The only thing stopping Sammy Watkins from being in the same class as A.J. Green and Julio Jones – the best receiver prospects of the last five years – is a few inches in height. Other than overly impressive size, there is little Watkins can't do.
Of all the wide receivers in the draft this year, Watkins is easily the best combination of hands, playmaking ability and just general upside potential. Whether it's going deep, working short screens or even executing gadget plays, Watkins is the best offensive weapon in the draft this year.
Watkins may have been overshadowed by DeAndre Hopkins at Clemson in 2012, but that was due largely to being suspended the first two games of the season. He was arrested before the 2012 season and charge with possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance. As a result, Watkins never seemed to get in rhythm with quarterback Tajh Boyd.
The 2013 season was a different story for Watkins. He returned to the superstar form he showed as a freshman and pulled in 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Body control: Although Watkins isn’t a classic 6-foot-4 receiver, he’s very good at high-pointing the ball. He times his jumps properly and knows how to extend his hands to make difficult catches. Watkins also shows his body control on short throws. On screens, Watkins sometimes had to contort his frame to either catch a low ball or quickly elude a defensive back after the catch. That elusiveness is also on display in the return game, where Watkins can be a real asset.
Hands: Watkins’ hands are typically exceptional. He consistently pulls the ball in away from his frame and will get aggressive targeting a pass. Showed on a lot of deep passes that he can track the ball over his shoulder in stride. Does have some issues with his hands when defenders are closing in for a hit. Has had the ball knocked out of his hands.
Release: If a stronger cornerback is lined up opposite Watkins in press coverage, he can be stopped at the line. That is if the defender can get a hand on him. Watkins has a good first move and initial burst off the line of scrimmage to beat the jam.
Route running: Watkins’ success as a route runner can be attributed to his burst. He gets separation on his routes by firing through his cuts, giving him just enough space for the quarterback to deliver the ball in a tight window. At Clemson, Watkins wasn't always asked to run a lot of different, complex routes. That's something he'll have to get better at in the NFL. The skills are there to do so.
Speed: It’s one thing for a wide receiver to have great speed. Many of them do. It’s another thing for a wide receiver to have great speed and know how to utilize it. That’s Watkins. He gets up to top speed, but knows how to use it. He can change pace, with or without the ball, to get separation from defensive backs. Watkins has the speed to break a big play open over the top, but can slow down to let a block develop before ramping back up to top speed.
Final word: Watkins is a sensation of a wide receiver. As a player, there are few flaws in his game. Those that are there – running a more diverse route tree, catching the ball when pressure is closing on him – are coachable points. Watkins is the type of receiver who can be brought in, start straight away and become a star. Expecting him to have the same type of impact Green did for the Bengals should be the expectation.