Player Analysis: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

screencap via ABC Sports

Name: Sammy Watkins
Class: Junior
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 211 lbs.
School: Clemson

Strengths: There is so much to like about Watkins, one could go on for days. Watkins accelerates smoothly, getting to an impressive top speed easily and can fly past a corner who gives him space off the line. He possesses great footwork as well though, and is able to beat press-coverage off the line by outmaneuvering the defender and then turning on his speed.

Watkins also shows more than one gear both in route running and after-the-catch yards, easily going from half to full speed while juking defenders. Was called upon to catch a lot of screen passes from quarterback Tajh Boyd, but showed a propensity to add bonus yards after the catch, both with his own speed and by wisely setting up and following his blockers. Watkins has great hands, helped by his habit of looking the ball into them as he makes a catch. He can adjust to off-target throws and snatch the ball out of the air quickly if he can’t get underneath it.

Watkins can go vertical for big yards, run short routes and then add to them with great ability after the catch and shows the toughness to initiate contact as well as effectively block on run plays. Watkins is also very versatile, having lined up in the slot, out wide or in the backfield.

Weakness: Watkins’ height isn’t considered ideal, nor is his build. While he posted a nice 40-yard time at the combine, there are still a few questions about his top-end speed, though a lot less. Watkins needs to polish his route running a little bit and isn’t prone to go across the middle, though was rarely asked to do that anyway. As a punt returner he had a few botched punts in college.

Intangibles: Everything you hear is he is a hard worker and a solid teammate. There are no off-the-field issues, and he doesn’t take foolish penalties on-field. Watkins seems to ignore trash-talking, though there are some masters in trash talking at the NFL level who will test him.

Notes: There is a difference between game speed and 40-yard speed. While Watkins had a nice 40-yard time, it wasn’t something I was worried about anyway. Watkins’s acceleration, smoothness and overall speed combine to make him play far faster than he was expected to time. After having watched a ton of games of Watkins, charted his receptions and watched the things he did when not targeted (blocking, for example) I really feel as though his potential is through the roof.

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