Summary: Watkins is the best offensive weapon in the 2014 NFL Draft. He also is the best receiver prospect to enter the NFL since A.J. Green and Julio Jones in the 2011 draft class. Watkins is extremely fast and is an explosive play-maker who can score on any touch from any place on the field.
Watkins was a play-maker for Clemson from first day as he had a fantastic freshman season. The speedster totaled 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011. He also ran the ball 32 times for 231 yards. On special teams, Watkins averaged 25 yards per kick return with one score. He immediately was a big-time play-maker for quarterback Tajh Boyd.
2012 was a disappointing year for Watkins. He had a drug arrest in May of that year that landed him a two-game suspension to start the season. The sophomore was unable to reestablish his place in the offense after his return as DeAndre Hopkins emerged as Clemson's No. 1 receiver. Watkins caught 57 passes for 708 yards and three touchdowns while battling some injuries. However, he showed maturity by dedicating himself to football after the season and working hard to have a great junior year.
Sources told WalterFootball.com prior to the 2013 season that Watkins was going to have a massive year and had really learned a lesson from his sophomore year. After Hopkins left for the NFL, Watkins became the clear cut No. 1 receiver for the Tigers' offense and dominated college football. He recorded 101 receptions for 1,44 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Watkins played well against good opponents like Georgia (6-127), South Carolina (7-93), Florida State (8-68) and Ohio State (16-227-2).
There is no doubt that Watkins will be a tremendous play-maker in the NFL. He is extremely fast and a deep threat who will stretch a defense vertically. Watkins can burn double coverage over the top and is able to take a short swing pass the distance. He showed improved route-running and hands in 2013. The junior made a number of tough catches as well with strength and body control. Watkins showed an improved ability to make contested receptions compared to the year befoere. He has the size and strength to operate in the short to intermediate part of the field with the toughness to pick up yards after contact.
Watkins also is an impressive blocker in the ground game. He is a competitor who intimidates defensive backs and impacts game plans. As a receiver, Watkins enters the NFL as a well-rounded player who is ready to contribute from day one.
After a stellar performance at the Combine and his Pro Day, Watkins looks like a lock to be a top-10 pick and could go in the first five selections of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Percy Harvin. Some have compared Watkins to Josh Gordon, so that would be another comparison to consider. To me, Watkins has looked like Harvin since his freshman season at Clemson. They both have a first step that is faster than everybody else on the football field, plus the deep speed to pull away. Harvin (5-11, 184) was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, but fell to the 22nd pick over off-the-field and durability concerns. Watkins is bigger and a more natural receiver than Harvin, and in the NFL, I think Watkins will be a better version of Harvin.
NFL Matches: St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Detroit, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers
There are a number of options for Watkins in the top 10, thus it seems highly unlikely he will make it out of the first 10 selections. Watkins could go as high as the second-overall pick to the Rams. St. Louis doesn't need to draft another wide receiver, but Watkins could be too good to pass on as a weapon for Sam Bradford.
With the fourth pick, Watkins could land with the Browns as their play-maker to pair with Josh Gordon. Considering Gordon's off-the-field issues, it could make sense for Cleveland not to have all its eggs in one basket on offense with Gordon as the team's receiving threat.
The Raiders could take Watkins with the fifth pick. They need a No. 1 receiver, which he would provide for Oakland. Tampa Bay also needs help at wide receiver. Mike Williams may not be on the team for much longer and Vincent Jackson is aging. Watkins would be a nice fit in Jeff Tedford's offense.
Buffalo could consider taking Watkins to be its No. 1 wide out for E.J. Manuel. The Bills could use a big receiver, but Watkins may be too talented to pass on at pick nine.
If Watkins falls to the 10th pick, Detroit should end his fall. There are reports that the Lions love Watkins, and he would be a tremendous complement to Calvin Johnson. Detroit could consider trading up for Watkins.
The Jets are another team that could move up for Watkins. They have two third-round picks and a second-rounder, so they have the ammo to potentially make a move for Watkins. New York badly needs a No. 1 receiver for Geno Smith.
The 49ers have a lot of extra picks at their disposal so they could move high into the first round if they wanted to. San Francisco could use a more talent at receiver, so if the organization falls in love with Watkins, it could feel compelled to move up for him.