Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was widely considered the top prospect at the position throughout the draft process, was selected by the Buffalo Bills, who traded up to the No. 4 overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft.
Jason La Canfora noted Watkins coming off the board:
Bills took Sammy Watkins— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 9, 2014
The Bills have given EJ Manuel a high-profile weapon to go alongside Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.
Watkins arrived to the Tigers in 2011 and wasted no time showing off his talent. He caught 82 passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. It was the first sign that the Florida native was a special talent, and he continued to prove that over the next two seasons.
The dynamic playmaker finished his collegiate career with 240 catches, nearly 3,400 yards and 27 receiving touchdowns. He also added a touchdown on special teams and a rushing touchdown during his three seasons starting at Clemson, showing off his versatility.
One thing that immediately stands out when watching Watkins play is how smooth he is when going into and coming out of breaks. He moves around the field in one fluid motion, using his acceleration and agility to beat defenders, which really can't be taught.
He's capable of running a quick drag route, beating the first defender over the middle and then turning up the field for a huge gain without it ever looking like he entered top gear. So while he has good straight-line speed to use if necessary, he uses his other traits to make plays.
Another asset he certainly doesn't lack is confidence. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated passed along comments from the Clemson product, who talked about how many different ways he can help a team at the NFL level:
I think I can do just about anything on the field from wide receiver to running back to slot — I can make plays all over the field. What I love doing is dominating defenses. I think that's what I bring to the game and I think that's going to turn over to the NFL. When I come into the NFL, I think I can be that dominant receiver.
His playmaking ability is definitely the best among offensive skill-position players in the draft. As long as the coaching staff can come up with as many ways as possible to get him the ball in space, it will have a major asset on its hands.
Who will be the top WR from this class?
Those looking for negatives will point to his size, which is average (6'1", 211 lbs). One reason Mike Evans was viewed as a possible alternative was due to his bigger frame. It's not something that was ever going to have a major impact on Watkins' draft stock, though.
The other question is how he'll deal with press coverage. As Chris Brown of Smart Football notes, it's not something he was forced to face much in college, and NFL opponents will use it often in order to prevent him from getting a clean break off the line:
Did anyone really press Sammy Watkins at the line? A lot is because Clemson moved him around so much, but rarely saw him pressed— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) April 19, 2014
All told, Watkins was viewed as one of the top prospects available to enter the draft heading into his junior season and nothing happened to change that status. He's an extremely talented wide receiver with game-breaking ability.
He should have little trouble making the transition to the pros, aside from adapting to the aforementioned likely increase in press coverage. That shouldn't be something that has any type of serious impact on his ability to produce as a rookie, though.
Look for Watkins to put together a season that gets him in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.