Could North Dakota State have their first receiver drafted since the 1980s?
Anyone who pays attention to college football will have at least heard of North Dakota State in the last decade. The Bison have won nine FCS Championships in the last eleven years, as well as sent players to the NFL level.
What they have not done is have a wide receiver drafted since the mid-1980s. That may change this year with Christian Watson, a game-making receiver on a run-heavy team.
Height - 6ft 5 Weight - 208lbs Class - Senior
Plant High School, Tampa, Florida
Watson competed in track and field at Plant High School in Tampa, Florida. He only played two years of football and was not a highly ranked prospect. His 2-star rating belied his ability, as he had a 17.1 yd/catch average in his two seasons.
Though not well-recruited, Watson found a suitor in North Dakota State, and once committed he set his focus on bringing the Bison another championship.
North Dakota State Career
After being a redshirt freshman, Watson garnered notice during the 2019 season. NDSU is typically run-focused, so Watson was not always featured on offense. But given the opportunity, he did not fail to impress. He not only had over 700 receiving yards in 2019 but also had 162 rushing yards.
The 2020 Fall season was cancelled, then moved and shortened for Spring 2021. Even during that abbreviated season, he performed well, amassing 338 return yards and two return TDs to go with 442 receiving yards.
2021 saw Watson struggle with injury, and yet he still had his best season receiving.
Raw Speed-- clocked at 4.40 in the 40 yd dash out of high school.
Elusiveness-- Especially once he is at full speed. Able to shed tacklers as they reach for him.
Vision-- Good eye for the field and potential openings.
Cuts Quickly-- This is made more obvious by the different ways NDSU used him. Watson exhibits quick cuts in the open field, out of the backfield and on returns.
Separation on long routes-- He can combine his speed and quickness to gain and step on defenders.
Size-- Listed as 6'5" and 205 lbs. Tall and proportionate with good reach.
His versatility is going to win coaches over heading into the draft. A wide receiver that stands at 6ft 5, runs in the range of a 4:40, can make quick cuts, sounds more like a fake Madden player than a real human, but I've seen his tape, he does exist.
He has made a huge impact stretching the field, running the ball and featuring in their return game with a fair amount of success, he will be seen as a gadget player who can be used in so many different areas.
Most of his plays are usually him breaking into open space for big catches. Contested catches aren't the strongest part of his game but this shows he can go up and make big catches too.
If you looked at his college stats and wondered why he was handed off the ball so often. Here is an example of why. He has fairly good vision to spot the opening and with his speed and movement he is hard to stop.
A simple screen pass, initial blockers help give him the chance to speed through the rest of the defence. He's a YAC machine
Isn't too much that needs to be said on this play, his route takes him inside and his pace gets him instantly away from the DB who is standing off him and clean through into open space.
This play looks like a computer game, the way he just glides at 6ft 5 with that speed and easily shifts directions to make players miss, is really mind-blowing to me. To have a receiver who's this tall, this fast and can do so much for a team, he surely gets drafted.
Watson could be quite a steal for a team in need of depth. His speed, size and quickness should be attractive to teams looking to bolster their WR corps.
As with all FCS players, some may question his competition. However, his ability is undeniable. Given time and good coaching he can improve his performance on contested catches.
Being a star player on a championship team also raises Watson's stock. Potentially going from 2nd to 4th round.