Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson has had a major impact on the Green Bay Packers offense in recent weeks. After a slow start due to a myriad of injuries, the second round pick out of North Dakota State has been a true impact player over the last four games. He’s scored eight total touchdowns during that stretch while giving the offense a speedy weapon that can change the momentum of a game at any time.
For the season, Watson has 25 catches for 401 yards and seven receiving touchdowns along with five rushing attempts for 68 and two more scores. He still has four games remaining to add to his totals.
While Watson’s late season surge has given Packers fans reasons for optimism and has made him a late candidate for Rookie of the Year honors, how does it compare to some of the top seasons past Packers rookie receivers have had?
Here is a look at some of the top performances by Packers receivers in their first NFL season. Players are listed in chronological order.
1935 Don Hutson
The future Hall of Famer had an immediate impact on the Green Bay offense, scoring the only touchdown on an 83-yard bomb in a 7-0 win over the Bears. Hudson led the NFL with six touchdown passes as a rookie. He also finished sixth in the league with 18 catches and third in the league with 420 receiving yards.
While those numbers don’t sound impressive by modern NFL standards, how high he ranked in every receiving category is a clear indication of the impact he had in his first season with the Packers.
At the time of his retirement after the 1945 season, Hutson held nearly every meaningful receiving record in NFL history. He led the league in catches eight times and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of 1963.
1952 Billy Howton
Billy Howton had one of the most impressive rookie seasons of any pass receiver in NFL history up until that point in his first year with the Packers. The former Rice star led the entire league with 1,231 receiving yards in a 12-game season. That means he averaged 102.6-yards per game at a time when defenders could hit receivers downfield and the rules of the game didn’t favor the offense.
He caught 53 passes and scored 13 touchdowns on a team that finished 6-6 while catching passes from Tobin Rote and Babe Parilli.
Howton caught seven passes for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Lions in Week 5, then added 200 yards on six catches against the Rams in Week 11. Overall, he totaled six 100-plus yard games in a 12-game season.
Howton finished sixth in the league in catches and second in touchdown catches. He also earned Pro Bowl honors which he would do three more times during his seven seasons with the Packers.
He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1974.
1959 Boyd Dowler
Boyd Dowler was officially the first Packers player to earn AP Rookie of the Year honors when he accomplished that feat in 1959. The Colorado alum caught 32 passes in Vince Lombardi’s first season as Packers head coach for 549 yards and four touchdowns.
The Packers didn’t pass the ball often that season by modern standards. The 32 catches tied him for 19th in the league that season while he was 14th in receiving yards and 11th in the league in yards per catch.
Dowler’s best game that season came against the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts when he caught eight passes for 147 yards in Week 5.
Dowler was selected to two Pro Bowls and the NFL’s All 1960s Team while playing for all five championship teams under Lombardi in the 1960s. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1978.
1978 James Lofton
Lofton burst onto the scene in Green Bay, scoring three touchdowns in his second NFL game, a 28-17 win over the New Orleans Saints. He finished his rookie campaign with 46 catches for 818 yards and six touchdowns. That gave him an impressive 17.8-yards per catch for the season on a team that threw the ball on just 39.3 percent of their offensive plays.
The former track star from Stanford went on to a Hall of Fame career that included seven Pro Bowl appearances in his nine seasons in Green Bay. Twice he led the league in average yards per catch and he had more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season five times with the Packers.
Lofton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 after being enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame in 1999.
2006 Greg Jennings
Jennings started 11 games as a rookie and caught 45 passes from Brett Favre for 632 yards and three touchdowns.
His best game came in Week 5 when he caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Rams.
The former Western Michigan star played seven seasons with the Packers, earning Pro Bowl honors after the 2010 and 2011 season. He caught two touchdown passes in the Packers win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2022.
2014 Davante Adams
Adams started 11 games as a rookie but struggled with drops and inconsistent play at times. He finished the season with 38 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
His best performance that year came in Week 13 against the Patriots when Tae caught six passes for 121 yards in the Packers 26-21 win at Lambeau Field.
The former Fresno State star had five straight Pro Bowl seasons and two All Pro years with the Packers including three years with more than 100 catches in a season.
Adams was traded to the Raiders after the 2021 season when he said he would not re-sign with the Packers before becoming a free agent.
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