The 2014 class of wide receivers is one of the deepest in recent memory. And Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is at the top of the list. If he was not one of college football’s most exciting athletes in his three years with the Tigers, he was certainly one of the top three. At the scouting combine, he was unofficially clocked at 4.34 in the 40. Officially, he ran a 4.43. Either way, when the ball is in the air, he might just be the fastest wideout in the Draft.
In his three seasons at Clemson, Watkins scorched the competition for 240 catches, 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. After a dazzling true freshman season in 2011 that saw him snag 82 balls for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, he hit a rough patch in his sophomore effort, both on the field and off of it. In May of 2012, Watkins was arrested on possession of marijuana charges and suspended for Clemson’s first two games. He would later miss the Boston College game with a stomach virus and his production would dip dramatically to 57 catches for 708 yards and three touchdowns, virtually squashing any hope he had of entering the NFL Draft that year.
Watkins, however, rebounded nicely in 2013 with his most impressive campaign as a Tiger, totaling 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. Also a dangerous kick returner, he fielded 60 kicks in his career for 1,376 yards, one touchdown and a 22.9 yards per return average. The sturdy 6-1, 211 pound gamebreaker is now expected to be drafted as early as second or third overall. Lauded for a motor that never seems to decelerate, Watkins makes a strong case for being the first receiver taken and quite possibly the first offensive selection overall. The St. Louis Rams are a potential suitor with the second overall pick. But the move they made in trading up to get wide receiver Travon Austin with the overall pick in the 2013 Draft will probably keep them out of the running.
The Jacksonville Jaguars at number three are a much more plausible possibility. The Jags’ more pressing need is at the quarterback position, but Watkins is one of those players that could become your centerpiece. Particularly when you have an offense that just dealt about eighty percent of its playmaking in Maurice Jones Drew. Moreover, the Jags’ receiving corps is a question mark. Justin Blackmon, who was slated to be this team’s standout pass catcher played in just four games last season due to a pair of suspensions. Outside of Blackmon, there is Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders and the newly-acquired Tandon Doss. Unless Blackmon steps up, there is not a home-run hitter in the bunch.
The Cleveland Browns at number four could be the best fit. The front office is reportedly in love with him and with Bran Hoyer having done enough last year to keep the Browns from going after a quarterback in the first round, selecting Watkins would seem to be a no-brainer. Josh Gordon did establish himself as the number one wideout last season, but there really is no clear number two. Cleveland signed slot receiver Andre Hawkins in March, and he is a burner with 4.34 speed, but he is all of 5-7, 175 pounds.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat