Sammy Watkins is special.
NFL scouts, executives and coaches already knew that coming into the offseason, but his display of athleticism and moxie at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine blew everyone away and made him a lock as the top overall receiver in the draft.
Watkins' 40-yard dash time was 4.42, which finished behind just four other receivers. His vertical leap was only 34 inches, which ranked him in the middle of the class. The broad jump for Watkins was 126 inches, tying him for fifth in the group.
Whether or not scouts put stock in the results of the combine, Watkins did enough to show that he is as special as his college tenure at Clemson made him look. Michael David Smith of NBC Sports gave a pretty good list of some important components of Watkins' career:
As a true freshman he had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns and was just the fourth true freshman to be a first-team Associated Press All American, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson.
That’s good company to be in. Watkins was a great player from the first time he stepped on the field at Clemson, and he looks like he’ll be a great player in the NFL.
The blazing receiver made his mark at Clemson by separating from defensive backs with his physicality and easily opening up the field thanks to the same speed he displayed on Sunday.
Given that skill set, Gil Brandt of NFL.com made it clear that Watkins is by far the best in his class:
Marqise Lee really helped himself today. But Sammy Watkins was head/shoulders above every other WR. #NFLCombine— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 23, 2014
Marqise Lee came into the season as the perceived No. 1 receiver but was eventually usurped by Watkins who separated himself from Lee much like every defensive player he faced last season.
While scouts and fans of the combine were blown away with Watkins' time and his showing, Watkins came in with expectations of doing just what Brandt said. The 20-year-old receiver spoke about what he wanted to do before the combine, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:
They say I can't run routes, so I definitely have to show them that I am probably one of the best receivers at running routes in the combine
I am 10 times faster than I was in college. My body was so messed up that I can get 10 times faster. I was using 60 percent of my body, and I have 40 percent more I need to get out.
OK, that's terrifying. The acceleration off the line and dynamic playmaking ability that Watkins showed at Clemson was enough to make any scout slobber. Now he believes he's faster? That's just unreal.
As a senior with the Tigers, Watkins eclipsed the 100 receptions mark and was just 36 yards away from 1,500 total yards. For his encore performance, Watkins amassed 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.
The possibility that he could be more explosive leaves the ceiling wide open for Watkins, who seemed to be at the top of his game already at the Sugar Bowl. With that ceiling now being raised, it's possible that Watkins could be the first name taken off the board, as Brandt notes:
Sammy Watkins one of 7 players in contention for top pick. Don't know if I've ever seen this before. #NFLCombine— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 23, 2014
Whether or not Watkins does go as high as the second-overall pick in the draft or falls further down the board, there will be teams upset in the future that they missed out on this special player.
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