By Chris Spooner, DFW Writer


Ben Watson has managed to have a long, and decently productive, career in the NFL, bouncing between several teams. He now finds himself joining Mike Wallace and Trent Richardson with something to prove in Baltimore. But unlike the other two Ravens, Watson’s story isn’t necessarily one of redemption. Rather, his is proving that he can still get it done in the NFL at an advanced age.

Watson, now 35, is coming off of the best year of his career statistically. Last season with the New Orleans Saints, Watson managed to bring in career-high numbers in both receptions (74) and yards (825), while tying his career-high in touchdowns with 6. Still, that production wasn’t enough for him to stick around with a rebuilding team in New Orleans. The ultimate question with Watson will be, how productive can the tight end be at 35.

Watson started his career in New England after being drafted with the last pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. His rookie season was one to forget, spending most of the season on the bench with injuries, only playing in one game, bringing in two receptions for a total of 16 yards. The season wasn’t a total loss, however, as Watson still received a Super Bowl ring for the Patriots victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The rest of his career as a Patriot was filled with ups and downs. He would spend a lot of time on the injured list with various injuries, but in the times he was on the field, Watson proved he was worth the first round selection. His best season as a Patriot, 2006, saw Watson bring in 49 receptions for 643 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2008, Watson would add another Super Bowl victory to his resume before leaving the team for the Cleveland Browns in the 2010 season.

Watson’s career in Cleveland was far more consistent than his previous stint with New England. In three years with the Browns, Watson missed only 3 games, starting all but 7 of them.  After the 2012 season, Watson found himself on the move again, this time to play with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The first two seasons in New Orleans were a struggle for Watson. With Jimmy Graham firmly established as the team’s number one tight end, Watson saw limited playing time, starting only 15 games and catching 39 passes total. After the Saints jettisoned Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, Watson saw a significant uptick in production, once again becoming the productive player he once was. Now Watson looks to capitalize on a career year and bring a high level of production to his new team, the Ravens.



2015New Orleans Saints16167482511.16
2014New Orleans Saints168201366.82
2013New Orleans Saints1571922611.92
2012Cleveland Browns16144950110.23
2011Cleveland Browns13113741011.12
2010Cleveland Browns16166876311.23
2009New England Patriots1672940413.95
2008New England Patriots149222099.52
2007New England Patriots1283638910.86
2006New England Patriots13134964313.13
2005New England Patriots1592944115.24
2004New England Patriots112168.00


Benwatson2By this point in his career, if he’s healthy you know what you’re getting with Ben Watson. He comes in to the Baltimore offense figuring to be the TE1, and will likely put up somewhere in the ballpark of 45 receptions and 500 yards, adding 3 touchdowns — this is roughly his career average season, and it puts him squarely in that second tier of tight ends. He’s not a guy you’re going to want to waste a high-round pick on, but if you’re going through your draft and have the conscious thought “Oh man, I’ve forgotten to draft a tight end”, you can do a lot worse than Watson. The only concern with him will be whether or not he can stay healthy. With the weapons that Baltimore has added in the off-season, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to expect Watson to put up similar numbers to his last year in New Orleans or the 2006 season with the Patriots. Were Watson to make that sort of contribution to the Ravens, he would be on the cusp of being a tier-one type player. Either way, when Watson is healthy, he’s well worth a spot on your fantasy team, no matter the format of your league. If he’s there in the later rounds of your draft, snatch him up and gloat to your buddies who are begging for a tight end later on.


Watson’s impact on the Ravens will largely depend upon how healthy he can stay. When Watson is healthy, he’s still a very productive player in this league. Unfortunately, the story-line with Watson throughout his career has been as much about his injuries as it has been about his production on the field. Watson is a very solid option for Joe Flacco and the Ravens across the middle of the field. If he is able to put up the kind of production he saw at various points in his career with the Patriots and the Saints, he should add a lot of value to the Ravens. His production should open up things in the running game for whomever manages to get the bulk of the carries in a crowded backfield. His receiving prowess across the middle should put pressure on opposing defensive coordinators to not just shade coverage to Mike Wallace’s side of the field to attempt to deal with his speed. The addition of Watson adds dimensions to the Ravens’ offense that have been sorely missing for a few years now, and it comes at a relatively low cost to the team. In the off-season, Watson signed a  2-year deal worth only $7 million, $3 million of that money being guaranteed. If things don’t work out for Watson in Baltimore, it won’t be a financial burden for the team to cut ties with him. For Watson’s side of things, if his foray with the Ravens doesn’t end well, it may be the last go-around for him. As a 35-year old in the NFL, the end is just around the corner, and this may be it for him if he can’t be productive this year. Though he is coming off a career year last year, that’s the harsh reality of being an aging player in an increasingly young man’s game. Watson’s addition to the Ravens will perhaps a two-part impact to 2nd-year Maxx Williams who the Ravens drafted in the 2nd round in 2015 — Williams has very little fantasy value going into the 2016 season with Watson now on the team (and Crockett Gilmore likely as the team’s back-up), but Watson could have a huge positive benefit for Williams long-term as the veteran Watson surely can teach him a thing a two (Williams is just 22 while Watson is 36).


Much like his statistical output, the impact that Watson has had on his old teams in his departure is a mixed bag. His departure from the Patriots has gone largely unnoticed. Though the Patriots are at their best when they have two viable threats at the position, Rob Gronkowski is one of the best players in the league and is more than capable of making up for the absence on his own. Likewise, his departure from the Cleveland Browns has gone largely unnoticed from a fantasy perspective. Though there haven’t been many bright spots in Cleveland in the last….well, since they came back to the NFL in 1999, the Browns do seem to have found their tight end in Gary Barnidge. If the Browns can ever figure out what they’re doing at the quarterback position, Barnidge has shown the potential to be a really good tight end option in this league. Watson departure from the New Orleans Saints, however, could end up having a huge impact on the team if Coby Fleener were to get injured. The Saints went large with Fleener, giving him a 5-year, $35M contract. The young team that the Saints are fielding could have benefited greatly from Watson’s veteran leadership, both on and off the field. In today’s world of fantasy football stats being the prevailing way to look at the NFL, it’s largely overlooked the kind of impact a guy like that can have on the entire team around him.