2014 NFL Draft Chatter, 2/13/2014: Michael Sam's Draft Stock, Sammy Watkins' Transition and More

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Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (right) talks with teammate Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (left) during their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Is Sammy Watkins a Bust in the Making?

Unlike most of the draft media, I have serious doubts about Sammy Watkins’ ability to become an elite receiver in the NFL. I have no doubts that Watkins has every physical tool imaginable to be a fantastic athlete in the NFL, but the past 10 NFL drafts are littered with promising athletes at receiver who never panned out.

The biggest concern with Watkins is his lack of experience as a real receiver at Clemson. Greg Peshek of Rotoworld broke down the film on Watkins and other top draft prospects, and there are some shocking statistics about how the Clemson receiver was used.

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Almost 60 percent of the passes completed to Watkins were screen passes. Less than 30 percent were beyond five yards. Think about that for a second.

This isn’t a guarantee that Watkins will be a bust, but he’s spent the past few years at Clemson running a gimmick offense that never asked him to make the tough catch, find the first-down marker, or do anything else that the average NFL receiver has to do 16 to 20 weeks per year.

Watkins is explosive and can get yards after the catch, but he had to considering the offense he was in. Had he not picked up yards after the catch, he’d have not been thrown the ball.

In the NFL, he’s going to have to find ways to get open downfield, because a quick flanker screen against Richard Sherman or Joe Haden doesn’t work as well as it does against random ACC defensive backs who won’t even sniff the NFL draft.

There was once another college receiver from South Carolina who was hyped leading up to the NFL Draft. He didn’t come from an NFL offense, but he had plenty of speed and decent size. His draft profile read like this.

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That player was Troy Williamson, who was selected seventh in 2005 by the Minnesota Vikings. Nearly everything in the positives and negatives sections on his draft profile match Watkins, as do his measurables and speed.

Williamson and other receivers were taken ahead of Roddy White in that draft. White didn’t have sexy speed, he didn’t have elite height, and he didn’t come from a big name school. But he demonstrated the ability to run routes, make tough catches in traffic and manage the sidelines while leaping according to his CBS draft profile, and those skills translated into the NFL.

Watkins could pan out to be a fantastic receiver. If he’s able to make the tough catch and run great routes, he’ll be nearly unstoppable because of his elite speed. But it’s premature to crown him as a surefire prospect, and that’s why the Buccaneers should be wary of selecting him in this summer’s draft.

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