After a slow start, Christian Watson broke out in the second half of his rookie season with the Packers, at one point scoring eight touchdowns in a four-game span.
He ended the year with 611 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns, as well as 80 yards and two scores on the ground.
With veteran receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb now in New York, Watson will need to take on a bigger role in Green Bay’s offense in his sophomore campaign, and the numbers suggest he will be up to the task.
A new stat created by Nate Tice of The Athletic (and formerly of the Wisconsin Badgers), shows Watson to have been one of the best pass catchers in the league in 2022.
The stat: successful targets per route run, essentially illustrates who makes the most of the opportunities they get out of all the routes they run.
What is a successful target you ask? Tice stated for his formula, success rate is based on expected points added (EPA), but that “more or less”, a successful target means gaining 4+ yards on first down, half the distance to gain on second down, or picking up a first down on third or fourth down.
Christian Watson ranked 19th among all NFL pass catchers with at least 50 targets, which includes running backs and tight ends as well as wide receivers. He had a successful target on 13% of the routes he ran in 2022.
The full top 25:
- Amon-Ra St. Brown – 18%
- Tyreek Hill – 17.6%
- Stefon Diggs – 16.6%
- Cooper Kupp – 16%
- CeeDee Lamb – 15.6%
- Chris Olave – 15.4%
- Travis Kelce – 15.2%
- Justin Jefferson – 15%
- Drake London – 14.9%
- Ja’Marr Chase – 14.5%
- Mark Andrews – 14.4%
- Chris Godwin – 14.2%
- Austin Ekeler – 13.6%
- Keenan Allen – 13.6%
- Tyler Lockett – 13.4%
- Christian McCaffrey – 13.3%
- Davante Adams – 13.1%
- Dallas Goedert – 13%
- Christian Watson – 13%
- A.J. Brown – 13%
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 12.9%
- Amari Cooper – 12.7%
- Richie James – 12.7%
- Kyle Pitts – 12.6%
- Jaylen Waddle – 12.4%
Watson ranks even higher when you just compare him to his fellow wide receivers, coming in at 14th.
The league average for players with at least 50 targets in 2022 was 10.2%, meaning Watson was a well-above average pass catcher in his rookie season.
Ranking alongside the likes of A.J. Brown, Jaylen Waddle and Davante Adams is a real testament to Watson’s ability, and considering he didn’t hit his stride until the second half of 2022, the prospect of what he could do in 2023 is tantalizing.
Of course, the production of a receiver is intrinsically tied to the quarterback they are paired with, and if Jordan Love struggles in his first year as a starter, Watson’s numbers could suffer, but Aaron Rodgers didn’t exactly play like an MVP in 2023, and Watson still impressed.
In addition to his ranking in Tice’s new stat, Watson came in 5th in the NFL in EPA per route run in 2022, behind only Waddle, Diggs, Hill, and St. Brown. He also ranked 3rd among wide receivers for yards per route run against man coverage behind Jerry Jeudy and Mike Williams.
Former Packer Allen Lazard made the top 50 for successful targets per route in 2022, with his 11.1.% ranking 45th, alongside his new teammate, Garrett Wilson, and just behind Deebo Samuel.
Romeo Doubs, the assumed number two receiver for the Packers this season, did not rank in the top 50 a year ago, so he will have to step up to fill Lazard’s shoes, as will the three receivers drafted last month. Second-round pick Jayden Reed in particular will be expected to step in and contribute right away.
You can read Nate Tice’s findings here.