More high-profile NFL analysts boarding the former Bison receiver Christian Watson 1st-round draft express

A growing number of national NFL analysts are projecting former North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson as a first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Former Bison wide receiver Christian Watson catches a pass during North Dakota State’s annual football pro day at the Dacotah Field Bubble on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Multiple NFL analysts have projected Watson to be selected late in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — More national NFL pundits are on board the Christian Watson first-round draft express.

ESPN's Todd McShay and NFL Network's Charles Davis are the latest analysts to project the former North Dakota State wide receiver to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, which is slated for April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pound Watson has ascended up draft boards since he completed his Bison career in early January with a 38-10 victory against Montana State for the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title in Frisco, Texas.

McShay projects the Tennessee Titans to select Watson at No. 26 overall in the first round of his latest two-round mock draft.

"It's a deep pass-catching class, and there are plenty of teams searching for playmakers on the outside," McShay wrote. "Yes, this is a bit of a reach, but Tennessee probably wasn't planning on six wideouts being off the board already. ... Watson is a big target who brings a vertical element to the table."


Christian Watson leaps to snare a pass during North Dakota State’s annual football pro day at the Dacotah Field Bubble on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

McShay also has Watson categorized as a Tier 4 prospect , which McShay describes as: "Good future NFL starters. Second-round value." Watson is one of 22 prospects McShay has graded in that tier.

Davis has Watson headed to the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 30 overall, the third to last selection of the first round. Kansas City traded star receiver Tyreek Hill during the offseason.

"One of the stars of the pre-draft process, Watson goes from not seeing enough passes in Fargo to giving QB Patrick Mahomes another new option on the perimeter — joining JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — to try and replace Tyreek Hill," Davis wrote.

Watson shined at the Reese's Senior Bowl in early February in Mobile, Ala., where he was named the top wide receiver on the National team as voted on by the cornerbacks group at practices.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl
National squad wide receiver Christian Watson of North Dakota State (1) runs with the ball in the first half against the American squad Feb. 5, 2022, at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA TODAY Sports

Watson also had a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine in early March at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. He was clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posted a 99-max athleticism score at the Combine, according to the Next Gen Stats draft model.

Watson did limited testing at NDSU's annual pro day March 24, including 18 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press. He also did on-field drills at the Dacotah Field Bubble with representatives from 29 of the 32 NFL teams in attendance.

After his pro day, Watson said he's tried to block out the draft projections.

“It’s really something that you don’t want to get into too much,” Watson said in March. “At the end of the day, stuff can go sideways, stuff can go better than what you see online. I’m just trying to do what I can do and it will all work itself out on draft day. … That’s definitely something I try to stay away from.”


Christian Watson warms up during North Dakota State’s annual football pro day at the Dacotah Field Bubble on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

In recent weeks, NFL Network analysts Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Maurice Jones-Drew have also projected Watson to be selected in the first round , along with ESPN's Matt Miller.

If Watson is selected in the first round, the Bison would have a first-round draft pick for a second consecutive year. The San Francisco 49ers selected former NDSU quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Bison offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl attended the NFL Combine and was able to watch Watson perform well in testing and on-field drills. Roehl wasn't surprised that Watson posted the sixth-fastest 40 time among receivers at the Combine.

“We see it every day,” Roehl said in early March. “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.”

NFL: Scouting CombineWatson3.jpg
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

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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