Sammy Watkins is next to impossible to reconcile. He looks and plays the part of number one receiver so well that the Bills unloaded two years of number one picks for his rights during the 2014 draft. Just three years later, they jettisoned him to the Rams because he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to realize that potential. His four-year yardage totals(982, 1,047, 430, and 593) leave much to be desired.
His time in Los Angeles was equally puzzling. While his process was so impressive(see below), his production was mediocre under one of the league’s best young offensive minds in Sean McVay. Some of this should be attributed to a lack of chemistry with Goff, whom he didn’t even get to play with during training camp. Regardless, Watkins is surely running out of chances to justify his pre-draft billing.
Watkins started as the Rams X-receiver in a WCO that relied heavily on play action and zone running. He was featured as a deep threat and consistently drew the attention of the opposing team’s top cornerback. Watkins possesses good size and very good athletic ability with elite suddenness, very good quickness, burst, and change of direction, and good balance and fluidity.
|Prospect (Last, First)
|Scout Name (Last, First)
|INJURIES||2017 – No Games Missed
2016 – Foot(8 Games, WK3-12)
2015 – Calf(2 Games, WK4-5), Ankle(1 Game, WK7)
2014 – No games missed, played through rib injury WK1-8
|KEY STATS||2017-8 Touchdowns(8th in NFL), 593 Yards(4th on Team), 39 Receptions(4th on Team), 15.2 Yards Per Catch|
|Height||Weight||40 YD||10 YD||Arm||Hand||Vert||3Cone||SS||Broad||Bench|
Watkins is a well-schooled technician off the line with a solid release to defeat average corners. He identifies the coverage before the snap and knows where to take his stems to outleverage the defense. Watkins makes good use of his quick feet on stutters and hard jab steps to open the defenders hips and create operating room. He’s strong enough to swat aside two hand jams and fast enough to threaten the pedal of most cornerback’s quickly against off coverage.
At the top of his routes, Watkins is square and keeps everything upfield with no tells on his routes. The former Clemson star has impressive swivel in his hips and knows how to flip a corner early to put them on skates. He’s exceptionally sudden and sinks his weight into his breaks to allow very good stop/start quickness to run away on in-breaking routes. He possesses the instant acceleration to run away from slower corners on crossing routes. Watkins has good judgement went to take his foot off the gas to either settle down up the seam or bait corners on deep routes. Against less physical players, he utilizes subtle push offs at the top of stop routes.
Watkins shows strong and easy hands to snatch the ball out of the air both stationary and on the move. He’s a natural hands catcher that high points the ball with late hands, even when contact is coming. He’s a strong deep ball tracker over both shoulders with the runaway speed to threaten downfield. Watkins knows how to get the attention of multiple defenders on clearouts. Once the ball is in his hand, Watkins gets upfield quickly from a stop and lowers his pads into contact to consistently fall forward. He’s a willing blocker that will move inside the formation and can cover solid corners on playside blocks.
Success in the NFL is a continuum; true difference makers rise to the occasion no matter who is across from them. When Watkins faces physical press-man corners, he’ll pitterpatter off the line and can be eliminated by strong two-hand jams or patient soft shoe-style footwork. He fails to sell hard vertical stems to open the defenders hips when he doesn’t possess the advantage in speed. He was eliminated by Patrick Peterson during their Week 13 win over the Cardinals and didn’t fare much better against Xavier Rhodes.
Watkins is not a natural contested catcher. He struggles to survive contact on tough catches. His body control is below average and he lacks a natural feel to get his feet down on the sideline or come away with back shoulder throws. The coaching staff consistently took him off the field after deep routes, indicating a potential lack of conditioning.
Injuries have prevented Watkins from realizing his monstrous potential, but his skyscraper ceiling is obvious due to his combination of athleticism, suddenness, and precision. I’d be willing to bet top dollar on him figuring it out as a number one receiver in an offense that works to get him free access off the line and lets him do damage over the middle of the field and deep. Watkins has never played with a quarterback of Matthew Stafford’s caliber. He could be looking at an Alshon Jeffery-type deal this offseason and potentially a similar type of breakout.
Grade: 6.75 (Starter You Can Win With)