Sammy Watkins WR Clemson #2
Size/Athleticism: Average height and decent overall build for his size. Turns into a running back with the ball in his hands. A tough runner who can break some tackles. Straight line speed is decent, but his strength is his ability to make guys miss in the open field. Used almost exclusively on screen passes and runs while at Clemson. The overwhelming majority of his yards came after the catch.
Separation Skills: Tough to judge his separation skills because he was so rarely asked to use them in Clemson’s offense. He has the straight-line speed to get over the top of the defense, but he experience with route beyond screens and go routes is extremely limited.
Ball Skills: Another skill that’s tough to grade because of limited experience. On short, uncontested routes Watkins displays very reliable hands. He’s shown nothing to raise any red flags in this area. However, it’s worth noting that he was rarely asked to make any plays in traffic. Even when targeted downfield it was almost exclusively on fly routes and he made a very small handful of contested catches. He does, however, demonstrate the ability to go up and pluck the ball at its high point – there have been few instances of it, but the fact that he’s attempting it despite limited game opportunities is an encouraging sign for development.
Intangibles: Suspended for beginning of 2012 season due to marijuana possession arrest.
Durability: Knocked out of 2012 bowl game with an injury. Knocked out of 2012 Maryland game with a leg injury.
Comments: There’s no denying Watkins’ elite talent, but don’t be fooled by his college success. As dominant as he was at times, his game doesn’t translate perfectly to the NFL. In four games I charted, 57 percent of Watkins’ targets were at or behind the line of scrimmage. While he frequently turned these into gains of 10 or more yards, he won’t be running against the Ohio State or Maryland defenses next year. The bright side for Watkins is that he has the size and athleticism to develop his downfield ability. His route running is extremely raw, but he has all the tools necessary for a coach to mold him into a more well-rounded receiver. Don’t expect him to light it up as a rookie (expect something more along the lines of Cordarrelle Patterson type rookie season) but his long term potential is borderline elite. That said, there’s also a chance that he’s the next Peter Warrick. If he doesn’t put in the work necessary to improve, he’ll plateau as a middle of the road slot receiver.