detonate at any time. Christian’s explosiveness is highlighted by his astonishing 57 plays resulting in 20+ yard gains over the course of his career. This includes the likes of long catches down field, screens that he breaks off for huge gains, and a few designed runs out of the backfield. Don’t forget that he returned kicks in college and always ranked near the top of the conference in all-purpose yards. At the very least, he will be a contributor for the special teams unit.

Speed: Christian Watson plays very fast. There are undoubtedly faster at the position but I found zero plays where Watson was caught from behind. He gets going in a hurry and reaches his top speed without much effort. His long legs provide deer-like strides when he’s running, making him seem even faster than his verified top speed of 20.71 mph. This natural speed is put on display when Watson gets the ball in his hands, creating an otherworldly amount of yards after the catch.

Release: One major concern coming into the Senior Bowl was Watson’s ability to create space against better competition. However, from his very first reps in Mobile, this concern was deemed as unwarranted. Christian used an impressive burst off the line to consistently create separation post-snap. Furthermore, he displayed a very good ability to avoid being jammed by bigger cornerbacks that he lined up against during the week. Watson did a commendable job of showing his improvement in this facet of his game and boosted his 2022 NFL Draft stock in the process.

Route Running: To my surprise, Watson was an extremely accomplished route runner in the games I was able to cover. He jumped onto my radar during the 2021 NFL Draft process as the go-to target for Trey Lance. He uses extraordinary short area quickness to produce clean cuts at the top of his route, allowing Christian to always keep defenders on their toes. As stated before, Watson has a fierce top gear and uses it on routes downfield to simply outrun his assignment. He not only has an athletic profile to thrive on Sundays, but is very savvy as well. Watson makes smart use of his wide frame by boxing out defensive backs on streaks and deep crossers.

Catch Radius: Watson is not a stereotypical “go up and get it” wide receiver. He doesn’t always attack the ball at it’s peak like he should but that doesn’t mean that the traits aren’t there for a freaky catch radius. Christian stands at 6’4 and has solid arm length, as well as hand size. He has all the tools, he just must be willing to give the effort and not be scared by the hard hitters of the NFL. Now that he has added more weight to his frame, that willingness should allow him to make the most of his NFL body.

Needs Improvement

Concentration: Watson is guilty of dropping some balls that he simply shouldn’t drop. You would think at his height that Christian would thrive in 50/50 situations, as well as hauling in passes in traffic. Again, he did well in this aspect in Mobile but I cannot ignore his lack of desire to bring in the ball while bracing for a hit. There are also plays that he looks “bored” when he knows the ball is not coming his way. In order to see the field early in his career, he must become more engaged on plays that don’t involve him.

Frame/Blocking: For how great Christian Watson’s frame is, he has an extremely slender upper body. He has done well to add weight to it, but could still add another ten pounds to become a more all around threat. This little addition would help him be more comfortable taking hits in traffic and in the blocking game, too. Coaches will not take kindly to a lack of effort as a blocker, so Watson has an incentive to continue putting on healthy weight and working on all the nuances as a blocker.

Experience vs NFL Talent: This one is pretty self-explanatory for the FCS standout. While there is no denying his traits, the question that most raise is: will this translate versus better competition? Watson went a long way to proving he belongs with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl, but as a small school prospect he still has a lot to prove at the 2022 NFL Combine to cement himself as a top option at the loaded wide receiver position in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Final Thoughts

Christian Watson was among the biggest “winners” of the Senior Bowl process. He showed up bigger than expected and measured very well relative to other wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not only that, Watson showed an improved route running prowess and more of a willingness to play through contact. If Watson can parlay this impressive performance into another lights-out performance at the NFL Combine, it will be impossible for teams to keep him outside of their top 50 when the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around. One of the draft communities favorite “sleepers” has officially shed that label.