Green Bay Packers

Christian Watson's Untapped Potential Represents the Ceiling For Green Bay's Emerging Offense

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have had an uncharacteristically eventful start to the offseason. They filled a massive need in center field with the top safety on the market, Xavier McKinney, and swapped fan-favorite tailback Aaron Jones for former Las Vegas Raiders bell-cow Josh Jacobs. Combined with their hefty capital heading into next month’s draft, Brian Gutekunst is poised to have his team ready to capitalize on the momentum from their late-season surge.

Notably, both E-ticket free agents they’ve brought in have hailed Jordan Love as a critical reason for choosing Green Bay. It has become increasingly clear that Love is a franchise guy and can compete with any team in the NFC. Looking at Matt LaFleur’s offense and the plethora of young talent it’s composed of, one player stands out to take them to the next level. Christian Watson dealt with a litany of hamstring injuries throughout the season and has flown a bit under the radar, especially with Jayden Reed‘s game-breaking lateral and vertical speed, Romeo Doubs‘ playoff re-emergence, and Dontayvion Wicks‘ third-down reliability.

Gutekunst and the front office have made their stance on the wide receiver position clear. As the market has ballooned, and the likes of Christian Kirk and former Packers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling landed lucrative multi-year deals in free agency, Green Bay has preferred to do their work in the draft. And famously, not at the top of it. Javon Walker (2002) remains the most recent first-round receiver the Packers have drafted. Finding a running mate for Davante Adams in the middle rounds was an up-and-down journey that led to Valdes-Scantling and brutal busts like Amari Rodgers and J’Mon Moore. Crucially, nobody that came through that revolving door satiated the appetite of fans and media for a legitimate No. 2 opposite No. 17.

Watson has been Green Bay’s most significant investment in the position since Adams. Gutekunst soared up the board to select the North Dakota State product 34th overall, two selections from the opening round. In typical Packers fashion, his athletic profile leaped off the page – he’s 6’4” and runs like a deer. More importantly, we have seen flashes of his game-breaking ability over his first two seasons. Down the stretch of the 2022 season, things came together for him as a deep threat and touchdown machine. In 2023, he could not stay on the field. But for many of the games that he was active, he was just another guy in Love’s deep, young core of pass-catchers.

For much of the first half, the 2023 season was a clear disappointment. As the Packers started to creep toward the top of the draft order ahead of a deep quarterback class, questions began to fly regarding Love. The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman declared them a lock for Hard Knocks this summer, implying they were all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Things turned around on national television in Detroit. The game opened with a 53-yard bomb to Watson. After that moment, they never turned back. They defeated the division-champion Detroit Lions with the help of seven receptions for 94 yards and a score from Watson. He followed that up with a nine-catch, 71-yard, two-touchdown performance that fueled a win over the future Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. We have seen this offense with and without No. 9 as a focal point. He has a lot to figure out this offseason, but if he can do it, LaFleur will have everything he needs to take this team to the top of the conference once and for all.

From a personnel standpoint, the offense is set up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and the offensive line to a lesser extent. I expect the line to be a major priority in the draft, which will work to assuage residual concerns. But they are missing a No. 1 target. Most teams have a guy they go to when they need a play. The Packers have almost always had that, most recently with Adams and Jordy Nelson before him. Watson has those tools. Love has the arm to find him anywhere on the field. If he can be the main thing on the safety’s mind in every high-leverage situation, that opens up the playbook for Jacobs, Reed, and the entire arsenal.

Of all the exciting young players who caught passes from Love this season, Watson has the ceiling to become one of the league’s best. Being a target monster like division rivals Amon-Ra St. Brown and Justin Jefferson has not been part of his game thus far. He’s preferred to do his work in large, aggressive bunches. With the depth they have in the underneath game, that will play just fine, but the Packers have been at their best when they play through their most talented receiver.

Green Bay is in the thick of the race to catch the San Francisco 49ers at the top of the conference, and the offense that LaFleur and Gutekunst have constructed has a lot of room to run with virtually every important player except Jacobs and star guard Elgton Jenkins being on a rookie contract. As a true No. 1, Christian Watson represents the absolute ceiling that this offense can hit, and staying healthy and diversifying his game are the keys for him to reach it.

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Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The best general managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their roster. Brian Gutekunst has been quoted multiple times saying that roster building is a 365-day-a-year […]

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