Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Height: 6'0¾", Weight: 211 lbs)
First Round: Fourth Pick (From Cleveland Browns for two 2015 picks)
+ Elite athleticism and a dangerous playmaker after the catch.
+ Pure speed and leaping ability give him potential to develop into a downfield weapon.
+ Versatile playmaker with experience in the slot and out wide.
+ Shows consistent technique in catching the ball away from his body.
+ Explosive kick returner with some experience in returning punts also.
- Limited experience in running NFL routes due to Clemson's offensive scheme, which relied heavily on underneath routes.
- Lacks ideal height, which may limit his ability in jump-ball situations.
- Struggles with focus at times, which led to some bad drops in college.
- Minor injury concerns due to a variety of nagging injuries throughout his career.
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It's unlikely to affect his draft stock, but NFL teams undoubtedly questioned Watkins on his 2012 arrest for possession of marijuana, which led to a two-game suspension to start his sophomore year. He has stayed out of trouble since, and as long as he was honest with teams during the interview process, it will likely be a nonfactor on draft day.
Run After Catch
Watkins' greatest strength is his ability to make plays after the catch, and it comes from more than just pure speed. With the ball in his hands, he becomes a running back with excellent vision, elite change-of-direction ability and the extra gear to take it to the house once he's in the open field.
Watkins clearly has the speed to break free over the top of the defense, giving him potential as a pure deep threat (think Torrey Smith). But he also has shown the ability to make plays adjusting to the ball in the air, giving him the potential to develop into more of a traditional, well-rounded receiver like A.J. Green.
The only question with Watkins' downfield ability is how he will develop it to compete for jump balls. While he's shown the leaping ability and body control necessary, his lack of experience hasn't provided scouts with a good idea of how he can use his size to shield defenders and win the 50/50 battles.
Clemson's offense was built around quick, short passes, which allowed Watkins to make plays after the catch. While this highlighted his greatest strength, it also limited his experience in running a full route tree.
Watkins has mastered the timing of short and deep routes, so there's every reason to believe he can learn the nuances of the intermediate routes as well. However, it will take some time for him to learn how to get open without relying on pure speed.
A lack of focus leads to occasional drops, but Watkins generally does a great job of extending his arms away from his body to snatch the ball from the air.
He also does an exceptional job of adjusting to poorly placed balls, demonstrating elite body control and hand-eye coordination to come down with some acrobatic receptions.
While he has room to grow in this area, compared to most rookie receivers, his hands should be considered a strength.
This is a bit of an unknown in Watkins' game because he so rarely faced press coverage in college. Most teams played off him, allowing him the underneath routes in an effort to limit the big plays over the top.
For example, as in the image below, N.C. State gave Watkins a seven- to 10-yard cushion on almost every play. While Clemson exploited this approach successfully, these situations did little to prepare Watkins for the NFL.
Receivers like Watkins typically aren't relied upon for their blocking skills, but he has the ability to be an asset in this area. Since Clemson's offense relied on a heavy dose of screens and other short routes, he has plenty of experience in blocking for his fellow receivers and flashes the ability to finish off smaller defensive backs.
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