Former Clemson Tigers receiver Sammy Watkins is easily one of the top five players in the 2014 NFL draft, but it won't be shocking if he slides out of the top five overall in May.
Whether you want to discuss his college production or his superb athleticism, Watkins has the credentials to become a top star in the league.
He racked up 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson—despite the fact that his sophomore campaign was a grave disappointment. Watkins came back strong as a junior, though, posting career-high totals in catches and yards while matching his 12-touchdown freshman season.
Then, at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Watkins proved superior to most athletes on the field and posted a blazing 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds. His "unofficial" times were even faster, as you can see here, courtesy of the NFL:
It wasn't quite as fast as he'd hoped to run, however, as he told reporters he wanted to break records, as relayed by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
In addition to his physical abilities and production, Mike Mayock of NFL Network sees another valuable trait, which he communicated recently in a conference call, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com:
He’s got a little attitude about him. He blocks people. You can see him getting (angry) during games and going after corners and safeties and linebackers.
So he’s got an attitude like he wants to be the best player there is, and when you combine that with his physical ability I think it’s awesome.
Clearly, Watkins is one of the top players in this year's draft. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single reputable expert who disagrees with this notion, but being one of the best players doesn't always guarantee a top pick in the draft.
Unfortunately for him, the teams currently slated to pick at the top of the draft all have big needs at other positions, and those positions are well represented among the top prospects.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com is a former NFL scout, and he recently broke down the top three needs for every first-round team. Here's a look at his findings for the first five teams set to begin the draft:
|2014 NFL Draft: Team Needs|
|Team||Need 1||Need 2||Need 3|
|1. Houston Texans||QB||OT||S|
|2. St. Louis Rams||OL||WR||S|
|3. Jacksonville Jaguars||QB||DE||OT|
|4. Cleveland Browns||QB||RB||OG|
|5. Oakland Raiders||QB||WR||OT|
|Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com|
Unless we see a trade or two, it appears the only teams that might be enticed to select Watkins in the top five would be St. Louis, at No. 2 overall, and Oakland at No. 5.
The Houston Texans will either select a top quarterback or Jadeveon Clowney. Period.
And depending on what Houston does, Clowney and offensive tackle Greg Robinson could potentially both be on the board at that point. The Rams would be crazy to let Robinson slide, and there's a good chance the team will get offers for a trade from teams desperate to land Clowney.
The last thing the Jacksonville Jaguars want to do is add another first-round receiver to the mix without first addressing the quarterback situation. Watkins won't be drafted No. 3 overall unless a team trades up with Jacksonville to land him.
It's possible the Cleveland Browns could take the receiver, but with Josh Gordon already established as a legitimate No. 1 receiver, the team is in the same boat as Jacksonville: The Browns need a quarterback, first and foremost.
Of the five, Oakland would appear to be the most likely landing spot for Watkins. The Raiders don't currently possess a top receiver, but like Houston, Jacksonville and Cleveland, the team doesn't have a quarterback, either.
Truth be told, it shouldn't shock anyone if the top five selections in the 2014 NFL draft consist of four quarterbacks and Clowney.
If Watkins does slide, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might end up being gifted the top receiver in this year's draft class at No. 7 overall, since Atlanta certainly doesn't need another one at this point.
The team that does land Watkins this year won't be disappointed. The young man has all the talent in the world and isn't afraid to put in the hard work to make the most out of it. He'll become a perennial All-Pro, given the right circumstances.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78