Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson has been one of the most polarizing players of the 2023 season. After a very promising rookie season, he has struggled to find his footing in his second year. This is due to a variety of factors including a quarterback change, injuries, and adjustments to the NFL. There are so many questions surrounding Watson that we need to take a deep dive in order to understand how the Packers should handle him.
Green Bay Packers Christian Watson Draft Profile
His draft profile was intriguing. According to Draft Buzz, he was the 10th-ranked wide receiver in the 2022 class. No one questioned his athletic ability. The combination of his size and speed made offensive-minded head coaches salivate. There was no doubt in his athletic ability. The concerns were about his hands and his inexperience. He had 16 drops in his four years at North Dakota State and often would let deep balls get into his pads. His inexperience in the position stemmed from his ability to overpower people with his athletic ability. He ran a limited route tree and did not have the skills to beat DBs off the line.
These weaknesses have been prevalent in the NFL. While Watson does have highlight catches, his hands are inconsistent. The route running is the weakness that is really showing this season. Aaron Rodgers is one of the most accurate quarterbacks of all time and he could cover up some of the route-running weaknesses. Now with Jordan Love at the helm, Watson needs to continue to improve his route running.
A Strong Rookie Season
While it got off to a slow start mostly because of injuries (more on that later), Watson had a very solid rookie season. In 14 games, he caught 41 balls for 611 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also added two touchdowns rushing. He finished seventh in Offensive Rookie of the Year Voting. Watson was able to showcase his insane speed for his size as well as his ability to rise above smaller defensive backs. It was a great foundation to begin with and it increased expectations for 2023.
A Sophomore Slump
Watson has only played in six games this year and his production hasn’t been as impressive. Through week 10, he has only 14 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown. Shockingly, he has only been given one rushing attempt which went for negative yardage. The advanced stats aren’t great either. Love has five interceptions when targeting Watson this season. While some of them are not his fault, there are situations where Watson should be using his athletic ability to fight for the ball more. This slump is not what fans wanted to see in 2023 but here is where we need to talk about the injuries.
Christian Watson Injury History
Watson has had trouble staying on the field in these first two years which absolutely has affected his growth. Before he even saw NFL action, he had a minor knee surgery which kept him out of a good chunk of training camp during his rookie season. Watson missed a game in his rookie season due to a hamstring injury and then reaggravated it missing a couple more games. A concussion in week 8 of last season removed him from a game. This season, he missed the first three games with a hamstring injury and it took him a couple of games to look like himself.
Injuries are always tough to evaluate. Some players are simply more injury prone but injuries can also be fluky. The hamstring issues seem to be a common theme throughout the Green Bay Packers organization and are hopefully getting corrected. If Watson could get a full season where he wasn’t rehabbing from injuries, it would likely help his development. This is what the first couple of years in the NFL have looked like for Christian Watson and it leads us to a lot of questions surrounding the talented wide receiver.
Is Watson A WR1?
Everyone has an opinion but I’m going to take the cop-out answer in that it is way too early to tell. Let me give you a couple of players’ stats for their first two years in the NFL.
Player A: 55 receptions, 847 yards, 8 touchdowns, 7 drops
Player B: 88 receptions, 929 yards, 4 touchdowns, 12 drops
Player A is Christian Watson. Player B is Davante Adams. Watson will likely have more receiving yards by the end of this season and maybe even fewer drops. By no means am I saying that Watson will be guaranteed to be a Davante Adams-like receiver but it is a great lesson in not judging a book by its cover. Watson needs to be more consistent. If he can, he could absolutely be a WR1. However, there are some factors that complicate things.
How Does Christian Watson Fit With The Other Wide Receivers?
What is complicating evaluating Watson as a WR1 is the presence of three other solid young receivers. Romeo Doubs has been getting a majority of the red-zone looks. While he only has 343 receiving yards on the year, he has 6 touchdowns. Rookies Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks have also been seeing more action as they continue to improve. Reed leads the team in receiving yards and also seems to becoming the vocal leader in the locker room. Wicks continues to see more action and the results are positive. This makes it difficult to know whether Watson is really the top wide receiver.
If you’re making me choose right now, I think that Watson is more well-suited for a WR2 role. If there was another go-to receiver, Watson would draw less coverage meaning he would have more one-on-one opportunities. Moreover, he could be used in more gadget plays that take advantage of what he does well. Right now, it feels like the team is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Here is the good news for Packers fans. The presence of all of this talent gives the team flexibility. Would I prefer that all of these receivers become top-tier players? Absolutely. However, that is not how the NFL works. Because of his athletic ability, Watson would be great trade bait if there was a player out there that the team needed. Christian Watson is great but would I feel comfortable with a receiver room of Doubs, Wicks, and Reed? If the development continues, probably. By no means am I saying that the Green Bay Packers should 100% trade him. He has an incredible amount of potential. However, it is something to watch moving forward if the right piece comes along.
An Unknown In A Sea Of Unknowns
The 2023 Green Bay Packers are a sea of unknowns. Christian Watson is not the only one that is drawing questions from fans. Will the other receivers continue to develop? Is Jordan Love the long-term answer at quarterback? Can the team finally move on from Joe Barry? Will the offensive line get retooled and improve? Can Rashan Gary live up to his huge contract? Will Jaire Alexander return to his lockdown form? I could go on. This team has so many questions.
Here’s the good news. There are a lot of questions but there is also a lot of flexibility. This team has the ammunition of players and draft capital to basically go and get who they want. If players continue to develop, they will likely stay on the team. If they plateau, they can possibly be included in a deal. The Green Bay Packers are not putting all of their hopes in Christian Watson. This offseason is likely a big one for Watson. If he has a rough 2023 but bounces back with a strong 2024, it will show the team his work ethic and improvement. If he continues on this trajectory, the front office is going to have to take a long hard look at their WR1 position.