Scouting Sammy Watkins

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

6-1, 205 lbs

Sammy Watkins is not the most physical receiver, and could improve in various areas of his game.  However, Watkins is an elite athlete.  On the field, he is a game-changer when he finds open space.  Warts and all, Watkins should be a very high pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Quick Notes from the film:

Pros

Cons

  • Athletic Freak – Explosion, Speed, and Short-Area Quickness
  • Improved Route Runner
  • Decent Blocker
  • Adds Dynamic Quality to Any Offense in Variety of Ways
  • Can Beat Zone and Man Coverage Defenses
  • Playmaker in Open Field
  • Best in Space
  • Not Very Physical
  • Does Not Win Many Contested/Jump Balls
  • Ball Security
  • Does Not Get Very Vertical in Jumping for Ball
  • Concentration Lapses
  • Has Not Faced Press/Man-Uncertain How He Will React
  • Some Character Questions

In-Depth Evaluation

Ball Skills

Sammy Watkins’ ball skills are only decent.  His hands are very reliable and he has a low drop rate—only 5.71%.  While running, he does a good job of tracking the ball, however he will sporadically lose concentration.  One negative in this area is ball security.  Watkins can do a better job of securing the football in transition and while running.

Blocking & Physicality

For an average sized WR, Watkins is not extremely physical.  As a blocker, he shows good technique, and works to get out in front, though he could definitely improve in this area.  Regarding physicality, Watkins also does not win a lot of contested and jump balls.

One of the relative unknowns in scouting Sammy Watkins is his reaction to press-man coverage.  At Clemson, he has not seen much press-man, being that he lined up off the Line of Scrimmage often, and sometimes even five yards off the LOS.

Route Running

This is an area where Sammy Watkins has clearly improved since coming to Clemson.  However, he is not very precise and does not demonstrate a good ability to disguise his routes.  Sometimes, he will televise it to the defensive back.  This is could use some work.

In taking a look at his route running statistics ,his catch distribution is average between the in/out, post/corner, go, and comeback routes.  In general, this means that he runs all the routes well.

He is often labeled as the premier deep threat in this class, but this title is ill-fitting and misleading.  While Watkins does have speed and does catch some deep balls, he averages only 9% of his catches beyond 20 yards, and only 13% of his catches are between 11-20 yards.  Both of these are far below average.  Rather, he makes most of his money on the shorter routes, where is able to break free from the defender and run amok.  In fact, 42% of Watkins completions are from screen plays.  The best thing to do with Watkins is not to wait for him to develop a route, but instead to just get the ball to him as quickly as possible and in space.

There are a variety of ways in which an offensive coordinator can utilize Watkins and line him up across the field to take advantage of matchups and defensive schemes.  Whether the defense operates in man or zone coverage, Watkins can be lined up and used in order to beat the coverage.  This makes him extremely versatile.

Athleticism

Despite some of his shortcomings, Watkins is an elite athlete.  It is not ill-fitting to describe him as an athletic freak and one of the best pure athletes in this draft class.  His explosion, short-area quickness, and speed are all off the charts.  His speed is legitimate as well, as he was an accomplished track runner in high school.

With this athleticism, Sammy Watkins is a terror in the open field.  Once he has received the ball, he is threat to score from anywhere.  He has even scored on a WR screen.  His Yards After the Catch (YAC) are extremely high, at an average of 9.71 per catch.  This is one of the highest YAC among WRs and demonstrates that this athleticism translates well to the football field, making Watkins a great playmaker.

Intangibles

Watkins background is a mixed bag.  In his youth, he grew up in a tough neighborhood and even witnessed a murder.  From this experience, Watkins seems to be a hungry, ambitious young man focused on success.  The fact that he rose above this upbringing speaks to his character.  Coaches and acquaintances rave about him.  Despite this, Watkins did get into some trouble at Clemson.  He was suspended for taking various pills and using marijuana.  This does not seem to be a large issue, and will most likely not affect him, but nevertheless should be looked into further.

Photo Courtesy of Parker Anderson (Flickr)

Conclusion & Valuation

In my estimation, there is little question that Watkins is the best WR prospect in the class.  His athleticism is unparalleled.  Although he is not very physical and does not run the best routes, his athletic talents should take him far.  Watkins is so talented that it is most likely that he will be selected somewhere in the top 7 picks. 

Some compare him to Torrey Smith, but this is not an accurate comparison because he is not the deep threat that he is made out to be.  Instead, Pierre Garcon is more fitting, as he is a quick-twitch WR who does his best in space.