I wasn’t a bit surprised that the Packers didn’t draft a receiver in the first round. Especially after six of them were selected among the top eighteen choices. However, I was shocked to see them trade their picks in the second round to move up to 34th to take Christian Watson. This seems to be a very high price to pay.
Don’t get me wrong. Like many Green Bay fans, I’m excited to see what Watson could become. But I can’t help but wonder if the team would be better off staying at 53 and 59 in that second round. Watson is almost certainly gone by then. No doubt Brian Gutkunst knew this, otherwise he would not have made this trade. But there were other talented Hunters who would still be on the board. Alec Pierce from Cincinnati was one of the things I had a little bit of admiration for.
In fact, Pierce (by Colts) was actually taken with the 53rd pick traded in Green Bay. So it will be interesting to follow the careers of both Watson and Pierce to see who develops and contributes the fastest, and who continues to get a better job.
Statistics and measurements for both players are comparable. Watson’s weight is 6-4, 211 pounds. Pierce is 6-3 and 208. Watson ran 4.36 forty-four, Pierce turned 4.41. Watson averaged 18.6 yards per catch, compared to 17.34 for the Pierce. None of the players produced what you might call eye-catching stats in their last year of college. Pierce caught 54 passes for 901 yards and 8 touchdowns in 14 games. Watson staggered 43 runs for 801 yards and sevens in 12 games.
When watching the highlight shots of both players, they both show the same talent. They both have the speed to serve as a field stretcher, the height and athletic performance to go up and win the contested catch. There are two differences that warrant attention. One is North Dakota’s use of Watson as an accidental thruster in a sweeping operation, and more. In his senior year, Watson carried the ball 15 times for 114 yards and one touchdown. Cincinnati Pierce was not used as a booster.
The other area was the kick back. Watson returned 18 kick-offs, two of them went for touchdowns. I couldn’t find any record of Pierce’s kicks back in college, although there is a mention of him playing on special teams.
At face value, Watson appears to be a bit better and more versatile than Pierce, but a couple of things make me wonder if the Packers made the right decision. First of all, Watson had all of his accomplishments against the likes of Tucson, Albany, and Northern Iowa. It hasn’t been fully tested against major college competition. It should be noted, however, that North Dakota dominates the FCS level in football, winning the National Championship with Watson last fall. By contrast, Pierce competed against the Big, teams such as Michigan, Notre Dame, and Alabama. He was part of the Bearcat team that reached the national semi-finals.
The other thing that makes me scratch my head is this: If Christian Watson is good, good enough to be due twice in the second round, why would the Minnesota Vikings, of all teams, trade with the Packers to let Green Bay move higher and get him? Sure enough, the Vikings knew that their arch rivals were desperate at the receiver. Sure enough, they knew that the Packers didn’t take one in the first round. And they certainly knew Watson was still on the board. Did they know something about Watson that Green Bay didn’t? Apparently the Vikings did not have a high Watson degree as the Beams did.
Had the players not made the bargain, they would have held their second-round pick at 59th. Among the players still on the board at that spot was Brian Cook’s safety, ironically also out of Cincinnati. He’s a very respectable customer who would have provided the package with some much-needed depth of security. Cook was selected three times later by Kansas City.
So did the Packers make the right move? The CHTV Project Guide loudly shouts “Yes.” Breaking down the recipient’s prospects, Ross Oglem ranked Christian Watson second overall. Alec Pierce is no better than the thirteenth. Others don’t rate Watson that high overall, but agree on the comparison. CBSsports.com ranked Watson 8th and Pierce 18th. NFL.com had Watson 6th and Pierce 14. You found the idea.
The question is not so much, is Pierce a better player than Watson. The question is whether Pierce and another pick in the second round served the team better than Watson.
We’ll never know, and we probably shouldn’t care. But just out of curiosity, I’m going to jot down how the two are doing in their careers. It will make reclaiming what once happened interesting.