What a way for Sammy Watkins to head into the NFL.
16 catches, 227 yards and a couple of touchdowns helped Clemson defeat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl (40-35).
It was the performance of a star in the making. A display that should solidify a top ten grade.
A former 5-star recruit who was a big catch for Clemson in 2011, he had an immediate impact as a true freshman (82 catches, 1219 yards and 12 touchdowns).
He had to get through a challenging sophomore year. He was arrested in May 2012 and charged with possession of a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana, both misdemeanors. As a consequence he started the season serving a two-game suspension and it allowed DeAndre Hopkins to become the focal point of the Tigers’ passing game.
When he needed to show up big as a junior, and maybe grow up a little bit, Watkins delivered.
The Clemson coaches have had to push him along. On more than one occasion they’ve been vocal (and public) about him delivering on his massive potential.
Eventually the light switched on. And what we’re left with is an ultra-competitive, highly skilled explosive athlete.
This is what he brings to the table:
- Fantastic body control — Watkins is such a smooth runner. He never seems to get out of position and he adjusts to the ball perfectly. He’s very loose and can change direction easily. This is an underrated skill. Just look at the way Kelvin Benjamin ties himself up in knots trying to turn quickly and adjust to the ball. It helps that Watkins has a more compact frame, but he makes the most of it. As a consequence most of his routes are run crisply and this’ll help him make a quick impact at the next level.
- Superb hands — I’ll be very interested to check out how big they are at the combine. The ball just gets swallowed up in those mitts — you rarely see him juggle a pass or double catch. He can high point the football, he can grab it away from his body. Watkins will be a consistent hands catcher at the next level, a great red zone threat despite only being 6-1 and he’ll make his fair share of third down conversions.
- Elite speed — Whether he’s running a downfield route or taking a screen, Watkins has the potential to be a true difference maker. He can take the top of a defense, but he’s also going to be a big time threat on screens, reverses and the occasional end-around. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ran in the 4.3′s at the combine. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s a much more accomplished, rounded player than Tavon Austin — and he was a top ten pick last year.
- Excellent football IQ — DeAndre Hopkins was a student of the game. During interviews he’d regularly quote specific routes when detailing plays. He’d discuss what a defense was showing and how he exploited the call to make a catch. Watkins has picked up these habits. I’m not sure many people realise how switched on Watkins is. Clemson do a good job coaching their receivers.
- He’s the ultimate competitor — Another Hopkins cross-over. Both players seem to love the game. You HAVE to be this way to be a great receiver. You can’t coast. You can’t play at your own speed. Corner’s are getting bigger, tougher and faster. Thank the Seahawks for that. Receivers have to bring it. They must have an edge. Watkins has it in spades, just like Mike Evans and Marqise Lee. And it’s why all three should be top ten picks.
The term ‘complete player’ is thrown around too often, but in Watkins’ case it’s absolutely true.
There are some teams picking in the top ten who need a quarterback. This guy will make them second guess what they’re going to do.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see Watkins going in the top-five — just like A.J. Green in 2011 — to a team who is willing to wait until round two to get a quarterback.
Whichever signal caller ends up with Sammy Watkins should count his blessings.
This guy is legit.