There has been a lot of buzz around Packers rookie wide receiver Christian Watson at voluntary OTAs this week. The second-round pick out of North Dakota State is out on the field with the veterans for the first time and he is making an impression on his teammates and the coaching staff.
It’s easy to see why Watson would be receiving so much attention. He has all the physical tools scouts look for in an NFL receiver. He stands 6’5” and weighs 200 pounds while running the 40-yard dash in roughly 4.36 seconds.
When you factor in the Packers losing All Pro wide receiver Davante Adams in a trade with the Raiders and starter Marquez Valdes-Scantling via free agency, the team’s need at the position is also apparent.
Watson was on the field this week with veterans for the first time in a Packers uniform. It didn’t take long for veteran receiver Randall Cobb to take notice of the tools the rookie brings to the table. “He has the total package,” Cobb told reporters at voluntary OTAs. “Just being around him for the past week, and seeing some of the things he can do, he has all the tools and he’s very gifted.”
Cobb has seen it all in his 12 NFL seasons and has played with gifted receivers in Green Bay like Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Davante Adams and Donald Driver.
While many observers have questioned how much Watson can contribute as a rookie, Cobb had practical advice for his new teammate. “It’s about applying it, taking stuff he learns in the classroom and taking it to the field. He has the tools. It’s about refining the tools. It takes time, it’s not going to happen overnight,” Cobb admitted.
Watson himself seemed to taking things in and trying to learn from his veteran teammates. “I mean, some guys have been doing this thing for a long time,” Watson said. “There’s a lot you can learn from them even if they’re in a different spot. Whether they’re X, Z or F, there’s a lot to learn from them, still, especially Randall, someone who’s been successful as well.”
For Watson, there are specific things he’s trying to pick up from Cobb in particular. “Even away from the technicalities of routes, just his knowledge he has of the game and his knowledge he has of this playbook. So, there’s definitely a lot to learn from him. There’s a lot of stuff that I can pick his brain and learn from him.”
One part of learning for rookies is trying to show what they can do while they are still learning the playbook which can make them tentative. “It’s definitely a hard balance just being able to go out there and still be able to play fast even though you’re thinking a lot more,” Watson admitted. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing before you can do anything. It’s definitely a process and you’ll start out a little bit slower for sure and then you’ll get faster as you do more and know more. At the end of the day, once you know what you’re doing, you’ve just got to go out there and do it. It’s a hard balance but at the end of the day it’s just football.”
Head coach Matt LaFleur also discussed the process of learning the game for rookies during this week’s OTAs. “There’s just so much going on,” LaFleur said. “Any time you’re thinking about exactly what you have to do, it’s harder to react versus where it’s basically second nature and you’re out there playing. Confidence has a lot to do with that but the only way you get to that level is you’ve got to go through the process and that’s what it is, it’s a process.”
The Packers coaching staff has already indicated that they will teach each of their receivers to play multiple roles in the offense and to line up in the slot and on either side of the formation on the perimeter. While this will take time, it will allow Watson and the other young Packers receivers to be more dangerous weapons once they get into the lineup.
As a rookie, the Packers will probably allow Watson to run some deep patterns initially and allow him to have some opportunities to use some of the patterns MVS used to run which are designed to stretch defenses and make them wary of the deep pass. Then, he will get the chance to integrate himself into the offense as he learns the playbook and earns the trust of Aaron Rodgers. He will also compete for time as a return specialist.
Watson has a lot of potential. How quickly he can turn that potential into production will determine how big an impact he’ll have on the Packers offense in 2022.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage