There may not be a prospect that increased their draft stock more than North Dakota State’s Christian Watson during the Senior Bowl week in Mobile, AL. He impressed all across the board from his route running, contested catches, and football IQ, proving he’s a complete football player. When seeing Watson’s 6’4″ 211-pound frame move so smoothly in and out of breaks, it’s easy to reminisce about another former-Steelers receiver, Martavis Bryant.
If I ventured to guess, Christian Watson (6040 211) tests very similar to Martavis Bryant back in 2014… but in the package of a MUCH MUCH better all-around football player
6036 211 4.42
SS: 4.15 seconds
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 6, 2022
As NFL’s Ben Fennell mentioned, Watson is a better all-around football player than Bryant and Watson showed that time after time in Mobile. He’s able to consistently win one-on-one matchups and the way North Dakota State deployed him, helped him sharpen his skills at different parts of his game. One of the areas he’s far ahead of most college receivers coming into the NFL is blocking. Being in a run-first offense during his collegiate years certainly helped this development and is something Watson had to take seriously if he wanted to get on the field in Fargo.
When I got to meet up with him during the media breakfast during the Senior Bowl, Watson went into more depth about his blocking.
“Obviously, being at North Dakota State, we’re run-heavy offense. So that’s something you have to embrace very quickly if you’re going to be a wide receiver at North Dakota State. So that’s just something that I’m going to take pride in, blocking. And obviously, that’s something that NFL coaches want to see as well. That’s something I’ll have to continue to do at the next level, continue to embrace it, and try to improve on it at the next level.”
It’s one thing to say you take pride in blocking, it’s another to actually prove it on the field. Watson does just that. Let’s take a look at some of his blocking reps during the practices and game while at the Senior Bowl.
We’ll start with Watson’s reps in the actual Senior Bowl game. Lined up at the top of the screen, he senses man coverage and rightfully runs the corner off the line of scrimmage. Then, he throws the corner by him and turns into a blocker allowing the RB to bounce for a first down.
The next clip, Watson is lined up at the bottom of the screen. He’s able to come down the line and kick the force player out of the hole. Notice once he knows the back has cleared him, he releases and tries to get downfield to find more work.
Diving into his practice tape, you’ll see the National team used him a ton coming down and digging out linebackers and safeties in the box. He was able to spring a few runs this way.
Below, you can see Watson with a tight split a couple of yards from the tight end on the left side of the formation. He takes a good angle at the safety, with no wasted movement, going upfield before going right. He is able to help spring the running back to the left for an easy touchdown.
In almost an identical play, Watson is again able to dig out the box safety and take him into the formation. The running back is again able to successfully bounce for a first down.
In this clip, you get to see Watson get a bit more physical. He drives towards the middle of the field to, again, keep the box safety out of the outside run play. He starts to get driven back but keeps his feet moving and is able to drive the DB all the way behind the line of scrimmage, out of the play.
Watson isn’t going to be a guy that you see overpowering many guys, but he has the functional strength, technique, and most importantly, the want-to to make all the blocks needed on the outside.
This is the last block we’ll look at, as it’s a bit different from the others. One thing I can tell Watson was trained on at North Dakota State is his ability to identify and block the “force player.” Here, he starts to run off the cornerback and sees him retreating. With the corner in a heavy backpedal, Watson looks at the safety who is tennis-balling at about 10-12 yards off the ball, a telltale sign of some sort of quarters coverage. He then works his way over to the safety and gets hands-on, taking him out of the play. The safety here does help Watson out a bit by guessing the ball-carrier was going to cut back, but regardless, Watson does his job.
This article isn’t trying to paint Christian Watson as the next Hines Ward, but simply to show a player that can help in all phases of the game. A receiver that can block on the perimeter can’t help by turning a six to eight-yard run into an explosive play. It’s something I’ve harped on with the Pittsburgh Steelers receivers in my weekly Wide Receiver Film Rooms. Not a single player was blameless in the lack of success in the run game this year in Pittsburgh. A player like Watson, while you’ll draft him for his ability in the passing game, would help bolster the run game as an added bonus.