Josh Babicz and Brayden Thomas signed as undrafted free agents
This past weekend, standout wide receiver Christian Watson and North Dakota-bred offensive lineman Cordell Volson were selected in the 86th annual NFL draft. Since 2014, they are the 10th and 11th players selected from North Dakota State.
In the second round, the Green Bay Packers, who had chosen not to draft a wideout with the 22nd and 28th picks, traded up on Friday night to select Tampa Bay, Fla. native Christian Watson with the 34th overall pick. By doing so, the Packers gave veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur a flashy new target that is also skilled in the backfield and on special teams.
For the Packers, who lost a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Davante Adams to free agency, Watson is primed to be the perfect pick. While not the skilled route runner Adams is, Christian’s size (6’5”, 208lbs.), speed (4.36 40-yard dash) and sheer athleticism should be enough to vault him into competition for “WR1” in Matt Lafleur’s offense. At North Dakota State, Christian picked up numerous Missouri Valley Football Conference and All-American accolades, most notably being named to the 2021 Associated Press All-America Second Team. Through four seasons, Watson, who will wear No. 9 for the Packers, appeared in 52 games, racking up 2,140 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Watson’s father, Tim, was selected by the Packers in the sixth round of the 1993 draft. Although he never played a snap for Green Bay, he started in a total of 13 games for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles from 1993 to 1997. After his son was selected by the Packers, Tim told the media that the first person to text Christian was Aaron Rodgers, who welcomed him to the team.
For Packers fans out there, take this as a good sign from Aaron Rodgers, who has a history of being difficult to please and has voiced concern about the need for another promising wideout. Christian, whose impressive combine helped him climb the ranks of many pre-draft mockups, told reporters Friday night that he is excited to work with Aaron. “I know he’s going to be tough on me and that’s exactly what I want,” said Christian. “I want someone who will continue to push me to be the best possible player I can be, and I know with him being one of the best, he is going to get everything out of me. So, shoot, I’m going to tell him I’m ready to work and ready to go.”
The second Bison taken in the draft was Cordell Volson, whom the Cincinnati Bengals drafted in the fourth round at pick number 136. Volson, the heavy-handed leader of the “RAMS” unit on the Bison offense is a perfect “plug and play” pick for a team that needs more protection for young star Joe Burrow.
Following their Super Bowl run last season, it was obvious to many that the Bengals’ weakness was in its offensive line, as quarterback Joey Burrow was sacked a record-setting seven times in their Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While Cordell might not see first-team reps right off the bat, his great hands, size (6’7”, 313lbs.) and ability to play both tackle and guard will give him a solid shot at blocking for Joe “Cool” Burrow and the Bengals’ offense in the near future.
During his five-year career at NDSU, Volson appeared in 65 contests, including all 15 this past year, where he allowed zero sacks and was given an 89.3 grade by Pro Football Focus. Cordell, who hails from the small town of Balfour, N.D., was the anchorman on an offensive line that led the FCS with 6.21 yards per carry and ranked second nationally with 280.6 rushing yards per game.
Following the draft, tight end Josh Babicz was signed by the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Brayden Thomas was signed by the reigning Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams as undrafted free agents. For these two, they will get the chance to battle it out amongst other rookies and practice squad players in camp in hopes of making their teams and representing North Dakota State in the National Football League.