There are few things guaranteed in 2022, but for the Chicago Bears, it feels like a pretty safe bet that they’re going to draft a wide receiver in the NFL draft. The expected departure of Allen Robinson and the lack of any established veteran on the roster aside from Darnell Mooney will almost force the Bears to pick from this year’s class of prospects. And that’s actually a good thing. The 2022 NFL Draft is strong at wide receiver. Sure, it isn’t overflowing with elite blue-chip talents like Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle, but there are plenty of prospects who are capable of making a big impact in the league. In this running series, I’ll focus on the wide receivers the Bears could target with their first pick in the draft, No. 39 overall. First up: North Dakota State’s Christian Watson. Any conversation about Watson begins with his physical makeup. He’s a confirmed 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds and when I spoke with him at the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, he actually looks like he can pack more pounds onto his appealing frame. Watson has great length (almost 33-inch arms) and baseball mitts for hands. He’s like a wide receiver who was created in a lab by NFL scouts. What makes Watson even more exciting than his frame is his juice. He’s a silky smooth athlete who makes running at a top-shelf speed look easy. I’ve heard rumblings that his 40-yard dash will time in the low 4.4s, and if that actually happens, his stock will skyrocket into the top 50. Hence, he’s a very real option for the Bears at No. 39 overall. Watson proved at the 2022 Senior Bowl that he’s more than just a small-school receiver with big-league traits. He’s actually pretty refined in the art of route-running and he has enough nuance to create separation from defensive backs with more than just size and speed. https://twitter.com/DP_NFL/status/1490153175336300547 Still, Watson is quite the physical specimen, and he proved he can use that long frame to his advantage too. https://twitter.com/Djbienaime/status/1488584931861319682 Watson wasn’t just a practice player in Mobile, either. He took the momentum he built during the week into the game on Saturday, including this catch and run that was one of the best plays of the 2022 Senior Bowl. https://twitter.com/SamHerderFCS/status/1490057473696452615 Watson’s resume extends beyond the buzz he created at last week’s all-star game. He’s been on the NFL’s radar since 2019 when he was Trey Lance’s top target at North Dakota State. He had a career-best 43 catches for 800 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bison in 2021 and made plays whenever he had a chance to touch the ball. https://twitter.com/CoachDanCasey/status/1490691909496578054 Watson would be an ideal target for a Bears’ passing attack that’s lacking big-bodied outside playmakers. Mooney (5-foot-10) and Dazz Newsome (5-foot-11) are about all Chicago has at the position right now, so adding a 6-foot-4 playmaker to a group—that’s likely to get a boost in talent from free agency—is a really, really good thing. Watson isn’t the kind of draft prospect who profiles as an immediate starter in the league, but the Bears probably won’t need him to be. It’d be football malpractice if general manager Ryan Poles doesn’t add a handful of veterans to the wide receiver depth chart, and there’s a chance the Bears will spend big money on one of the top free agents like Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers). Assuming that’s the direction Chicago goes, adding Watson at No. 39 would be a no-brainer. Watson’s stock is on the rise, and for good reason. A week ago, he may have been viewed as a reach at the Bears’ pick in Round 2. Now, if he blazes the track in Indianapolis at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, Chicago will be left to hope he falls to them.
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