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Former Bison WR Christian Watson posts historic workout numbers, electric 40-yard time at NFL Combine

Former North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson posted impressive workout numbers at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

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North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson (WO35) runs the 40-yard dash Thursday, March 3, during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — North Dakota State offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl was in the stands Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium to watch former Bison wide receiver Christian Watson post an electric 40-yard dash time in front of a national audience.

Roehl was not surprised when he saw the 6-foot-4, 208-pound Watson was unofficially clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40 at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, which is being televised on the NFL Network.

“We see it every day,” Roehl said. “There’s always a little bit of doubt in everyone else's mind from an outsider standpoint of ‘There is no way it’s that fast,’ but when you can see and really feel his speed in person it’s almost like it’s effortless.”

Watson's official 40-yard time was later posted at 4.36 seconds, the sixth-fastest among wide receivers. Overall, he posted historic workout numbers for a receiver of his size since 2003, according to Next Gen Stats.

“Pending his official numbers, Watson is expected (to) enter the draft as one of only three receivers to measure in at 6'4-plus & earn a 90-plus athleticism score in the NGS Draft model,” Next Gen Stats posted on its official Twitter feed.

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Watson ranked in the 99th percentile for receivers 6-4 or taller. Former Detroit Lions great Calvin Johnson in 2007 and Stephen Hill in 2012 are the only other two receivers to rank in the 90-plus percentile in athleticism for receivers at least 6-4.

“The kid is so smooth when he runs, it’s not really like he’s ever straining, he’s such a premier athlete, so to come and do it on this stage in front of everyone was really special,” Roehl said.

Watson also had an impressive standing broad jump with a leap of 11 feet, 4 inches, which is the seventh-best broad jump among wide receivers since 1999, according to Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus. Watson added a 38.5-inch vertical leap.

“He just continues to improve and he’s truly committed to excellence and being the best at what he does,” Roehl said. "His best football is in front of him and it’s because he’s all into this and he’s truly working to perfect his craft.”

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Former North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson was set to have his on-field workouts Thursday, while offensive lineman Cordell Volson did his media session at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Watson’s NDSU position coach, Bison wide receivers coach Noah Pauley, was also in Indianapolis with Roehl.

Watson played 52 career games for the Bison, catching 105 passes for 2,140 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 20.4 yards per reception and played on three NCAA Division I FCS national championship teams for NDSU.

In his final season with the Bison, Watson had 43 catches for 801 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. He also rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown on 15 attempts. He missed three playoff games due to a hamstring injury, but returned for the national championship game in which he had four catches for 61 yards.

“He’s so invested," Roehl said. "A high-capacity kid, low ego, who is working hard to be the best.”

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Roehl compared the way NDSU used Watson to the way the San Francisco 49ers use wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who was used often in the San Francisco running game to go along with his pass-catching skill.

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North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson (WO35) goes through drills Thursday, March 3, during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

During his NDSU career, Watson rushed for 392 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts, averaging 8.0 yards per carry.

“This is another big moment in NDSU history because we are old school per se,” Roehl said, referring to NDSU power run-based offense, “but also we’re almost new school in the fact with how we used Christian. It was almost like Deebo Samuel for the 49ers.”

Roehl said it was a thrill to watch Watson showcase his athleticism on a stage like the NFL Scouting Combine. Watson also performed well at the Senior Bowl in early February in Mobile, Ala., where he was recognized as a practice player of the week.

“He definitely capitalized and made the most of his moment,” Roehl said. “He rose to the occasion. He was prepared and ready, he embraced it, he attacked it and he capitalized in a big, big way.”

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North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson (WO35) runs the 40-yard dash Thursday, March 3, during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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