It’s a fairly simple concept that worked to a wonderous effect in Cincinnati this season: get your second-year star quarterback his favorite weapon from his college days via the NFL Draft, then plug him into the starting lineup and watch the pair recreate their magic on the professional level.
For the Bengals, it’s QB Jow Burrow and rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase that had a huge hand in leading the team to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles next weekend.
But could the 49ers make a similar move for their own highly-drafted QB, Trey Lance? With Lance slated to be the starter in 2022, the timing would be perfect. One might assume the chances of a Burrow/Chase-esque pairing would be impossible for San Francisco, considering that Lance attended North Dakota State, while Burrow and Chase won a national title as powerhouse LSU.
At this year’s Senior Bowl, however, Lance’s ex-teammate at NDSU, WR Christian Watson, stole the show at the wideout spot.
That’s right, the 49ers could find Lance his own version of Ja’Marr Chase. Though Chase is an incredible talent whose production would be nearly impossible to duplicate, making Lance as comfortable as possible in his first year as a starter could become a priority for San Francisco in the NFL Draft.
Here’s Lance and Watson connecting on a huge play in their college days.
The 49ers don’t have a first-round pick this season due to the, ahem, Lance trade. But they do have two second-rounders, at Nos. 52 and 61 overall. (CORRECTION: the 49ers have one second-round pick as of now, as No. 61. But they are projected to have two picks in that round after trading QB Jimmy Garoppolo.) That lines up well with where Watson, who is listed at a legit 6-foot-4 and roughly 207 pounds, is projected to be drafted at the moment.
And oh yeah — he’s recorded a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash.
A lot can change from now until the NFL Draft in late April, but this is an enticing option for San Francisco. Chances are, they’d pass, however, due to their strength at the WR spot.
But what if Watson slips to the third round? He might be difficult to pass up. Especially considering how important it is that Lance finds a comfort level quickly. The success of Burrow and Chase could further compel coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to draft Watson if given the chance.
Here’s some more insight on Watson from around the NFL and college scouting circles. What do you think? Are Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings enough at wideout? Or should San Franciso swing for the fences? We’ll know what the 49ers think soon enough.